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Irish Champion Hurdle - 25th January, 2015

Hurricane Fly will bid for an unprecedented fifth Irish Champion Hurdle crown on January 25 and the sensational Willie Mullins-trained hurdler will be aiming to inflict a third defeat of the season to reigning Champion Hurdle hero Jezki, as this race is sure to set up another thrilling finale.

Having landed the Morgiana Hurdle with aplomb earlier in the season, Hurricane Fly was then handed more of a test by Jezki when the pair locked horns in the Ryanair Hurdle over the festive period.  However, Ruby Walsh was able to just hold off his great friend AP McCoy on board the Fly and he notched yet another Grade 1 success.

Jezki will be hoping that there will be better ground on the day of this race at Leopardstown, as he showed when landing the big prize at the Cheltenham Festival that he relishes a good ground track, but Hurricane Fly has been imperious in this race and at the track, so it will be tough for the Jessica Harrington-trained star to turn the tables.

Mullins may not only saddle the ante-post favourite, but Arctic Fire could take his chance in the field and he was only a couple of lengths behind in the Ryanair and he could well improve again and come into the reckoning for what will be another vintage renewal of this great race.

Fiscal Focus, Tiger Roll and Plinth complete the entry list and all three of those would need significant career bests to land a blow in what is a race dominated by the front two in the betting which should be a cracking contest on Sunday afternoon.

Latest Betting for 2015 Irish Champion Hurdle

4/6 Hurricane Fly

6/4 Jezki

12/1 Arctic Fire

33/1 Fiscal Focus

33/1 Tiger Roll

66/1 Plinth

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Irish Champion Hurdle History

The Irish Champion Hurdle is a Grade One race run at Leopardstown over two miles and is open to horses aged four years or older.

Established in 1950, the Irish Champion Hurdle is now widely regarded as Ireland's premier hurdle race and you often see runners contesting in this contest in January before heading on to the Cheltenham Festival to race in the Champion Hurdle.

Some legendary names of the equine world have bagged Irish Champion Hurdle victory and the first stand-out name looking through the years is Flyingbolt, who won the 1964 renewal en route to becoming the second highest rated horse of all time behind the mighty Arkle.

L'Escargot won this race in 1969 before making the transition to the larger obstacles and winning the 1970 and 1971 Cheltenham Gold Cup as well as the 1975 Grand National.

Dawn Run is another winner etched in the illustrious roll of honour as after winning the 1984 Irish Champion Hurdle he went on to win the Champion Hurdle and Aintree Hurdle the same season, before winning the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A name that will be synonymous with this race will be the mighty Istabraq, who is arguably the greatest sprint hurdler in recent times.� Aidan O'Brien's superstar bagged his first Irish Champion Hurdle in 1998 and went on to win the Champion Hurdle.� This would become a pattern, as Istabraq would go on to complete the double in both 1999 and 2000 before failing to win the 2001 Champion Hurdle having already notched up his fourth consecutive Irish Champion Hurdle with Charlie Swan in the saddle.

Hurricane Fly was the last horse to achieve the English and Irish double for trainer Willie Mullins in 2011 and no doubt this race will continue to unearth potential stars who venture over the Irish Sea and bag Cheltenham Festival glory as well.

Recent Winners of Irish Champion Hurdle

  • 2000 - Istabraq
  • 2001 - Istabraq
  • 2002 - Ned Kelly
  • 2003 - Like-a-Butterfly
  • 2004 - Foreman
  • 2005 - Macs Joy
  • 2006 - Brave Inca
  • 2007 - Hardy Eustace
  • 2008 - Sizing Europe
  • 2009 - Brave Inca
  • 2010 - Solwhit
  • 2011 - Hurricane Fly
  • 2012 - Hurricane Fly
  • 2013 - Hurricane Fly
  • 2014 - Hurricane Fly
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