Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage going into 2014 agreeing with Matt Chapman, irksome presenter on the At The Races TV channel.
Chapman has his supporters -- and no fewer than 29,242 followers on Twitter (at the last count).
But equally, there are many, like me, who find his broadcasting style intensely irritating, laced as it is with lippy, personal opinions, invariably outrageous, which tend to overshadow and mar the main racing action.
Nevertheless, Chapman was spot-on last weekend when taking on the critics of HURRICANE FLY after Willie Mullins’s two-times champion hurdler had landed his record-breaking 18th Grade One victory at Leopardstown.
The former Racing Post reporter’s tweet was delivered in typically inappropriate and brash fashion. It read: “Some think Hurricane Fly is not a true champion - if you believe that you are an idiot. A world record 18 Grade 1s. Legend. Yeeehaaa!”
But the gist of the message rang true. Why is that Hurricane Fly. now challenging ISTABRAQ as the best 2m hurdler of recent times, is not afforded the credit and hero status that his ability clearly warrants?
Mullins has worked wonders with a once-fragile horse, prone to injury, to ally hardiness and durability to his natural speed and create a machine of consistency at the highest level.
To his credit, Chapman also mentioned on air a letter sent to the Racing Post at the start of December in response to articles in its sister paper, the Weekender, by Simon Holt and Dave Edwards.
Edwards is a shrewd analyst whose left-field opinions are always to be respected. Holt is a fine commentator whose weekly column is one of the worst reads in racing.
But both questioned the achievements of Hurricane Fly, persuading trainer’s son Patrick Mullins to pen the letter. It is one of the most relevant ripostes I have come across, and I hope the Racing Post doesn’t mind me reproducing it in
Show Hurricane the respect he deserves
“I feel I have to respond to the comments by Simon Holt and Dave Edwards about Hurricane Fly in the Weekender of November 20.
Simon says Fly has won “uncompetitive contests -- 11 of them at odds-on -- which barely deserved their lofty status”, while Dave says he has done his winning in “fields of six or less against the same opposition”. Both are, I would suggest, wrong and their views are coloured by them not rating Irish races highly, simply because they aren’t run in England.
In his “uncompetitive” and “small field” races, Fly has beaten more than 20 Grade One winners, 12 of them Cheltenham Festival winners and 16 of them multiple Grade One winners. This group have won two Champion Hurdles, three Supreme
Novices’ Hurdles, two Triumph Hurdles, three Christmas Hurdles, three Fighting Fifth Hurdles and four Aintree Hurdles almong the 50 Grade Ones they have won altogether.
Fly also beat Literato (winner of the Group One Champion Stakes) and Spirit One (winner of the Grade One Arlington Million) into second and third in a Listed race in France.
It is also important to remember Hurricane Fly missed the 2009 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the 2010 Champion Hurdle, won by Go Native and Binocular. He has beaten both of them, while neither has beaten him. Add to this the four other
possible Grade Ones he missed around this time and three possible ones he missed in 2011/12 and he would seem unlucky not to have won more than 17.
In 14 of his Grade One wins, the second horse has won two or more Grade Ones. Only twice has he had a non-Grade One winner finish second to him. Uncompetitive? A small field doesn’t mean it’s a bad race. It is harder to beat one good horse than ten average ones.
Being odds-on shows nothing other than you are going to be very hard to beat, as a champion should be. Frankel was odds-on in all of his Grade Ones. Black Caviar was regularly sent off at 1/20. Istabraq was nearly always odds-on and I would imagine it is difficult to get odds against on Usain Bolt any time he lines up.
There seems to be a thing about Fly beating Solwhit (five times) and Thousand Stars (three times) into second. Frankel beat Excelebration four times, at odds-on every time without leaving his home soil, but that, quite rightly, does not take away from his amazing legacy. Exotic Dancer was placed five times behind Kauto Star, but again this doesn’t take away from Kauto Star being one of the sport’s greats.
Solwhit has won eight Grade One races, five in Ireland and three in England. He beat Punjabi into second at Punchestown after Punjabi had won the Champions Hurdle, with Quevega and Sizing Europe in third and fourth. He also beat Sublimity, another Champion Hurdle winner, into second at Leopardstown. I dare anyone to describe him as anything other than a genuine Grade One horse.
Thousand Stars has won a Grade One over 2m in Ireland, two Grade Ones over 3m in France and was twice beaten only a neck in a Grade One over 2m4f in England. Indeed he beat Binocular at Punchestown in 2011 when second to Fly and beat Rock On Ruby at Punchestown 2013 when again second to Fly. The last two British-trained Champion Hurdle winners couldn’t beat Thousand Stars over 2m at Punchestown. He was only a length off The New One in Aintree this year. He can only be described as a genuine Grade One horse.
Hurricane Fly made these horses look ordinary and some have assumed they are. However, they have both won Grade Ones outside Ireland, as well as in. When there is a champion, the competition looks weak because one is so far ahead of the
rest. Hurricane Fly defied history in regaining his title after losing it. He has broken a world record despite having three periods of missed time. He has beaten the best over hurdles for the past five years, as well as Group One winners on the Flat, and he is a champion. Show him the respect he deserves.”