HURRICANE FLY was an unbelievable horse and I was lucky enough to race him one or two times in his early days, but his retirement was announced last week.
The Irish Thoroughbred is a credit to Willie Mullins and his team and I was watching some highlight reels of his career during the week; he always seemed to perform to his best when in Ireland.
But he always put up a good fight in Champion Hurdles over here too, winning plenty along the way. A horse of such high class is hard to come by and, when they do, trainers still have to work hard to keep them running as long as possible.
Mullins has done a fantastic job with him – even in the early days when Paul Townend used to ride him before Ruby Walsh took over, so that solid foundation was laid from a young age for Hurricane Fly.
One of his most memorable rivalries for me was his most recent one in Jessica Harrington's Jezki. Hurricane Fly had got the better of the seven-year-old on each of their four previous meetings this year, but the pair tackled three miles together for the first time at the World Series Hurdle in April.
Their last couple of battles had been unbelievable, but in their final duel Hurricane was a neck down and a bit slow at the last. Maybe that was the moment Mullins knew time was up.
To get up to that highest of high standard takes a lot of doing and it’s down to the trainer to keep them at that level, because horses aren’t machines.
Meanwhile, Hayley Turner also announced last week that she would be retiring from racing at the end of the Flat season. She had a really bad fall a couple of season back and she admitted she lost a bit of confidence after struggling for opportunities.
In tomorrow's RP: Hayley Turner talks to Steve Dennis about her shock decision to retire. Now on iPad pic.twitter.com/CF9r9hhZhm
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) September 1, 2015
Saying that, she got invited out to an event in Japan the other week and she went and won it, so even when she’s been lacking in confidence she has proved yet again what a top jockey she’s been. She’s always produced the goods on the big day and was still winning last Saturday at Newcastle.
I suppose she’s been of the highest prestige in terms of female jockeys in the UK, and even Ireland as well, so now that gap is there to be filled when she’s finished, but they’re big boots to fill because she’s done so much for her gender in racing.
But there are a few candidates such as Sammy Jo Bell under the apprentice of Richard Fahey, or perhaps Shirley Teasdale, who is still very young but she’s a very good rider.
In other racing news, multiple Classic-winning trainer Clive Brittain also announced that he’ll be retiring at the end of the season due to his wife being unwell.
He felt that it was always a team effort between him and his wife and he felt he couldn’t really do the job by himself, and you have to respect his honesty and the difficult position he found himself.
I only ever had one ride for Clive but it was a memorable one. I remember arriving into Leicester one day and I was in the third race. Richard Hughes handed me a set of colours and told me I was on one of Clive’s charges, which I thought was brilliant.
There was a lot of senior jockeys there I remember, but I didn’t have time to look at the race card, I just headed out.
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) September 3, 2015
When I got down there for the start, I was looking around and I could only see about eight of us lining up, even though there was about 25 jockeys in the weighing room before I came out.
Anyway, I started wondering how I’d landed this spare ride so easy with so many household names around, and that’s when I realised I must have a bit of a quirky ride on my hands!
Sure enough, she was a little madam in the stalls and wasn’t easy to handle during the race either, so it’s no wonder they weren’t queuing up to take her. But Mr Brittain called me later on to say thanks for taking up the ride at short notice – his initial jockey had arrived late to the course.
He’s a real character and one the sport will miss. He’s done a great job over the years and he’ll always be remembered for what we called the ‘truffle shuffle’, which was the little dance he’d do after big winners.
The racing world will always miss people like that when they retire.
Oliver Gold, 4.20 Sedgefield, Thursday – Win
Big Sound, 3.20 Sedgefield, Thursday – EW
Little Swift, 3.40 Doncaster, September 10 – EW
Mr Singh, 3.45 Doncaster, September 12 – EW