Hurricane Fly bounded to his eighteenth Grade I success as he confirmed that his nine year old body was not in any mood to relinquish his Cheltenham title, with an impressive two-and-a-half lengths success in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.
A champion by name and a champion by nature, the two-time Champion Hurdle king entered this race with the opportunity to bury the opinions of his critics with a performance of exceptional ability, and the champion did not disappoint.
Held up in the rear of the field for the majority of the race, Hurricane Fly challenged his rivals coming to the final two flights and quickly accounted for the ability of Our Conor with heart and determination, before repelling the late charge of Jezki at the line to continue his ever-increasing world record tally of Grade I victories.
Defeated in just two of his twenty outings for Willie Mullins, all of which have come at the highest level possible, it is in awe that we consider just how many victories Hurricane Fly may have notched up at this level if injury hadn't played its hindering part throughout his early career.
In the lead up to the 2009 Cheltenham Festival, Hurricane Fly had been expected to be a warm order for the opening race - the Supreme Novices Hurdle - only to be sidelined from entering that event through a minor injury. 2010 also saw Hurricane Fly's progression towards the elite ranks hindered by injury, as he was forced to miss a likely run in the Champion Hurdle only to bounce back with a performance of perfection in at the Punchestown Festival as he repelled the charge of his old foe Solwhit to win on his first racecourse appearance for five months.
With just one defeat since that point, which notably came in the Champion Hurdle after a significantly interrupted preperation, Hurricane Fly has continued to make every race he has entered a mere procession for a champion that has captivated hearts on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Hurricane Fly had been written off, pushed aside from the considerations of the many after his lacklustre comeback performance in November, yet with victory in this most competitive of contests he has forced us all to re-evaluate our considerations for the Champion Hurdle with a view to respecting this champion who keeps on giving.
"It was a hugely tactical race, and Ruby was very cool on him," said winning trainer, Willie Mullins. "We've spent a lot of time getting him to settle and, as a result he's inclined to go to sleep early in his races. He's a fantastic horse, a horse of a generation."
Hurricane Fly has passed this test in a manner that has laughed in the face of anyone who dare suggest he is lacking the ability he once held, but in March he will still face the toughest test of all as he takes on the very best of Ireland and England as he bids to defend his Champion Hurdle crown.
Hurricane Fly was shortened into 4-1 for the Champion Hurdle after victory, with Jezki also shortened to 7-1. The impressive Triumph Hurdle winner, Our Conor, was edged out to 10-1.