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By Ashley Iveson, Press Association Sport. Last Updated: 15/11/09 3:54pm
Solwhit quickens clear.
Hurricane Fly fluffed his lines as Solwhit quickened right away from his rivals to run out a hugely impressive winner of the Dobbins & Madigans at Punchestown Hurdle.
The five-year-old travelled kindly for Davy Russell in behind rivals as Muirhead cut out much of the running in the Grade One contest.
There were three virtually in line jumping the final obstacle but it was Solwhit (7-4) who showed the best turn of foot to score by two and a half lengths.
Muirhead kept on for second while Hurricane Fly, who had been ante-post for next year's Champion Hurdle following an unbeaten novice campaign, could only finish third.
William Hill and Victor Chandler were suitably impressed by the winner and make him 4-1 favourite from 8-1 for the Champion Hurdle, while Hurricane Fly is out to 5-1 from 3s.Delighted winning trainer Charles Byrnes said: "He was impressive there. If we weren't going to beat Hurricane Fly today we never were.
"My lad doesn't take a lot of work to get him right. I was delighted with the pace of the race and he loves coming between horses.
"He's entered in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and that's in two weeks' time, which is a problem.
"If he doesn't go there we'll wait and run him over Christmas."
Russell added: "He doesn't set you alight at home but he's totally different at the races.
"It was a worry whether they would go quick enough but I was confident that if they did and he was fit enough that I was on best horse in the race.
"We didn't break any track records but we went along at a nice even pace. I was happy with way he jumped and he kept quickening all the way to the line.
"He's an improver. There's very little between all of these (Champion Hurdle) horses. My horse is at that level, no-one knows what will win the Champion Hurdle but my horse is a contender."
Willie Mullins was not too disappointed with Hurricane Fly's performance.
"They finished in the order the handicapper had assessed them," said the trainer.
"It was his first step up into senior company and I'm happy with his performance."