Saturday 21 October 2017

Mullins and Walsh are kings of the Cotswolds as they roar back to form

Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate their Stayers’ Hurdle win Picture: Sportsfile
Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate their Stayers’ Hurdle win Picture: Sportsfile

Sean O'Grady

Dynamic duo Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh roared back to form at Cheltenham with a stunning quadruple of wins.

After a disappointing week at Prestbury Park, the punters' favourites finished day three as the undisputed kings of the Cotswolds.

Winners with Yorkhill, Nichols Canyon, Un De Sceaux and Let's Dance got them back on track in stunning fashion.

The victory of Let's Dance was toasted in Mullins' yard last night as staff share a bonus pool of €50,000. Following the horse's January win at Leopardstown, race sponsors Nat Lacy announced it would donate €50,000 if the winner followed up in any event at Cheltenham.

The performance of Un de Sceaux in the feature Ryanair Chase will have been particularly satisfying for Carlow man Mullins after his parting of ways with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.

Mr O'Leary's wife Anita did the honours, handing over the prize as Un de Sceaux's win was wildly saluted by punters.

Orlaigh Naughton, Michelle O’Brien and Roisin Naughton from Cork Photo: Damien Eagers
Orlaigh Naughton, Michelle O’Brien and Roisin Naughton from Cork Photo: Damien Eagers

Speaking after the race, Mr Mullins said Mr O'Leary was "gracious" in defeat.

"It's a fantastic race to win and Michael O'Leary was very gracious about us beating him," he said.

The pair will lock horns again today as Mr Mullins' Djakadam will start the Gold Cup as favourite, with Mr O'Leary's big hope coming in the form of Gordon Elliott-trained Outlander.

Despite a tough start to the festival, Mr O'Leary felt it was inevitable the Carlow trainer's luck would turn around.

"I'm delighted for Ruby and Willie. They had a bad day yesterday, they didn't have to be just so bloody greedy on Ryanair day. Could they not have just stopped at the JLT?

"There was a certain inevitability that Willie Mullins was going to win a bunch of races at Cheltenham," he said.

Mullins with Michael O’Leary. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mullins with Michael O’Leary. Photo: Damien Eagers

Mr Mullins was thrilled to be back in business after fellow Irish trainer Gordon Elliott dominated proceedings for the first two days. "It's good for me, it's good for Ruby, and it puts confidence back in the team," he said.

Philip Reynolds, son of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, was victorious with 11-1 Presenting Percy in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle Race.

"You couldn't say it's better than last year, but to repeat it is incredible. What a trainer, what a jockey. And my god, what a beautiful horse.

"It's terrific. I'm over the moon," he said.

"[Trainer] Pat [Kelly] is unbelievable. He's had two horses here for us and they've both won. We'll celebrate it, don't you worry! I'm happy out."

Mr Reynolds paid tribute to his father who had been an avid horse lover and attended Cheltenham and the Galway Races throughout his life.

"Every time I come through the hall of fame I think of my dad," he said.

Niamh Flynn from Meath at the festival yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Niamh Flynn from Meath at the festival yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers

Gillian Walsh arrived to Prestbury Park in style, joined by Tamso Doyle, Aisling Lawlor and Emma Galway to see their horse Clondaw Warrior in the Stayers' Hurdle Race.

Despite husband Ruby and sister-in-law Katie being devoted to the sport, Gillian isn't so sure she would want her daughters Isabelle (7), Elsa (5) or Gemma (2) to follow suit.

"Oh my god, I don't know about that. My heart would be in my mouth if they ever decided to ride," she said.

'Dragon's Den' star Eleanor McEvoy enjoyed lunch with Chanelle McCoy who will be appearing on the new series of the show later this month.

"Chanelle was an absolute sweetheart. I actually have a girl crush on her. She was brilliant," Ms McEvoy said.

Annual attendee Margaret Connolly from Mullingar said there's no other place like Cheltenham for a good time.

"I just love the atmosphere. I've travelled all around the world and there's nowhere like Cheltenham. It feels like home," she said.

It has already been another festival to remember for the Irish, but a win in the Gold Cup on St Patrick's Day would be the icing on the cake.

at Cheltenham

Irish Independent

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