Thursday 20 July 2017

Cheltenham 2016: Vroum Vroum Mag motors to Mares' Hurdle win

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Ruby Walsh celebrates as he rides Vroum Vroum Mag to victory in OLBG Mares' Hurdleon day one, Champion Day, of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 15, 2016 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Ruby Walsh celebrates as he rides Vroum Vroum Mag to victory in OLBG Mares' Hurdleon day one, Champion Day, of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 15, 2016 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Graham Clark and Nick Robson

Vroum Vroum Mag completed a first-day treble for her connections with a convincing victory in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 4-6 shot became the number one for the Willie Mullins stable in this race when Annie Power was switched successfully to the Champion Hurdle.

It was Mullins' eighth consecutive win in the Mares' Hurdle.

Vroum Vroum Mag gave Mullins, owner Rich Ricci and jockey Ruby Walsh their third win on the day after Douvan and Annie Power.

She travelled so well in midfield for Walsh before cruising to the front at the last.

She powered up the hill to score by two and three-quarter lengths from Rock On The Moor (66-1) with Legacy Gold (40-1) half-a-length away third.

Walsh said: "This is a really good mare - we didn't really know how good she might be.

"I got plenty wide down the back, but she travelled really well.

"Once the gaps opened when we straightened up it was all over.

"It's been a great day for us. "

Ricci said: "We don't know how good she is, really - she jumps fences as well.

"We are very lucky."

"She could be a Gold Cup mare, but we took her over hurdles this year and we never thought she'd do this.

"I think she'll be back over fences next year, as I think she looks more like a chaser.

"Jumping is her strength, as she jumps for fun."

Comparing her to Annie Power, Ricci said: "Someone described this mare as a big buxom brunette, and that fits the bill, whereas Annie Power is more of tomboy."

uby Walsh celebrates in the winners' enclosure after riding Douvan to victory
uby Walsh celebrates in the winners' enclosure after riding Douvan to victory

In the previous race, Un Temps Pour Tout put up a determined performance to land the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

The David Pipe-trained seven-year-old got the better of Holywell, the winner of this race in 2014, after a good battle from three out.

There was little between them turning for home with two to jump, but Un Temps Pour Tout (11-1) pulled away up the hill under Tom Scudamore to win by seven lengths.

The Young Master was nine lengths back in third, with Morning Assembly fourth.

Scudamore said: "We had a dilemma at the beginning of the week which race to go for - we chose the right one.

"This hasn't been a season to remember by our standards, but the last few weeks we've managed to get it back on track.

Jockey Tom Scudamore celebrates on board Un Temps Pour Tout after victory in the Ultima Handicap Chase during Champion Day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 15, 2016. See PA story RACING Ultima. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Jockey Tom Scudamore celebrates on board Un Temps Pour Tout after victory in the Ultima Handicap Chase during Champion Day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 15, 2016. See PA story RACING Ultima. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

"He's a French Champion Hurdle winner, he's got plenty of class.

"He put the race to bed pretty quickly."

Pipe said: "I thought Tom gave him a great ride as the start was a little bit tricky and the horse has galloped all the way to the line.

"It's fantastic to win on the opening day because, traditionally, my winners come later in the week so my wife will be very happy - especially because it's her birthday.

"We weren't particularly worried about his lack of experience over fences as Tom felt he was an economical jumper, but it would be crucial to get a nice position.

"The better ground probably helped him - last time it was bottomless and he had top weight.

"He might progress into a Gold Cup horse, but we'll look at Aintree and Punchestown with him and see if we can have some more fun."

Earlier, Douvan made virtually all the running as he justified the status of a first-day banker with an effortless victory in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.

Vaniteux tried to put it up to the Willie Mullins hotpot at the second-last but made a bad mistake, giving Nico de Boinville no chance of staying in the saddle.

Runners and riders make their way around the final bend in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Race on day one
Runners and riders make their way around the final bend in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Race on day one

Baltimore Rock came down independently at the same fence when at the rear.

Ruby Walsh had barely moved a muscle on Douvan and the 1-4 shot, owned by Rich Ricci, bounded clear of the opposition to give connections quick compensation for the defeat of Min in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

The always-prominent Sizing John (9-1) was second, seven lengths adrift.

Ricci said: "He's just very good isn't he, he's very, very exciting. It's effortless, isn't it - he's got everything.

"He's certainly the best we've had."

Walsh said: "He was very good, very assured in his jumping. He only did what he had to do, really.

"He's very, very good in front. He jumped super and travelled really well.

"Willie is not a boisterous person, but he's never hidden the regard he holds this horse.

"He's an incredible horse."

Mullins said: "It's fantastic to get on the board. Hopefully he just keep winning.

"He stays and settles. He did that little thing at the last, but it didn't seem to bother him.

"We think he could be anything."

In the first race of the day, Altior gave Nicky Henderson his first win in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle since Flown in 1992 when proving too good for Willie Mullins' Min in the curtain-raiser at the Cheltenham Festival.

Min was expected to give Mullins his fourth successive win in this race but Altior (4-1) shattered those dreams and also hopes of a short-priced four-timer for Ireland's champion trainer with a breathtaking performance.

Charbel made the running with Min on his heels until the race began in earnest three out, where Nico de Boinville ranged up on Altior on the outside.

The race soon developed into a duel between the top two, but Altior asserted at the final flight and galloped on strongly up the hill to defeat the 15-8 favourite by seven lengths.

Henderson also took third place with Buveur D'Air (10-1), who made up a lot of ground and was just a length and a half away.

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