Wednesday 7 December 2016

Rub of the green for punters on St Patrick's race day

Ruby Walsh brings his total of Cheltenham festival triumphs to 52

Jane O’Faherty

Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30

Mary Mitchell from Cork wears a St Patrick’s Dayinspired Philip Treacy hat at Cheltenham Photo: Gerry Mooney
Mary Mitchell from Cork wears a St Patrick’s Dayinspired Philip Treacy hat at Cheltenham Photo: Gerry Mooney
Jamie Codd arrives into the parade ring with Cause of Causes after winning the Fluke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Steeple Chase Photo: Gerry Mooney
Zannah Rafferty from Donegal celebrates at Cheltenham Photo: Gerry Mooney
Paddy Smith, Drogheda, kisses Margaret Connolly, Mullingar Photo: Gerry Mooney

A trio of Irish triumphs early on St Patrick's Day had punters dancing at the crossroads - as hefty pay-outs loomed for the bookies.

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The first race of the day brought Ruby Walsh his 50th win at the Cheltenham festival, as he rode Black Hercules to first place.

Speaking after the race, Ruby said 50 was "a nice number - it just ain't finished yet".

He added: "If you had told me when I started out that I would get 50 Cheltenham winners I wouldn't have believed you. It's an incredible milestone.'

Ruby went on to bring his number of festival wins to 52 - with Vautour in the Ryanair Steeple Chase and Limini in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

Ruby's first victory of the morning was another success for trainer Willie Mullins, who paused to pay tribute to the star rider.

"His first ever ride for me was a winner, a relation of Snowdrop in a bumper in Leopardstown," he recalled.

"He came from last to first - a very difficult race," he said, before adding that he and his colleagues "looked at each other and said 'he's the future'".

It was a difficult start to the day for Davy Russell, who was unseated from Zabana in the JLT Novices' Steeple Chase.

But Davy's luck changed when he rode Mall Dini to victory in the second race of the day.

It appears the luck of the Irish extended to the next generation of Irish horseracing, too.

Jockey Jack Kennedy (16) came second with Tango de Juilley in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.

Alex Ferguson, Zara Phillips and former politician Charlie McCreevy were among the 65,544 attendees who flocked to the race course on Day Four of the festival.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary was flying high after securing a win - but in neither of the two races his airline had sponsored.

Treasured

"Unfortunately, I finished second in both races - to two bloody machines," he said.

"But that's the way it goes here at Cheltenham - you usually run up against machines."

The owner said St Patrick's night became "a lot less grim" following Empire of Dirt's win in the third-last race of the afternoon.

He added that being in the winners' enclosure was something to be treasured and enjoyed when the opportunity arose.

"Because it doesn't happen that often - unless you're Willie Mullins," he said.

Irish amateur Jamie Codd raised the tricolour when he celebrated his win for JP McManus in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

"It's magic. Cheltenham is Cheltenham - there is no better place to ride horses in the world," he said.

Meanwhile, Helena and Paul Dillon from Donaghmede, Dublin, were busy celebrating St Patrick's Day in style at the famous racecourse.

"I always wanted to do it, so I booked it for us as a surprise," Helena said. "Paul was thrilled, and it has been brilliant so far."

The bookies, however, were certainly not so happy - as the industry faced up to losses of around €20m on Thursday evening.

Irish Independent

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