Saturday 24 June 2017

The normal order is restored as Mullins and Walsh storm back with four winners on Cheltenham Day Three

Jockey Ruby Walsh celebrates winning the JLT Novices' Chase on Yorkhill
Jockey Ruby Walsh celebrates winning the JLT Novices' Chase on Yorkhill

Ashley Iveson

Yorkhill provided Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with a first victory at this season's Cheltenham Festival with an important success in the JLT Novices' Chase.

Mullins and Walsh had endured an awful first two days of the Festival, most painfully when Douvan folded so meekly in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday.

Little wonder that the relief when Walsh crossed the line, his right arm raised towards the grandstand, was palpable as Yorkhill justified 6-4 favouritism in the Grade One.

Mullins said: "To get on the board is huge. To get on the board in a Grade One is better.

"It's good for Ruby and the whole team.

"We've had a hard few days, but that's the way it is and we take what we can get."

Yorkhill, winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at last season's Festival, is a gifted racehorse, but he is not without his foibles.

That was again evident along the run-in, when, with the race effectively in safe-keeping, he did not prove particularly enthusiastic under Walsh.

Top Notch, the laudable little pocket rocket from Nicky Henderson's yard, sensed an opportunity and was re-energised in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

But Yorkhill had done enough by then, and regrouped at the death to strike by a length.

Disko was third, another three lengths away.

Yorkhill was roundly chopped in the betting for next season's Gold Cup, with Walsh in no doubt that he has the quality to handle a race of such magnitude.

The jockey added: "He's got 'Gold Cup horse' written all over him and always had.

"People crab him because of his jumping, but he has a huge kink in him - people never realised the job Paul Nicholls did with Denman, because he was the same.

"Both are chestnuts by Presenting, the best ones all have a kink, he has a massive engine. He's brilliant.

"He's got a massive engine. He's fantastic."

ENTER our Fantasy Cheltenham game in association with Boylesports to be in with a chance of winning top prizes

To enter, CLICK HERE

Mullins, too, now has one eye on next season's Gold Cup with the Graham Wylie-owned Yorkhill.

He said: "For a moment it looked like he might be coming back to them, but he held on.

"Ruby was great. He's not the easiest of rides and after the last few days I was wondering if he was too far behind.

"But you can't give him his head because if he passes one horse he wants to be in front, so he had to sit and suffer and wait for the gap.

"Ruby thought he was a lot more settled this year than in the Neptune, so we'll maybe go down the Gold Cup route.

"It took Ruby a long time to pull him up, which is a good sign in any horse."

There was further success for Walsh and Mullins in the Ryanair Chase, with Un De Sceaux romping home in style.

Un De Sceaux put up a tremendous performance to win the Ryanair Chase and give trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh a big-race double on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival after taking the JLT Novices' Chase with Yorkhill.

Walsh made a brave call to take Un De Sceaux to the front as early as the fifth fence as the horse was keen to get on with things.

From then on Un De Sceaux proceeded to put the opposition to the sword with a series of spectacular leaps.

Though Sub Lieutenant made inroads into the deficit on the run to the line, Un De Sceaux (7-4 favourite) was not for stopping and passed the post a length and a half clear. Aso was six lengths away in third.

Walsh said: "I was a passenger. I got him back at the first fence down the back, but he attacked and jumped and he stayed.

"The jump at the last was special. He's a cracking little horse and he's so consistent, he must be a joy to own, he's a little tiger.

"He wants soft ground at two miles which is why we went two and a half miles on better ground.

"It's been a tough year for Willie but he's taken it great, I've worked for him since I was 17 so could eulogise about him all day."

In the 16.10, Road To Respect recovered from a bad mistake at the first fence to run away with the Brown Advisory & Merribale Stable Plate Handicap Chase.

The six-year-old, trained by Noel Meade, stormed up the hill in the hands of Bryan Cooper to give owners Gigginstown House Stud their third Festival win of the week.

Baron Alco kept on well for second place, as Road To Respect (14-1) came home six lengths clear. Bouvreuil was a length and three-quarters back in third with Thomas Crapper fourth.

Cooper, who struck on Tuesday with Apple's Jade, said: "He travelled really well, he's been running in good novice races all winter long and I was a bit worried if he lacked the experience.

"He didn't jump the first great, but after that I gave him a bit of room to get his confidence. It was a messy race but he bolted up.

"Noel is a great person to ride for. I had a lot of luck for him early in my job. I've struggled to ride a winner for him the last couple of years, but he does a great job.

Let's Dance then gave trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh a remarkable four-timer on day three of the Cheltenham Festival when taking her winning run to five in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

Walsh oozed confidence on the 11-8 favourite as he kept the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old towards the back of the field for most of the race.

Verdana Blue led into the straight from Barra but a big leap took Let's Dance to the front and she galloped on strongly up the hill to score by two and three-quarter lengths from Barra. Dusky Legend was a neck away in third.

Press Association

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport