Walsh declares Mullins 'genius' as Limini strides home in Novices' Hurdle
Limini continued a tremendous week for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh by easily winning the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Having only her third race over jumps, the five-year-old toyed with the opposition as she completed a treble on the day for the Mullins team and owner Rich Ricci. Walsh coaxed her to the front at the last and sealed the newest race of the Festival in a matter of strides.
Limini (8-11 favourite) powered up the hill to strike by four and a half lengths from Dusky Legend (50-1) with Bloody Mary (7-1) third, as Mullins and Walsh secured their seventh success of the week.
Walsh said: "She's a little gem. She jumped like a buck. She's a good filly." Of his alliance with Mullins, Walsh said: "It's different for me nowadays - I've become very much part of the team and we all work for a genius."
Beforehand, Vautour justified the late decision to bypass the Timico Gold Cup by running away with the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.Scoring at the Festival for the third time in a row, the even-money favourite was giving trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh their sixth winner of the 2016 meeting. Village Vic did the majority of the donkey work until Walsh asked Vautour to go about his business after the fifth-last fence.
Road To Riches, who was also switched from the Gold Cup, tried to serve it up to the Rich Ricci-owned Vautour but it cost him second place. Six lengths away, Valseur Lido snatched the runner-up spot for Mullins and Gigginstown House Stud by half a length from Road To Riches, also carrying the colours of Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.
Al Ferof ran a creditable race in fourth. Walsh said: "We went a good old gallop, he travelled well and jumped like a buck. "He lengthened his stride off the bend and while he was tight at the last two, he was deadly at them.
"He's a pleasure to ride - we've had a fair battle with him since Christmas, but he was spectacular today." On his well-being leading up to the meeting and the decision to swerve the Gold Cup, Walsh said: "If you were watching him at home I'm not sure you'd even have run him in the Ryanair.
"He worked half all right on Saturday morning, I wouldn't say he worked well. If you'd watched him up until then - I'd written him off in my mind, but Willie gets it right doesn't he?"
Ricci said: "I feel odd, to be completely honest. I wanted the horse to run in the Gold Cup, but of course I'm delighted to win. We just wanted to do the right thing for the horse."
Earlier, Ruby Walsh recorded his 50th career Cheltenham Festival success when lifting Black Hercules home in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.And after the race, the Irishman issued a warning to the world of racing stating: "I ain’t finished yet.”
The champion sped ahead in the first race of St Patrick’s Thursday with the Mullins-trained Black Hercules.
Speaking immediately after the race, Ruby said fifty was “a nice number – it just ain’t finished yet.”
He added that to get to 50 wins was “incredible” but added “you can’t get there without having the horses.”
“It doesn’t matter how good a jockey you are. If you don’t have the horses, you can’t ride the winners.”
Asked about how he felt about his five Cheltenham wins this year, he said: “I’m still standing and I’m riding a few winners. I’m bloody sure it is.”
Ruby has the chance to boost his Cheltenham half-century later today with three more races in the afternoon.
Never far off the pace, the 4-1 co-favourite showed plenty of grit and determination as he gave Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins their fifth win at the meeting this week.
But there was high drama as the field got on its way when Zabana unseated Davy Russell ahead of a standing start, appearing to be cannoned into by Outlander and carrying on loose with the rest of the field.
Bristol De Mai made most of the running, but faced a strong challenge after both Garde La Victoire and Outlander came down at the fourth-last.
L'Ami Serge came through strongly and was upsides Black Hercules at the final fence, with Bristol De Mai and Three Musketeers just behind.
Black Hercules proved the strongest up the hill as he landed the spoils by three lengths from a rallying Bristol De Mai. L'Ami Serge was a length away in third.
Mullins said: "I thought he was gone at the second-last - he seemed to be wavering around a bit.
"But once Ruby got him balanced, he just powered up the straight.
"He would have been too free in the four-miler, so that's why we changed (target)."