Tuesday 23 May 2017

Walsh equals Taaffe's festival record with Quevega's help

Damien McElroy

The best wine was kept until the last race at Cheltenham from an Irish punting perspective as Quevega compensated for the earlier travails of our Tuesday hotpots by repeating last year's Mares Hurdle triumph.

A well-backed favourite, the French-bred mare -- whose career was in grave doubt after injury at Auteuil last May -- paid yet another handsome tribute to the skills of champion trainer Willie Mullins. The six-year-old's latest success for the Hammer & Trowel Syndicate also moved her multiple title-winning partner Ruby Walsh onto the 25 mark for the festival, equalling the late Pat Taaffe's all-time record tally.

Unless his luck runs out completely during the next three days Ruby is poised to move onto a new plateau here with the likes of Master Minded, Big Buck's and Kauto Star waiting in the wings.

"It's always great to get a winner on the board, especially on the first day, as it relieves a bit of pressure. I thought Quevega was my best ride today by far."

Quevega is now likely to head to the Punchestown Festival for the Kildare track's Champion Hurdle.

Shade

The glamour Punchestown fixture will also feature another of yesterday's winners Sizing Europe whose prior unhappy experiences in the Cotswolds were put in the shade by his Irish Independent Arkle Trophy romp.

Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead and his principal owners Alan and Ann Potts fully deserved a change of fortune after the gelding's injury during the hurdling championship of 2008 and then the travel bug that laid the horse low on the eve of last year's festival.

Meanwhile, it proved a dream festival debut for 17-year-old Adrian Heskin who showed maturity beyond his tender years to guide A New Story to victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase for Michael Hourigan.

A delighted Heskin, a native of Kilworth, county Cork, couldn't hide his delight: "It's absolutely brilliant. I could not have asked for a better ride. He jumps so well and is very clever."

Afterwards Hourigan was full of praise for his young jockey. "Adrian gave him some ride, the horse was buzzing under him."

Irish Independent

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