JUBILANT trainer Willie Mullins hailed a unique day after he and jockey Ruby Walsh enjoyed a trio of winners at Cheltenham, including a historic success for Hurricane Fly in the Champions Hurdle.
Walsh’s two-and-a-half-length triumph on 13-8 favourite Hurricane Fly saw the 2011 victor become only the second horse ever, after Comedy Of Errors in 1975, to regain the title.
Last year’s winner Rock On Ruby was second and Countrywide Flame third in the most prestigious race of day one of the festival, but it was not Walsh and Mullins’ only glory.
Walsh conjured an astonishing finish from 8-11 favourite Quevega as the horse won a Cheltenham record equalling fifth successive Mares’ Hurdle, and also tasted victory on Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“Today will probably never be repeated for me – it’s been a hell of a day,” Mullins said after Quevega completed the treble.
“That was heart-stopping to say the least. Ruby had faith in the mare and didn’t panic – again. I’m really happy she has joined Golden Miller as only the second horse to win five straight at Cheltenham. She’s a precious mare.”
Barry Geraghty saw home 8-15 favourite Simonsig for trainer Nicky Henderson in the Arkle Trophy, while Sam Waley-Cohen, who is set to partner Long Run in Friday’s eagerly anticipated Gold Cup, won the Novices’ Handicap Chase on 16-1 shot Rajdhani Express.
WINNERS: DAY ONE
■ Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Champagne Fever (R Walsh)
■ Arkle Trophy
Simonsig (B Geraghty)
■ JLT Handicap Chase
Golden Chieftain (B Powell)
■ Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly (R Walsh)
■ Mares’ Hurdle
Quevega (R Walsh)
■ Novices’ Handicap Chase
Rajdhani Express (S Waley-Cohen)