CHAMPION jockey Ruby Walsh celebrated a hat-trick on day one of the Cheltenham Festival including a victory aboard Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
Walsh, who only returned to the saddle last month having recovered from a broken leg, kicked the meeting off with victory aboard 10-1 chance Al Ferof in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The Irishman then rounded off the perfect day by guiding odds-on favourite Quevega to a convincing victory in the Mares’ Hurdle, but the undoubted highlight came in the shape of Hurricane Fly’s success, which handed trainer Willie Mullins his first win in the race as he saw off Peddlers Cross, with Oscar Whisky in third
Walsh said: “Hurricane Fly never settled really and ran keen, but we know he has the speed and class.
“He’s shown the ability that myself, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend always believed he had. He’s only small but he has a big heart and he needed it.”
Rather than exuding confidence beforehand, Mullins was just relieved to get Hurricane Fly to Cheltenham after missing the previous two Festivals following setbacks.
Mullins said: “We had no excuses, everything had gone right the whole year. It was just a great feeling to get here and the relief even when he left the parade ring was enormous.”