Find out what happened during the third day of the Cheltenham Festival (16 March)…
Ruby and Willie’s four-timer
After a dry start to this year’s Festival — with no winners on the board during the first two days and the disappointment of Douvan’s run — Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins certainly made up for lost time on day three.
The Irish duo cleaned up today with four wins across the card.
The first came in the opening race, with Ruby partnering Yorkhill and beating Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch, this was followed up by Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair (pictured, below), Nichols Canyon in the Stayers’ Hurdle (see below), and finally Let’s Dance in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Not a bad day in the office!
He was the predicted banker ahead of today’s Stayers’ Hurdle, but Harry Fry’s stablestar experienced a shock defeat in today’s feature race — which was dominated by Ruby Walsh aboard Nichols Canyon (main picture).
Ridden by the in-form Noel Fehily, the nine-year-old had to settle for third after Lil Rockerfeller also got the better of him up the Cheltenham hill.
Under Trevor Whelan, Lil Rockerfeller produced a brilliant performance — battling back close to home — delighting his trainer Neil King.
Ruby’s victory in this race today was his fifth — his four previous triumphs coming aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s (2009-2012).
“It was some performance — he is tough and with age they learn to settle,” said Willie of Nichols Canyon. “I thought of all the horses in the world you want to jump the last, you want him and he did.”
Ruby added: “Nichols Canyon is a little warrior — he switched off, he jumped and crept away.”
Owner-trainer-jockey win once again
The winning combination of jockey Davy Russell, trainer Patrick Kelly and owner Philip Reynolds repeated their triumph in 2016 in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, this time with the six-year-old Presenting Percy.
The trio teamed up last year when Mall Dini dominated in this race and they were back in the winner’s enclosure once more today.
“It’s an absolute dream. It’s the same trainer, we bought the horse from the same people [the Costellos] and it’s the same unbelievable jockey — it’s mind-blowing. It’s crazy stuff and it just shouldn’t happen,” said a very happy winning owner, Philip Reynolds.
A good day for Ireland — but Britain fight back in final race
Ireland dominated day three of the Festival, with Irish trainers Willie Mullins (Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux, Nichols Canyon, Let’s Dance), Patrick Kelly (Presenting Percy) and Noel Meade (Road To Respect) adding winners to the leaderboard. Following Gordon Elliott’s Festival success so far, Ireland’s total tally is 14, compared to Great Britain’s seven.
There was relief and plenty of cheers in the British camp following the day’s final race — the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (for amateur riders) — which saw the Stuart Edmunds-trained Domesday Book, a horse bred by The Queen, triumph under Gina Andrews.