Walsh and Mullins score Cheltenham treble with Quevega win
Champagne stuff from Irish partnership, who hit the ground running at Prestbury
Ruby Walsh celebrates winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on Champagne Fever. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Barry Geraghty on Simonsig jumps the last fence to go on and win the Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Quevega made it a remarkable five-timer in the Mares’ Hurdle with a thrilling victory after she came from a difficult position to land the spoils and equal the 1930s Gold Cup hero Golden Miller’s record of winning the same race five years in a row.
Almost knocked over at the top of the hill, Quevega (8-11 favourite) still had plenty to do at the final flight.
French raider Sirene D’Ainay looked to have the race in the bag when she touched down in front after the last after leading some way out. But Quevega finally got going and she flew up the hill passing many rivals to get her head in front in the last 100 yards to win by a length and a half, with Swincombe Flame two lengths away third.
That came after Hurricane Fly regained his crown under Walsh in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Winner of the race in 2011, but beaten into third when an odds-on favourite 12 months ago, the nine-year-old was well supported prior to the off and sent off the 13-8 favourite
Champagne Fever made all of the running to outpoint My Tent Or Yours in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the opening race of this year’s Festival.
Last season’s Champion Bumper winner doubled up with a game display under Walsh to strike for Willie Mullins.
My Tent Or Yours appeared to be going much the better at the final flight, but Champagne Fever (5-1) kept finding more and held the 15-8 favourite by half a length.
Jezki (5-1) was third, a further two and a quarter lengths away, as the big meeting finally got going after a 35-minute delay caused by the Arctic weather. Walsh said: “He jumped like a stag and travelled really well.”
Red-hot favourite Simonsig was then made to pull out all the stops to claim the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Unbeaten in two previous starts over fences, Nicky Henderson’s dashing grey was an 8-15 market leader and travelled powerfully throughout in the hands of Barry Geraghty.
Despite making a jumping error heading down the back straight, the seven-year-old was still cruising heading down the hill and was left in front after Overturn blundered his way over the third-last.
There was still time for a scare for odds-on backers, though, as 33-1 outsider Baily Green tracked him into the straight. But Simonsig found enough after the final fence to seal a two-and-a-quarter-length triumph.
Geraghty said: “He rallied really well, in fairness to him.”
Jockey Brendan Powell jnr enjoyed his first Festival winner when storming to victory on Golden Chieftain in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase.
The 3lb claimer, who is the son of former top jumps jockey Brendan Powell snr, got a good tune out of the bottom weight, trained by Colin Tizzard.
Golden Chieftain (28-1) came through to tackle the 13-2 favourite Our Mick, who had set sail for home at the third-last fence. He shrugged Donald McCain’s charge aside and galloped on strongly to score by 10 lengths.
Our Mick was two lengths ahead of the third-placed White Star Line, with Tullamore Dew fourth.
“We were half-worried he wouldn’t get the trip — we didn’t even know he was good enough to win a handicap at Cheltenham like this.
“Brendan has been good for a long time now, but he’s getting better all the time. “He’s a cool boy, he’s always in the right position and he listens. “It’s super when it all works out.”
Sam Waley-Cohen punched out Rajdhani Express to claim a thrilling triumph in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The amateur rider, who partnered Long Run to win 2011 Gold Cup and will be back on board the same horse on Friday, appeared confident coming down the hill aboard the Nicky Henderson-trained 16-1 chance.
He swung the final bend right in the mix and began to assert on the run down to the final fence.
Rajdhani Express jumped it well, and although Ackertac finished off really strongly, the top weight found plenty for pressure to hold on by a neck in the colours of the rider’s father, Robert Waley-Cohen.
The Glenfarclas Handicap Chase, meanwhile, has been abandoned due to a frozen track.
Officials made the call shortly before the opening race of the Festival. The cross-country race will instead by run on Thursday at 5.15pm.