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The Winners' Enclosure: Hurricane Fly the pick of the bunch on Ruby Tuesday

Missed today’s Cheltenham action? We skip through the highlights and lowlights of the day’s racing so that you don’t feel left out.

THERE ARE NO prizes for guessing what the story of the day was as this year’s Cheltenham Festival swung into action.

It really was a Ruby Tuesday as one of Ireland’s favourite sons marked his comeback from injury by underscoring his status as one of the best in the game, riding three winners in a 75-1 treble capped by the magnificent Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.

Until Willie Mullins’ charge drove up the Cheltenham hill to take the day’s feature race, it had been slim picking for the Irish raiders with all three races going to the home side.

That win opened the floodgates, however, setting off a train of three consecutive Irish winners which left the thousands of Irish punters who had made the pilgrimage smiling.

What we learned today

1. You don’t need to have course form to win at Cheltenham Where are all of the naysayers who said that Hurricane Fly wouldn’t be able to do it at Cheltenham? Come on, where are you? All of the buzz before today’s Champion Hurdle was about the Irish star, but there were plenty of people keen to point out that only horses that had won at Cheltenham could win such a big race. I’m not sure if horses can feel smug senses of satisfaction, but Hurricane Fly’s supporters probably have that box ticked for him anyway. A worthy champion.

2. It pays to pick from the top end of the card: While there will most likely be a few big-priced shocks over the next three days, all of today’s winners came from within the top five in the betting. There were only two favourites however, Hurricane Fly and Quevega. Moral of the story? Shop around at the top end of the market. It might just pay off.

3. Ireland remain untouchable when it comes to the Cross County: Since the Glenfarclas Cross County Chase was introduced in 2005, an Irish horse has won every single running. Despite punters sending Maljimar off as favourite, it was an Irish 1-2-3 as Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing Australia led home two-time champion Garde Champetre and last year’s winner A New Story.

4. Ruby looks as good as ever: Three winners on day one puts last year’s Champion Jockey in pole position to retain his crown. With some great rides still to come over the next few days (So Young, Master Minded and Big Bucks), there’s probably only one man who won’t be backing Ruby to retain his crown. That man is Barry Geraghty who got his festival off to a start with three consecutive second-place finishes – Spirit Son, Finian’s Rainbow and Carole’s Dream. He’ll be hoping to get off the mark tomorrow with favourite Big Zeb in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

When Irish eyes are smiling

Three winners on the first day is an excellent start for the Irish travelling party. Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle), Sizing Australia (Cross Country) and Quevega (Mares’ Hurdle) brought home a 50-1 treble for those who persevered with the Irish on Day One.

Tuesday’s big winner

Rather than run the risk of boring you with another superlative-laden description of Hurricane Fly’s performance, I’ll focus my praise on Quevega. The pressure was really on the Mullins-trained mare to complete a hat-trick of Mares’ Hurdles, but she didn’t disappoint.

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It’s always a bit of a risk when a horse comes into Cheltenham having not run for 11 months but Quevega simply bossed the field, winning easily on the bridle to give Ruby his third winner.

Tuesday’s big loser

Cue Card – and those who backed it, failing to understand the curse of the Supreme Novices Hurdle.

Only four favourites have won in the last 21 runnings of the race and, though Cue Card is undoubtedly a very good horse, he didn’t run like a 7/4 shot, tailing off when put under pressure after the last. Disaster.

Quote of the Day

“You can only ride what’s underneath you.”

We’re pretty sure that we heard that sentence escape Ted Walsh’s mouth at one stage today. It’s not like he doesn’t have form – remember that this is the same man who previously uttered the immortal words “I rode her mother once.”

Tweet of the Day

Looking forward …

There’s another great day of racing in store tomorrow. We’re going to take the evening to mull over our selections. One horse that we’re really looking forward to seeing is So Young in the NIM Hurdle at 2:05. If today proved anything, it’s that Mullins and Ruby are in flying form. Get on quickly if you like what you see – this one is going to get hammered in the morning.

Want more? Catch up with the minutiae of today’s action in TheScore.ie’s liveblog >

Check out more of our Cheltenham coverage here >

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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