RELEGATE WINS FOR WALSH
Willie Mullins registered his fifth victory of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and his second success on day two of The Festival with 25/1 shot Relegate's victory in the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Ridden by experienced amateur Katie Walsh, the five-year-old daughter of Flemensfirth kept on powerfully up the Cheltenham hill to defeat stable companion Carefully Selected (6/1) by a neck.
14/1 chance Tornado Flyer, also trained by Mullins, was three and a quarter lengths behind in third, providing Mullins with a 1-2-3 in the two-mile contest.
This is not the first time Mullins has saddled a 1-2-3 in a race at The Festival. Faugheen led home stable companions, Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly in the 2015 Champion Hurdle.
Ireland's champion Jump trainer Mullins, landing his 59th winner at The Festival commented:
"We had planned to bring Relegate to Sandown but the owners wanted to give her a run in this race so we came here.
"I thought she was going to be an also ran but Katie Walsh just steered her and she thought the further she went, the better she went as her stamina kicked on.
"It's great for Katie to have her third winner at The Festival. Relegate has a lovely pedigree and we've hit the jackpot with this one. It is my owner Paul McKeon's first Festival runner and winner.
"The placed horses all ran crackers, not in the order I thought they would, but you come here and you find out. It depends on the run of the race, but I'm delighted with how they have run.
Danny Mullins, jockey of Carefully Selected, said: "it was a great run. he is a lovely horse."
Paul Townend, rider of the third home, Tornado Flyer, said: "He ran a cracker. he is a bit inexperienced but he is a smashing horse."
5.30pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1)
1 RELEGATE (Paul McKeon) Willie Mullins IRE 5-10-12 Katie Walsh 25/1
2 CAREFULLY SELECTED (Miss M Masterson) Willie Mullins IRE 5-11-05 Danny Mullins 6/1
3 TORNADO FLYER (T F P) Willie Mullins IRE 5-11-05 Paul Townend 14/1
9/2fav Acey Milan (4th)
Distances: nk, 3¼
Tote Win: £28.40 Places: £6.10, £3.10, £4.80 Exacta: £229.50
Willie Mullins - 59th winner at The Festival
Katie Walsh - 3rd winner at The Festival
KATIE MAKES HER MARK ON LADIES DAY
It has been a day of tremendous highs and lows for the Walsh family. Ruby was taken to hospital for X-rays on his leg after a fall in the second race, but his sister Katie provided the upturn in the family fortunes by riding the winner of the final race of the day, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Katie was aboard the diminutive Flemensfirth mare Relegate, trained by Willie Mullins - for whom it was second winner of the day and a fifth of The Festival 2018 so far. The pair took the race by a neck at 25/1 from long-time leaders Carefully Selected and Danny Mullins, with Tornado Flyer (Paul Townend) back in third. The second- and third-placed horses were also trained by Willie Mullins.
It was Katie's third Festival winner, following Poker De Sivola in the 2010 National Hunt Chase and Thousand Stars in the 2010 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.
She said: "She [Relegate] won the mares' race at the Dublin Racing Festival and she was good there when ridden handy. I've ridden in this race a couple of times for Willie and have been handy and it hasn't worked out for me. She's not over-big and I knew she wanted a bit of room, and I just felt that if I was in amongst them, we'd be carried along, and I said we'd chance our arm and, thankfully, it all worked out.
"I was flat to the boards everywhere, to be honest. The further I was going the better I was going, and I knew she would finish well because she stays well. I've been in the van here and I've been off them coming down the hill, and horses get around you, and I just haven't finished. I said this year I was going to try something different.
"Down the back I was struggling and I thought, 'I'm going to run bad here', but it was too late to do anything about it and I had to sit and suffer. When I went down the hill she started to pass a couple, and when she met the rising ground she took off, thankfully.
"She's hard as nails, a tough filly."
Asked how it felt to win, given the injury to her brother earlier, Katie's eyes filled with tears. She said: "I'm torn a bit. I'm a very emotional person anyway. I really appreciate days like this but I just feel sorry for Ruby. Once we were round the corner behind the screens and he was up and talking to me, that's the main thing. It's not as bad as it first seems, I think - he'll be back. But yes, my heart is torn a bit."
Katie's sister Jennifer, Ruby Walsh's agent, confirmed: "Unfortunately, Ruby has aggravated his recent leg injury. He will see his consultant next week in Dublin for further assessment."
HONEYBALL DENIES MULLINS A CLEAN SWEEP
Acey Milan, the 9/2 favourite and subsequent fourth was the only horse to get into the winner's enclosure that was not trained by Willie Mullins.
Anthony Honeyball, trainer of the Milan four-year-old was nonetheless delighted with his charge's run in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Honeyball said: "I am delighted, but when it came to the punch, and they quickened he was a bit flat-footed.
"He did everything, but then that last little gear they found, he didn't have.
"When they quickened he just looked a little bit like a boy amongst men, but he stayed on in the last 50 yards.
"He shows speed on this ground but it will interesting to see what he is like on better ground next season. Whether it is in championship class races...
"We thought we would never get a better Festival to run him at than this.
"It maybe that next season we are crying out for good to soft ground because we have found out that he is even better on that.
"We think that maybe a race like the Challow (Novices' Hurdle, Newbury) in the middle of the season may be for him."