Mullins and Walsh rebound in style with four-timer

Pirate IRWIN
'Un De Sceaux' ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh runs the final furlong to win The Ryanair Steeplechase race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival horse racing meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire, south-west England, on March 16, 2017

Willie Mullins and riding legend Ruby Walsh gave a sharp reminder they are still a force to be reckoned with as they combined for a four-timer on Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival.

Mullins, who has dominated the trainers championship at recent Festivals including a record eight winners last year, and Walsh wore broader grins as the day went on taking their respective overall total Festival victories to 52 and 56.

Their quartet formed the backbone of a red letter day for the Irish raiders as they won six of the seven races -- Gina Andrews' win on 40/1 shot Domesday Book in the Kim Muir saving English blushes -- taking the total for the week to 15 victories for them and six for the home team.

Mullins and Walsh's beaming grins were at their broadest when Un de Sceaux won the Ryanair Chase, especially sweet as Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary had removed 60 horses from his stables prior to the beginning of the season over a disagreement on training fees.

Mullins, for whom Un de Sceaux brought up his 50th Festival winner, received a jesting punch in the chest from O'Leary after the Ryanair victory but the 60-year-old trainer refused to crow over the win for his 'iron horse'.

"It's not about who you beat as the next day they can beat you," he said.

"We've had a hard few days. We take what we get."

Walsh described Un de Sceaux as a 'tiger' and said he had been a willing passenger the whole way round. He was unstinting in his praise for Mullins.

"I've known him since I was 17 so I could sit here and eulogise about him for hours," said the 37-year-old. "He's a good friend and wonderful trainer."

Mullins and Walsh's expressions were a stark contrast to the gloomy ones of Wednesday reaching their nadir when odds-on favourite Douvan flopped in the Queen Mother Champion Chase -- the trainer opining he thought he had suffered a stress fracture in the race but he will be back.

"Unlike flat horses who you can retire to stud with jumpers you can't," said Mullins.

"Like good footballers you give them a rest and then bring them back the next season."

O'Leary, who has been a great supporter of jumps racing, got some of the money back later when Road to Respect won the Handicap Chase giving veteran trainer Noel Meade his first win over fences at the Festival.

Mullins and Walsh had struck in the opener with Yorkhill taking the Novices Chase holding off Top Notch.

"He has Gold Cup written all over him. He has a kink in his character but the best ones always do," said Walsh.

They teamed up too for victory in The Stayers Hurdle with Nichols Canyon as odds-on favourite Unowwhatimeanharry's eight-race winning run ended as he could do no better than third.

"Little warrior isn't he?" said Walsh, who then won the Mares Novices Hurdle for Mullins on Let's Dance.

Davy Russell may not have the profile of compatriot Walsh but he produced a sublime ride on Presenting Percy to win the Handicap hurdle for trainer Pat Kelly.

"Once again there will be bonfires in Craughwell (little village in the west of Ireland with a population of just over 600 where Kelly is based)," said the 37-year-old Russell, who won on another Kelly runner last year.