CHELTENHAM: Golden moment for brilliant Quevega

In Willie Mullins’ eyes, Quevega can still do no wrong.

The nine-year old had claimed four Mares’ Hurdles prior to yesterday’s outing and all with ne’er a hoof out of place, but her sweep towards an historic fifth came only after a worrying stumble at the top of the hill.

Not that her trainer saw it.

“No, I took my eyes off it. Ruby (Walsh) said she clipped her heels. I took down the binoculars to check something on the race card and next thing she was five lengths further back than she should be.”

Quevega must have been seventh or eight by the time the pack reached the second last and her chance of emulating Golden Miller’s five-on-the-trot in this same race eighty-odd years ago seemed lost to misfortune.

“I think she more stood on herself,” said Walsh. “She lost her action in front but it is like anything, when something happens you have to react to it. She filled up her lungs then coming down the hill and at the second last she got running and I knew she had a chance.”

French raider Sirene D’Ainey still held the lead by then but Walsh was experiencing the kind of day where everything he did worked and he directed Quevega through the traffic and home by a length.

“She had no good or bad luck the other four times,” he reasoned as only someone in the winners‘ enclosure can. “Everything just went smoothly for her and I guess if you are going to do something five times something is going to go wrong.”

Luck, he admitted, was on their side but fortune tends to favour those who can help themselves and Walsh’s piloting in that last race ended a day of staggering performances from the Kildare man.

Mullins spoke with the calm of a man who knew that his hopes were in the safest of hands, even when the field stretched and the favourite found herself further back than would be considered comfortable.

“I am always saying that if Ruby hasn’t gone for it yet then he is thinking they have gone too fast too early and that they will come back. He will use whatever he has left in the tank at the right stage because that is what he has a habit of doing. He has confidence in his own ability and in any sport the big C is what counts — confidence.”

What say the man himself to that?

“You have to have the horse. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you ain’t got the horse …

“It’s a great day. This is where it matters and what it is about. You come here and I guess the ball bounces for you. It is just great.”

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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