Great day for Irish at Cheltenham as Ruby and Mullins take three

Luck went with the Irish on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival as even the weather could not spoil the racing.

Luck went with the Irish on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival as even the weather could not spoil the racing.

With thousands of Irish punters descending on the Gloucestershire town, Kildare's Ruby Walsh won three races, including the Champion Hurdle on Hurricane Fly.

Hurricane Fly – the 2011 race winner – became the first horse for 38 years to regain the Champion Hurdle title.

Willie Mullins, who trains Hurricane Fly, also saw Quevega sprint her way into the record books by winning the Mares’ Hurdle for the fifth successive year.

The 8-11 favourite is only the second horse to achieve the feat, alongside Golden Miller who won five straight Gold Cups in the 1930s.

The win, by a length and a half, also sealed the first-day treble for trainer Mullins and jockey Walsh.

There was more success for Ireland when Barry Geraghty, from Co Meath, rode the Nicky Henderson-trained Simonsig to win the Arkle Trophy.

Around 15,000 Irish racegoers attend the four-day meeting each day, almost equally divided between expats living in the UK and people crossing the Irish Sea.

Around 220,000 pints of Guinness are expected to be consumed, organisers said. Last year, £1.5m was withdrawn from cash machines around Prestbury Park as punters refilled their wallets.

Gate receipts are estimated to reach £7m and bookmakers are anticipating a record breaking year with industry turnover tipped to surpass the £600m barrier.

The second day of the festival is traditionally Ladies Day, where women are renowned for donning stylish and glamorous outfits.

As well as prizes for the racing, there are awards for best dressed lady, best accessories and best hat sparked fierce competition with an array of flamboyant hats, feathers and fascinators.

Organisers had taken steps to ensure that the freezing weather did not disrupt the festival too much by covering the track.

The festival went ahead with a 35-minute delay to the first race after clerk of the course Simon Claisse was forced to call a 10.30am inspection following a minus 12C wind chill overnight.

The weather did force the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase to be abandoned due to a frozen track and it will instead be run on Thursday.

But the second day of the festival is under threat from the cold snap with a precautionary inspection called for 8am.

Overnight temperatures are forecast to get as low as minus 5C and eventually rise to 4C in the afternoon.

A racecourse spokesperson said: “With the temperature forecast as low as minus 5C tonight, clerk of the course Simon Claisse will put the covers down again immediately after racing and will hold a precautionary inspection at 8am.”

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