Cheltenham Festival: Day one review
RUBY, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby came the cry from the Guinness village as the Irish Champion jockey racked up a three-timer on a thrilling first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Hurricane Fly made history by becoming the first horse since 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle in the day's feature seeing off a strong challenge from last year's winner Rock On Ruby. Countywide Flame completed the placings.
Ruby Walsh said afterwards of Hurricane Fly:"He pinged the last and I'm glad he got it back to show everyone he's a true champion hurdler."
And Walsh teamed up with trainer Willie Mullins to create another piece of history as Quevega became the first horse since Golden Miller in the 30s to win five times in a row at the festival. The nine-year-old scored the Mare's hurdle with an exhilarating charge from midfield down the home straight when it looked like she had been left with too much to do.
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The treble was completed by Champagne Fever who won the opening Supreme Novice Hurdle seeing off the heavily fancied My Tent Or Yours into second while Jetzki made it an Irish top three in the festival's curtain-raiser.
Elsewhere the other Grade One contest, the Racing Post Arkle Chase, was won by Nicky Henderson's Simonsig who, despite not running away from his opposition as many had predicted and making a bad mistake five from home, still had enough class to see off his challengers.
Henderson said: “It was not quite the performance we expected but Simonsig was just too fresh and he has done very well to win.
“He was running with the choke out the whole way, and even over the first three fences, they were going quick, but he wanted to go even quicker. We have always said he is not short of pace but he needs to learn to drop the bridle a bit.”
The day's two other handicaps were won by Colin Tizard's Golden Cheftain with up and coming jockey Brendan Powell on board and Ranjdhani Express ridden by amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen and giving a second success of the day for Henderson.
The Cross Country was postponed until Thursday due to issues with frozen ground.
With three well fancied favourites winners it was a decent start for punters in their annual battle with the bookies.
Exeter punter and festival regular Adam Williams said: "It has been a great start to the festival. I was won the first on Champagne Fever and backed Hurricane Fly all the way. I will be on Willie Mullins horses all week - they look in great nick."