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Green day as Irish play major role in Festival


David Casey on Baily Green. Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

David Casey on Baily Green. Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh


David Casey on Baily Green. Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

HORSE Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh explained on Monday how "hugely important" success at Cheltenham was to the Irish horse industry, in terms of Irish-trained winners and Irish-bred horses.

Champagne Fever in the very first race, the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle, fitted the bill on both counts as he repelled all-comers for Willie Mullins in the hands of Ruby Walsh, with both the second and third, My Tent Or Yours and Jezki, also Irish-bred.

Fittingly, six-year-old Champagne Fever was one of five Irish-trained winners 12 months ago when landing the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

The Mouse Morris-trained Baily Green (pictured) came very close to making it a dream start for Irish-trained and bred runners but just found red-hot favourite Simonsig just too strong in the Racing Post Arkle, with another Irish-bred horse, David Pipe's His Excellency, in third.

JLT Specialty Chase winner Golden Chieftain was another Irish-bred victory, this time for Dorset trainer Colin Tizzard, with fellow Irish-breds White Star Line (Dessie Hughes) and Tullamore Dew third and fourth respectively.

Hurricane Fly took things to another level as the Mullins-trained and Irish-bred gelding became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle crown, gallantly seeing off last year's title holder Rock On Ruby, also Irish-bred, in the hands of Walsh.

And the icing on the cake came as French-bred Festival darling Quevega made it a fabulous five wins in a row in the OLBG (David Nicholson) Mares' Hurdle for Mullins and Walsh, emulating Golden Miller, who won five Gold Cups.