Quevega to the rescue
Mullins' mare puts smile back on Irish faces after Fly flops
Quevega was the toast of Irish punters at Cheltenham last night as she saved the day for the travelling contingent by winning the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle for an incredible fourth time after defending Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly could only finish third in the feature race.
The landmark fourth victory for Quevega came on a day of frustration, disappointment and even a fatality for the Mullins team who carried so many real hopes on day one.
An impressive haul of 13 Irish-trained winners was always going to be a difficult feat to emulate this time and seeing leading light Hurricane Fly fail to ignite Cheltenham in the same manner he did 12 months ago was a major blow.
"Obviously I am disappointed. Ruby said he just didn't fire but we will just get him back and look forward to Punchestown," Mullins said immediately after the Champion Hurdle.
"He got sweaty at the start and I'm disappointed with that, but there's nothing I can do about that. I just hope he'll be better the next day, but you cannot take away from the winner and Overturn set a good gallop and stayed at it well to finish second."
A naturally disappointed Mullins added: "This day was always going to come. He couldn't win every day and I wouldn't use the ground, or would I use anything as an excuse."
Reflecting on Hurricane Fly, later in the evening jockey Ruby Walsh simply said: "He was beaten too far out -- at the top of the hill."
The ever-reliable Quevega had Ireland's champion trainer back with a smile on his face after she once again left her rivals in the wilderness.
A rapturous reception greeted the eight-year-old as she made her return to the winner's enclosure following a four-length success at odds of 4/7, which extended her winning sequence to five.
Walsh was again short and simple with his analysis: "She's just very good, thank God. Thank God we have her."
Once again the trainer deflected questions regarding her stepping into the World Hurdle or possibly even the Champion Hurdle in the future.
"I know she is able to win the Stayers' Hurdle in Punchestown and she can do it over two miles as well, but that race was made for her, so why be rude and not run in it!"
The thoughts of putting Quevega in foal would be any breeder's dream, but Mullins admitted that isn't on the agenda at all, with a return for the same race at Cheltenham next year already the immediate plan.
Mullins quipped: "Someone said something about breeding from her, but I said to the owner I'll buy you a foal, I'll buy you two, as long as you keep her in training!
"She is in good order and they (Hammer And Trowel Syndicate) are racehorse owners rather than breeders so they are happy for her to race on and I have no interest in breeding.
"We will go to Punchestown first and I hope that's (a fifth tilt at the David Nicholson) what we are going to do."
Speaking about what opening his account for the week meant, Mullins said: "It's a relief, a huge relief because I suppose the horses haven't been running out of their skin. One or two probably ran as good as they are, but certainly we were disappointed with Hurricane and we didn't have any luck in the Cross Country."
Scotsirish, the 100/30 favourite for the Cross Country Chase was pulled up and was fatally injured after four obstacles, while the race also took the life of Enda Bolger's veteran Garde Champetre and Mullins remarked of his charge: "It's very unfortunate as the horse had just found a real niche in racing and in what he enjoyed.
"He took to that Cross Country and I thought he was a horse who probably could have went very close today and maybe come back next year. We were very surprised but delighted how he took to that discipline so for it to end like that is very disappointing."