Irish dominate the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, with Willie Mullins bagging a treble.

By Peter Moore at Cheltenham Tuesday 12th March 2024

Ireland took the honours on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, with Willie Mullins bagging a treble along with stable jockey Paul Townend as the visitors from across the water won six of the seven races on Champion Day.

In front of a first day crowd of 60,000, the opening race on the card went to Slade Steel, trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Rachael Blackmore.

The six-year-old battled well after the last to get the better of Mystical Power by a length and a half. With Firefox coming in third place it meant an Irish 1,2,3.

The first of Willie Mullins treble came up in the second race of the afternoon, making it third time lucky after finishing runner up at the Festival last year in the Gallagher Novices Hurdle and in 2022 in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with Gaelic Warrior getting his nose in front- ahead of Found A Fifty.

Local trainer Kim Bailey and jockey David Bass were back in the winners enclosure for the first time in four years when Chianti Classico won the Ultima Handicap Chase, to give the home fans something to cheer about after prevailing at 6-1.

Mullins saddled his fifth winner of the Unibet Champion Hurdle when State Man went one better than last year to get the better of fellow Irish raider Irish Point to justify the long odds on shot.

Forty minutes later the same combination of Mullins and Townend were back in the winners enclose when Lossiemouth put on another impressive performance to land the Mares Hurdle race and bring up a 57-1 treble for the Irish trainer.

There was always a question about her stamina going into the race, but the five-year-old was always travelling well and never looked like getting beaten.

Five years ago trainer Joseph O’Brien and jockey JJ Slevin combined to win the Boodles, and the duo were on the mark again with Lark In The Mornin leading home an Irish 1,2,3,4.

The final race off the afternoon went to the Emmet Mullins trained Corbetts Cross with amateur jockey Derek O’Connor on board.

It was an emotional win for Mullins to win the race named in honour of his grandmother the late Maureen Mullins who sadly passed away last month at the age of 94.