Walsh and Mullins enjoy Ruby Tuesday at Cheltenham

Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:57pm EDT
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By Justin Palmer

(Reuters) - Trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh won the Champion Hurdle with unbeaten Faugheen as the pair dominated the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.

Irishman Mullins saddled a 1-2-3 in front of over 60,000 racegoers as Faugheen, the 4-5 favorite, stormed home ahead of stable mates Arctic Fire (20-1) and twice winner Hurricane Fly (8-1) in the big race.

Mullins and Walsh also combined to win the opening two Grade One races of the four-day Festival -- Douvan (2-1) in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle quickly followed by Un De Sceaux (4-6) in the Arkle chase.

After Faugheen had brought up the hat-trick, Annie Power looked set to give the Mullins-Walsh combination another winner but the hot favorite fell at the last fence when leading the Mares Hurdle.

Horse and jockey were unhurt, leaving another Mullins' raider -- Glens Melody (6-1) -- to squeeze home in a tight finish by a head for another Irish rider, Paul Townend.

While bookmakers counted the cost of Mullins' first three winners, Annie Power's fall at least saved them from further carnage and huge payouts on accumulator bets.

"You could not write the script," Mullins told Channel Four Racing.

"All spring the horses have been going really well, today was going to be a really good day or a blow out."   Continued...

Ruby Walsh on Faugheen jumps the final fence and goes on to win the 15.20 Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. Reuters / Eddie Keogh