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Other SportsCheltenham Festival 2024: Day one round-up as Mullins and Townend dominate

Cheltenham Festival 2024: Day one round-up as Mullins and Townend dominate

Trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend dominated on the opening day of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday, their three winners including Champion Hurdle victor State Man.

The duo’s day got off to a less-than-ideal start as 11/4 favourite Tullyhill placed eighth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with Rachael Blackmore taking the spoils upon Slade Steel at 7/2.

Blackmore’s 15th Cheltenham winner came aboard the Henry de Bromhead-trained ride with the first race seeing an all-Irish top five, which was a sign of things to come on a soggy opening day.

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Mullins had his first winner of the day – and his 95th at the Festival overall – as Townend rode favourite Gaelic Warrior to an impressive win in the Arkle Chase, with the six-year-old holding off Found A Fifty and Il Etait Temps.

The weather played its part as the going was changed to heavy, soft in places, with Gaelic Warriors’ win coming in the Arkle’s slowest running this century.

Chianti Classico of K C Bailey’s stable won the Festival Trophy Handicap Chase at 6-1 as the British trainers hit back at their Irish counterparts, but Mullins and Townend were back on top in the Champion Hurdle next up.

In the absence of Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill, Townend held favourite State Man back for much of the race before leaving Irish Point and Luccia behind with a storming finish.

Speaking to ITV Sport after the race, Townend said of the winning horse: “It is hard work out there.

“It is hard to pick up and go away and fly but he put it to bed very quickly. He is a star. I love riding him. It is so simple.”

Townend then rode 8-13 favourite Lossiemouth to an easy victory ahead of Telmesomethinggirl in the Mares’ Hurdle, before telling ITV Sport he was lucky to be trusted with Mullins’ top rides.

“She was brilliant,” he said of Lossiemouth. “There was a question mark about her stamina but I never doubted it.

“I knew I had to settle her earlier, but she was very settled. It is pretty simple when you are riding very good horses. I am privileged to be riding these horses.”

It was an emotional end to the day for the Mullins family, with the final race being renamed in honour of Maureen Mullins – Willie Mullins’ mother – following her death at the age of 94 last month.

Townend went close to a fourth win of the day on Embassy Gardens, but it was Mullins’ nephew Emmet Mullins who took the spoils, Derek O’Connor riding his contender Corbetts Cross home at 85/40.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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