• Cheltenham Festival

Superstar Quevega makes Cheltenham history

ESPN staff
March 11, 2014
Ruby Walsh enjoyed a double on Champions Day for Irish trainer Willie Mullins © Getty Images

Quevega bagged a sixth consecutive Mares' Hurdle to make Cheltenham history and provide a bumper start for trainer Willie Mullins, but the opening day of the 2014 Festival was marred by a fatal injuy to Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle.

Quevega, the odds-on favourite to secure a feat never achieved by any other horse on the famous hill, rallied around the final turn under the impressive Ruby Walsh to reach the post just before her stablemate Glens Melody.

Walsh's persistence in the final furlong was celebrated with hats strewn high into the air as Quevega crossed the line half-a-length from Glens Melody, who ran a superb race to claim second under Peter Townsend.

"I thought we were in the wrong position the whole race, but Ruby is a genius and obviously had a plan in his head. It was an absolute joy to see her put her head down and win and she has her own unique place in history," Mullins told BBC Radio 5Live.

L'unique, the 25/1 shot ridden by Robert Thornton, held on to claim third with Hidden Identity scooping fourth for trainer Tim Vaughan.

Quevega's success crowned a relatively successful first day for Irish trainer Mullins, who saw Vautour dominate the Festival-opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle by six lengths, again under Walsh.

The Irish domination continued in the Champion Hurdle as Barry Geraghty and Jezki held on to secure victory for Jessica Harrington and owner JP McManus, although the race was overshadowed by the fatality of Our Conor, another Irish-trained mount for Dessie Hughes.

Our Conor fell early in the race and, despite the best efforts of the on-course vets, had to be put down after suffering a severe back injury. Prior to the Festival, owner Barry Connell had pledged that any prize money from his five-year-old gelding would be donated to a fund for jockey JT McNamara, who was paralysed in a fall during last year's meet.

"It appears that the horse made a mistake, sustained injuries and ultimately the vets took the view that the most humane option was for the horse to be euthanized," British Horse Racing Authority's head of raceday operations Jamie Steer said.

My Tent Our Yours finished second under AP McCoy for a McManus-owned one-two, with The New One, who was impeded by the fall of Our Conor, finishing third. Hurricane Fly disappointed under Walsh to scrape fourth, failing to join a list five horses with three Champion Hurdle titles.

Elsewhere, 33/1-shot Western Warhorse shocked Mullins' Champagne Fever in the Arkle Trophy. Jockey Tom Scudamore nicked it by a nose on the line for trainer David Pipe, who later admitted he had tried to persuade owner Roger Brookhouse not to run it.

Holywell finished strongly to claim the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase for Jonjo O'Neill and provide the Irish contingent with yet another first-day winner.

Alan King's Festival started well as Midnight Prayer edged Shotgun Paddy by a neck in the Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase and Present View rounded off the first day with victory in the Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase for Jamie Snowden.

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