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14th Mar 2024

Cheltenham Thursday live: All the tips, drama, interviews and results

Niall McIntyre

Will the Irish dominance continue?

Keep up to date with all the action from Cheltenham Thursday here in our live-blog. (It may take one minute to load.)

Gordon Elliott finally gets his win with Teahupoo

After hitting the cross-bar all week, Gordon Elliott has finally got his first winner of this Cheltenham festival, with Teahupoo triumphing in the stayers’ hurdle at odds of 5/4.

Having been leathered into short odds, Teahupoo was impressive in defeating former champion Flooring Porter into second, with Joseph O’Brien’s Home by the Lee completing the Irish 1-2-3.

Ruby Walsh hails Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins’ stranglehold over the National Hunt game has perhaps never been as pronounced.

The Carlow based trainer headed to Prestbury Park this week with a breath-taking 70-strong team of horses.

With a record-breaking 94 winners to his name before the festival, he had already hit the 100 milestone by Wednesday evening, with his son Patrick riding Jasmin de Vaux to victory in the Champion Bumper.

11 March 2024; Trainer Willie Mullins on the gallops ahead of the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Ruby Walsh paid an emotional tribute to Willie Mullins on Wednesday evening, after the Champion trainer recorded his 100th ever Cheltenham winner, when Jasmin de Vaux won the Champion bumper.

Having enjoyed years of success as his stable jockey, before becoming one of his assistant trainers, Ruby has a very close relationship with Mullins.

And the Kildare jockey was moved close to tears on Racing TV when presenter Lydia Hislop asked him what Mullins means to him.

“He was never afraid of being wrong,” said Walsh.

“And when you were riding for him, he never made you feel as if you should be afraid of making a mistake, which was just huge.

“He’s been a huge part of my life.

“It means a lot.”

Walsh went onto commend Mullins’ ability to take risks, which he says was best show-cased in how he bounced back from Michael O’Leary’s decision in 2016 to take all of his Gigginstown House stud horses out of Mullins’ yard due to what he perceived as excessive training fees.

“That was a dark morning,” said Walsh.

“But the reaction was incredible,” said Walsh, referencing Mullins decision to expand in the aftermath.

The Prestbury Cup

Perhaps as a consequence of Mullins’ continued success, Ireland’s dominance over England continues at the Olympics of horse-racing. In fact, over the last eight years, England have only won the Prestbury Cup once.

With Mullins supported by the likes of Henry de Bromhead and Gordon Elliott, the Irish are expected to have another successful week at the Cotswolds.

The ground

John ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s Gold Cup hopes are pinned on the shoulders of his horse Hewick. They lie in the hands of Wexford jockey Jordan Gainford but they all lie helplessly in the lap of the weather gods. Shark, the Kilkenny trainer, has said in the build-up to the festival that, should the weather go against him on Cheltenham week, ‘the people’s horse,’ will not race.

27 July 2022; Jockey Jordan Gainford celebrates on Hewick after winning the Tote Galway Plate during day three of the Galway Races Summer Festival at Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Hewick, just like Joseph O’Brien’s Banbridge (favourite for Thursday’s Ryanair chase) is a hard ground horse and will not race if the weather is wet, and the ground soft.