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Mullins back with Cheltenham four-timer

After a miserable first two days of the Cheltenham Festival, master Irish trainer Willie Mullins has hit back with four winners.

Having been left frustrated with the likes of Limini and in particular Douvan being beaten, it was a case of the empire striking back as Mullins stole the limelight from his Irish counterpart Gordon Elliott.

With five winners on the board ahead of Thursday, Elliott threatened to leave Mullins toiling in his wake, but could only look on as Nichols Canyon, Yorkhill, Let’s Dance and Un De Sceaux hit top spot, all ridden by Ruby Walsh.

Reflecting on his day, Mullins, who reached the 50 Festival winners mark with Un De Sceaux, admitted it had been a worrying time.

“I wouldn’t like to tell you what was going through my mind last night, but on the other side of that coin, when we analysed all the runners, apart from Douvan we didn’t have any other runner that should have won,” Mullins said.

“We were worried ourselves whether there was something wrong, but we said ‘there can’t be anything wrong, they’re finishing second, third and fourth’. Douvan was the only blip, really.

“All I wanted was to get on the board.

“People expect us to have winners here. We just hope to have winners here and have huge respect for the place.”

The centrepiece was Nichols Canyon who at last gained the recognition his talents deserved with a battling three-quarters of a length victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

While the win was a fifth in the race for Walsh, and owner Graham Wylie’s fourth after three with Inglis Drever, it was an inaugural triumph in the three-mile (4800m) Grade One contest for Mullins.

“He is a horse that has that bit of class, as he has won several Grade Ones before this so we reckoned if he fired on the day he could do it,” Mullins said.

“I wasn’t coming here today thinking he was going to win. It was some performance.

“The first one (Yorkhill) was relief and the second (Un De Sceaux) was great, but this was pure joy as it was unexpected and they are the winners to have. When you don’t expect it, you can really enjoy it.”

Rich Ricci, arguably Mullins biggest owner, finally saw his pink and green silks welcomed back to the winner’s enclosure after Let’s Dance claimed the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

“We’re late to the party, but we’ve brought the music,” Ricci said.

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