Trainer Willie Mullins has celebrated three winners on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Willie Mullins has trained three winners on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival with two ridden by Ruby Walsh.
Footpad (5-6 favourite) extended his unbeaten record over fences to four with a brilliant display in the Arkle Trophy under a jubilant Walsh.
The champion jockey returned to action last week after breaking his leg in a fall in November.
“It sent the hairs down the back of my neck,” Walsh said.
“It’s been a long old winter and this makes it worth it.”
Mullins said Footpad could be a Gold Cup horse.
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Benie Des Dieux (9-2) gave Mullins his ninth victory in 11 years in the Mares’ Hurdle under an inspired Walsh ride and Rathvinden (9-2) completed the hat-trick in the hands of the trainer’s son, Patrick, in the National Hunt Chase.
Mullins came within a neck of training four winners when the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air defeated Melon to successfully defend his crown in the Champion Hurdle.
It was a seventh Champion Hurdle win for Henderson.
“It was a good race, a proper race. It’s the first time he has had a race all season (after three easy wins) and that did worry me, I must admit,” he said.
“He had a good blow, as he simply hasn’t had to knuckle down before. It was job done. He is young horse and he has done everything right the whole way.
“That is a big relief, you are expected to collect and he has done. It’s a relief it is over.”