Horse Racing

Cheltenham 2024 | Day One Review: Glory for favourite backers, but devastation on the track as two horses are lost

Day One of the Cheltenham Festival opened up with success for State Man and Lossiemouth, with Willie Mullins claiming a treble on the day. But, sadly, the news was marred by two deaths on the racecourse.

State Man landed the Unibet Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, as Willie Mullins took a big step to create more history at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Closutton trainer is now on 97 winners in the Festival, with three odds-on shots on Wednesday to, possibly, make it 100 winners at the prestigious meeting.

State Man was prominent in the early stages, staying on the inside as Not So Sleepy and Nemean Lion went ahead.

After the second-last, second favourite Irish Point took the lead with State Man stalking in behind, and jockey Paul Townend sat motionless on the odds-on favoruite.

The top-two in the market jumped the last together, with State Man responding to Townend’s urges and won, in heavy ground, by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

Mullins was full of praise for a god ride from Townend; ‘It went very smoothly – Paul rode State Man with such confidence. He had Irish Point where he wanted him, and that was probably the main thing.’

He didn’t have to wait long for his next winner as Lossiemouth found plenty winning the Mares’ Hurdle, when stepping up in trip for the first time.

Off the back of her latest win at Cheltenham over two-miles, Mullins and connections decided to avoid the Champion Hurdle, even with Constitution Hill’s omission.

Held up in rear, Lossiemouth was produced on the home turn with Townend on the bridle and waited for a gap to appear between Love Envoi and Telmesomethinggirl.

When the gap did appear, Lossiemouth went through and extended to win by three lengths, for her second Festival success.

Mullins confirmed that next year Lossiemouth will be campaigned to run in the Champion Hurdle saying to RacingTV; ‘Lossiemouth is a Champion Hurdle mare, I think. She’ll be trained for Punchestown, and then I’ll chat to Rich and Susannah and I imagine the Champion Hurdle.’

Slade Steel returned the 7/2 winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, beating Mullins-trained Mystical Power and Gordon Elliott-trained Firefox.

Slade Steel was ridden to victory by Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Rachael Blackmore who was excited for the future with her winner. Speaking to ITV; ‘He’s a really, really tough horse with a massive future. He’s progressing all the time.’

Gaelic Warrior gave Mullins his first winner of the Festival, with owner Rich Ricci unable to watch the entire race, finding out how he had done when speaking to RacingTV.

Chianti Classico was Britain’s first winner of the Festival, delivered by local trainer Kim Bailey. Jockey David Bass led the celebrations and hinted at a possible Grand National tilt to Racing TV; ‘It’s an amazing feeling. Going round I was thinking of Liverpool next year.’

Lark In The Mornin’ won the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, with 80/1 shot Eagles Regin coming in second as the first five came home for the Irish.

Corbetts Cross was an emotional winner for trainer Emmet Mullins as the race honoured his late Grandmother, Maureen Mullins.

However, the racing was overshadowed by the death of two horses. Highland Hunter was fatally injured after the third last.

Highland Hunter also led the procession at the funeral of the late amateur jockey Keagan Kirby last week, which sparked emotional scenes.

A statement on X from Fergal O’Brien’s twitter team said; ‘Absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of kind messages from so many of you. Thank you.

Well done to yesterday’s winners, especially our neighbours @kimbaileyracing’

Ose Partir was also fatally injured after being brought down at the fourth hurdle. He was part of the same connections of the winning horse, Lark In the Mornin, Sean and Bernadine Mulryan.

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