Jezki wins Champions Hurdle at Cheltenham
CHELTENHAM, England (AP) — Quevega became the first horse to win the same race six times at the Cheltenham Festival, lifting some of the gloom following the death of one of the favorites in the signature Champion Hurdle on Tuesday.
The start of British horse racing’s most-cherished meeting was tinged with sadness when the 5-year-old Our Conor was destroyed after suffering a serious back injury in a fall midway through the Champion Hurdle, which was won by 9-1 shot Jezki.
“It’s very sad, as he was such a young horse at the beginning of his career,” said Barry Connell, the owner of Our Conor.
“It’s unfortunate, but it goes with the territory — in this game, one minute you can have a winner and the next one of your horses can die.”
Quevega provided the heartwarming story of the day in the very next race, coming from behind in the final 100 meters to win the Mares’ Hurdle for the sixth straight year. She had been tied on five wins with Golden Miller, who was victorious in five straight Gold Cups in the 1930s.
“It was an absolute joy to see her put her head down and win and she has her own unique place in history,” Quevega’s trainer, Willie Mullins, said.
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh held up six fingers as he returned to the paddock to cheers from fans. He started the four-day festival with a victory on Vautour, with his double extending his record number of winners at Cheltenham to 40.
“I thought we were in the wrong position the whole race, but Ruby is a genius and obviously had a plan in his head,” Mullins said of Walsh’s ride on Quevega.
Walsh’s double made up for his disappointing ride in the Champion Hurdle on Hurricane Fly, who was seeking to become the sixth horse to win the big race on three occasions after victories in 2011 and last year.
Hurricane Fly failed to kick on after the final hurdle, leaving Jezki and My Tent Or Yours to fight for victory. Jezki, ridden by Barry Geraghty, won by a head.
Tony McCoy was the jockey on My Tent Or Yours, having refused the option to ride Jezki.
The New One (10-3) finished third, despite being impeded by Our Conor’s fall.