Journal De Bruxelles - Irish ace Townend has a rollercoaster of a St Patrick's Day at Cheltenham

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Irish ace Townend has a rollercoaster of a St Patrick's Day at Cheltenham
Irish ace Townend has a rollercoaster of a St Patrick's Day at Cheltenham

Irish ace Townend has a rollercoaster of a St Patrick's Day at Cheltenham

Irish jockey Paul Townend will not forget St Patrick's Day for a long time to come after experiencing a whole range of emotions within the space of 90 minutes at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.

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The 31-year-old came to grief at the final fence in the opening race, the Novices Chase, when clear on Galopin des Champs and with it one punter lost 25,000 pounds ($33,000).

However, fortunately for Townend, lightning did not strike twice in the third race, the Ryanair Chase, as he cleared the last on Allaho and eased home.

The cheers were mighty for him and the Willie Mullins-trained winner but they were nothing compared to the raucous scenes that greeted another Irish winner, Flooring Porter.

The Flooring Porter Syndicate were out in strength -- both physically and vocally -- as their hero came back to the winners' enclosure having defended his Stayers Hurdle crown.

His victory saved one Irish punter his shirt as he had placed his last 640 pounds on him and was rewarded with over 3,000 pounds which should get him through to the end of Friday's final day.

When Galopin des Champs slipped and fell, Bob Olinger took the honours under jockey Rachael Blackmore in a race that was the first ever in Festival history which involved no English runners -- all four starters were Irish.

Bob Olinger was a well-beaten horse at the time and Blackmore looked almost apologetic by winning.

"I must say you do not want to win like that," said the winner's trainer Henry de Bromhead.

- 'Thick and thin' -

The 49-year-old Irish trainer said he was concerned by the flat performance of Bob Olinger, who had been expected to give Galopin des Champs a real tussle.

"Interestingly Rachael said it was not happening with him," he said. "I will have him looked at as he did not look right.

"The way he ran today put me back in my box as I was thinking he was much better than that -- I know that sounds strange when you have won."

There was nothing strange about Allaho's dominant performance in the Ryanair as he coasted home to become the first back-to-back winner of the race since Albertas Run in 2010/11.

The relief for Townend was reflected by him bending down to kiss Allaho once they had pulled up after the finishing line.

"That makes up for it!" said Townend, who missed out on the victory on Allaho last year due to picking stablemate Min instead.

Townend missed out on the other feature as another member of the Mullins family Danny -- Willie's nephew -- rode a superb front-running race on Flooring Porter.

Mullins was paraded round the winners' enclosure on the shoulders of two of the members of the syndicate, all draped in black and white coloured scarves.

"I never saw them but I could hear them," said Mullins. referring to his rivals.

He was full of praise for trainer Gavin Cromwell.

"It is his training that has got Flooring Porter back here and he is a trainer you will see a lot more of at Cheltenham," he said.

Ireland were not the only Celts to visit the winners enclosure as Welsh wizard Evan Williams's tough-as-teak Coole Cody won the Handicap Chase -- his fourth win in 13 starts at the course.

"He is as hard as they come," said jockey Adam Wedge.

"To ride a winner at Cheltenham for Evan is a dream as he has seen me through thick and thin."