Wonderful Walsh claims hat-trick of wins to surpass 50 Cheltenham victories


Irish eyes were smiling on Ruby Walsh on St Patrick's Day as he surpassed a landmark 50th win at the Cheltenham Festival thanks to hat-trick of victories including a dominant triumph atop Vautour in the Ryanair Chase.

The Walsh and Ruby Mullins combination had already contributed four winners - including three on Tuesday - heading into day three and Walsh reached the half-century milestone on 4-1 shot Black Hercules in a controversial opening race in the Novices' Chase.

Walsh went on to clinch one of the two big races on Thursday with Vautour winning at a canter in the Ryanair, before the Irishman completed his treble on Limini in the Mares Novice Hurdle.

In Thursday's main race the World Hurdle, overwhelming favourite Thistlecrack - ridden by Tom Scudamore - powered to an easy win.

Thistlecrack has been the dominant force over three miles this season, beating most of his main rivals in the race at different meetings.

Scudamore made his move with two jumps remaining and left Alpha Des Obeaux chasing shadows to win by eight lengths.

Earlier, Walsh chalked up his 50th Cheltenham win in a contentious Novices' Chase.

Starters orders were given despite Zabana being side-on in mid turn, which unseated a fuming Davy Russell.

Four fences from the end Outlander and Garde La Victoire fell when under pressure and Walsh kept his composure on Black Hercules to pull clear in a battle with Bristol De Mai and L'Ami Serge.

"[It's] amazing. When I joined Pat Taaffe on 25 [winners] I thought it was unbelievable, but 50 is incredible," Walsh said.

"I'm in a privileged position to ride for Willie Mullins now and I rode for Paul Nicholls in the past, and if it wasn't for people like that I wouldn't be anywhere near that figure now."

Walsh's day to remember continued in the penultimate race the Mares' Novice Hurdle as odds-on favourite Limini delighted the grandstand.