Irish dominate on St Patrick's Thursday at Cheltenham
Irish eyes were smiling as Willie Mullins become the leading all-time Cheltenham Festival trainer after the red hot Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell claimed trebles on St Patrick's Thursday
Elliott saddled three winners on Wednesday and the Cullentra handler doubled his tally on day three, thanks in no small part to Russell - who took over as top jockey for the week with four in total.
Russell rode Balko Des Flos to victory in the Ryanair Chase, finally giving owner Michael O'Leary lift-off in a prestigious race he has sponsored since 2005 but had never won.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos stayed on strongly to dethrone strong favourite Un De Sceaux, winning at 8-1 under the masterful Russell.
Age appeared to have caught up with Cue Card, the legendary 12-year-old pulled up by Paddy Brennan with five to jump.
Penhill's victory in the Stayers' Hurdle demonstrated why Mullins will go down as one of the great trainers.
The 12-1 priced Penhill had not raced for 323 days, but came home ahead of Supasundae to get Paul Townend up and running for the week.
Townend also stepped in to ride Laurina in the absence of the injured Ruby Walsh and steered the 4-7 favourite to an easy victory in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle - giving Mullins a record 61st festival success.
Confirmation of Laurina's victory in the Trull House Mares' Novices' Hurdle-- CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 15, 2018
A 61st winner at The Festival(TM) for Willie Mullins - that's more than any other trainer in history #TheFestivalpic.twitter.com/oIWhqnaSe8
Elliott made a dream start to the day as Shattered Love took the Novices' Chase before Delta Work held on to deny favourite Glenloe in the Handicap Hurdle with Russell in the saddle, Balko Des Flos then giving O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud a third win out of three.
Russell and Elliott were celebrating again when 5-1 favourite The Storyteller won the Handicap Chase.
Missed Approach prevented an unprecedented clean sweep of Irish-trained horses in the final race of the day, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, but Ireland have the BetBright Cup in the bag with 15 winners to Britain's six.