Clane Jockey Mark Walsh causes a big shock to land Champion Hurdle Feature on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival

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Clane Jockey Mark Walsh causes a big shock to land Champion Hurdle Feature on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival
By Robert Cribbin 18:32 Tuesday 12th of March 2019

It was a day of shocks on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival but none bigger than Espoir D'Allen winning the Champion Hurdle.

The 16-1 shot was ridden by Mark Walsh from Clane and trained by Meath-based Gavin Cromwell and would have been seen as JP McManus's second string with Buveur D'air winning the last two runnings of the race but after he fell early on and fancied mares Apples Jade and Laurina disappointed the path was clear for the five year old to impressively claim victory.

The win was Walsh's second festival winner after he rode Bleu Berry to victory in the Coral Cup last year but this was without doubt the biggest win of his career.

Ironically he wasn't the only Walsh to stand out with the more renowned Ruby guiding Klassical Dream to success in the opening Supreme Novice Hurdle at the price of 6-1.

The day may have started well for the Kill native but he suffered a last flight fall on board the odds on Benie De Deux in the Grade 1 Mares Hurdle and with Laurina disappointing in the big race it was a day of mixed emotions.

It was an afternoon where the Bookies definitely got one over the Punters with only one favourite coming in as long shots sprung to prominence.

That one favourite was significant though as Rachael Blackmore rode her first Festival winner when the well backed A Plus Tard cruised to victory in the Close Brothers Novice Chase.

Willie Mullins is currently top of the trainers table with two victories after Duc De Geneivre's win in the Arkle added to Klassical Dream's earlier success to bring Ireland's winning total to four at the end of the day.

The feature race tomorrow on Day 2 is the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Altior the star attraction but with high winds expected it is still unknown if Racing will go ahead or not.

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