Le Pays De France - Mullins cries tears of joy, a last roar from Tiger Roll

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Mullins cries tears of joy, a last roar from Tiger Roll
Mullins cries tears of joy, a last roar from Tiger Roll

Mullins cries tears of joy, a last roar from Tiger Roll

Trainer Willie Mullins finally added a glaring omission to his trophy cabinet landing the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday with Energumene whilst another Irish racing legend Tiger Roll bowed out with honour at the Cheltenham Festival.

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Mullins' eyes were almost as wet after he had won as the racegoers, who had been soaked by heavy rain which also put paid to the hopes of Energumene's main rival and race favourite Shishkin.

Energumene was one of three winners for Mullins on the day taking his tally to 82 Festival victories.

It was a day for mudlarks and the Irish took advantage in their annual battle for jumping supremacy with Britain's finest as they ended the second day 8-6 up having trailed 4-3 on Tuesday.

Energumene had come off second best in a thrilling duel with Shishkin at Ascot earlier this season but it was clear from the off that the latter was in trouble.

His trainer Nicky Henderson said he knew the game was up due to the heavy going and jockey Nico de Boinville did the right thing in pulling the odds-on favourite up with five fences to jump.

There were no tears from the seasoned campaigner that is the 71-year-old Englishman but there were from Mullins, who is not often given to showing his emotions.

"I think I am surprised at how I am feeling but there we are," said Mullins, who had to give way to owner Tony Bloom -- also owner of Premier League side Brighton -- so he could compose himself.

"(The tears) probably shows you what it means to win this race."

Mullins praised Paul Townend for a perfect ride and it was a different smiling jockey than the one who drew a blank on Tuesday.

"I was not great company last night," said Townend after he had won the opener on Wednesday on Mullins's Sir Gerhard.

- 'An absolute dream' -

Two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll's chances also looked cooked with the heavy rain but the tiny horse showed once again the "heart of the lion" his jockey Davy Russell said he possessed.

The 12-year-old fought every inch of the run to the line but his Gordon Elliott-trained stablemate Delta Work just got up to deny him a fairytale farewell victory and a record-equalling sixth Festival win.

Delta Work and Jack Kennedy returned to jeers but they were quickly replaced by thunderous cheers when Russell moved up alongside him with Tiger Roll.

“He went down on his sword the way he deserved to go down," said Russell.

"It is such a marvellous sport we have and we are so lucky. He is just a marvellous horse.

“Tongue in cheek some people booed Delta Work and I didn't think that was fair.

“I will miss him for sure but that is life and we move on and we live in the fast lane," added the 42-year-old.

Elliott had a double on the day but like Townend had had to wait till Wednesday for his first winner of this year's Festival.

Given the sodden conditions the appropriately named 50/1 shot Commander of Fleet took the Coral Cup.

Victory was all the sweeter for Elliott as he had been missed last year's Festival due to being banned for 12 months -- six suspended -- for bringing racing into disrepute.

A photograph of Elliott sitting on a dead horse had been made public.

"Cheltenham has been very lucky for me and to be back here training winners is great," he said.

"Onwards and upwards as they say," he added.

Jockey Charlie Deutsch like Elliott has had some hard lessons along the way.

In May 2018 he was released from prison after serving two and a half months of a ten-month sentence, having pleaded guilty to dangerous driving while over the drink drive limit and leading the police on a chase -- round Cheltenham.

On Wednesday he experienced the thrill of his first Cheltenham Festival winner with a superlative ride on L'Homme Presse in the Grade One Novices Chase.

"It is just wonderful to get a big win at Cheltenham an absolute dream. A huge moment for me," he said.