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CHELTENHAM THURSDAY: Mullins saddles 50/1 shock winner in Mares' Novice Hurdle
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CHELTENHAM THURSDAY: Mullins saddles 50/1 shock winner in Mares' Novice Hurdle
on 14 March 2019
Winning jockey Noel Fehily announced his plans to retire later this season

WILLIE Mullins saddled seven runners in the Mares' Novice Hurdle and they included the first two home though very few punters would have considered backing either of them.

The 50/1 winner Eglantine Du Seuil had only won a Sligo maiden hurdle and had not been seen on the track since finishing third at the Listowel Festival in September.

She won by a short-head from stable companion Concertista (66/1), who had an even more obscure background, having never raced over hurdles previously.

Gordon Elliott's Tintangle (40/1) took third spot, well ahead of the market leaders Posh Trish (3/1) and Epatante (15/8) who were eighth and ninth respectively.

In the aftermath, winning jockey Noel Fehily revealed this would probably be his final Festival winner as he plans to retire from race-riding in the coming weeks.

Discussing the race, Fehily said: "I was fairly sure Eglantine Du Seuil's head was down on the line. I would have been very disappointed if I hadn't got up as I have come from a very long way back.

"Ruby Walsh said to me beforehand that she was very keen, so I dropped her right in. I was a long way back, but she was very tough and very hardy. She hasn't had a lot of racing but she ran well last time out, which was good form at Listowel in September.

"We weren't sure if that form at Listowel flattered her or whether she was that good and it turns out, she was that good!

"She will probably get further, but I think a fast-run two miles would really suit her as she is quite keen. She's a hardy little thing who enjoys coming through horses and her heart is as big as herself."

Fehily has ridden seven Cheltenham Festival winners in total. That includes Champion Hurdle victories aboard Rock On Ruby (2012) and Buveur D'Air (2017) and a thrilling win aboard Special Tiara (2017) in the Champion Chase.

The 43-year-old continued: "This is going to be my last Festival as I am getting a bit old for this job - that will be it now. I am not getting any younger and it's a young man's game. I've been thinking about retiring for a couple of weeks. I wasn't well for a while and I just thought t was time to let the young lads get on with it.

"I have spoken to my agent Chris Broad who has been brilliant and my wife and kids. I haven't spoken to the trainers I ride for, so it will probably be in a couple of weeks, but we'll play it by ear.

"This is going to be my last Festival and I was obviously hoping I would get a winner here to be able to say it. Cheltenham is a very hard place to get a winner and you can't take it for granted.

MULLINS AGAIN

It was a 64th Festival winner for Mullins, and means he takes the lead in the list of most successful trainers in Festival history after Nicky Henderson tied with him on 63 yesterday.

He said: "They have both run so well. I was watching Danny on Concertista the whole time, and the next thing I saw something coming on the inside and I thought, 'keep going, Danny', then thought 'hopefully it's one of my own, as I had so many runners in it [seven]. It was a fantastic performance from Noel Fehily - and both horses and riders.

"I said to Noel, 'she's not the fastest in the world, so just get her jumping and try and get her to run well.'"

Asked why he chose this race for Concertista's first race over hurdles, he replied: "She's a good jumper! I couldn't run her this year on the ground at home but I felt she was well enough and her jumping was good enough to run over hurdles here. I said to Danny the same thing as to Noel - 'get her jumping and then if you can, get her into the race.'

"I could see her coming round the outside, full of horse the whole time. She just got into a little bit of trouble before the last and I was hoping he might come wide, but there you are. She's run a great race."

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