Cheltenham Festival: Druids Nephew, Glens Melody delight for Ulster
Newry owner/breeder Fiona McStay was rewarded for the decision to keep Glens Melody - yesterday's OLBG Mares Hurdle winner - in training rather than retire her to stud at the end of last season.
That was the intended plan prior to the local mare finishing runner-up to stable companion Quevega - both trained by Willie Mullins - in the Grade One race last year.
The brilliant Quevega was winning the race for the sixth successive time and after a discussion with the Irish champion trainer, Fiona - leading breeder at the regional awards for the past three years - decided to go racing for another season.
The complexion of the contest changed dramatically at the final flight when hot favourite Annie Power fell, having appeared set for victory, the race then becoming a three-way battle to the line with the Closutton-trained number two gamely keeping on best to claim the biggest prize of her career which brings her tally to 12 wins and in excess of £250,000 in prize money.
Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle were second and third.
Fiona said: "It's the greatest day's racing ever and thankfully Annie Power is okay after her fall.
"That's the second Grade One she's won and Paul Townend also rode her that day.
"To retire now on the back of a Cheltenham win is what you dream of - it doesn't get any better than that.
"However, she'll finish the season out. I have a lovely full-sister to Glens Melody, a three-year-old which will be going to Willie (Mullins) in time and the last foal of the dam, a yearling, at home."
There were other celebrations in Newry earlier on when the Collins family, who bred The Druids Nephew - trained by former County Antrim rider Neil Mulholland - watched as the eight-year-old won the Grade Three Handicap Chase.
The Collins family were landing their third Cheltenham Festival winner having also bred Salsify, triumphant in the Foxhunters in 2012 and 2013.
All-Ireland champion point to point rider Jamie Codd supplied leading Irish jumps owner JP McManus with a birthday winner - he registered his first Festival success in 1982 with Mister Donovan - when the Gordon Elliott-trained former Downpatrick winner Cause Of Causes threaded his way through from the rear of the field to land the four mile marathon for amateurs.
McManus had last won this race in 2007 with Butler's Cabin.
Ballyclare trainer Ben Arthey was another local recording a winner yesterday, travelling to Sedgefield where Jennys Melody - with Ulster jockey Peter Buchanan aboard - made the running to claim the Mares Novice Hurdle.
Arthey said: "We will look for a listed race.
"That was my fifth winner over here this season," he added.