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Irish eyes are smiling as the Prestbury Cup is won in style


Flying high: Michael O’Leary kisses winner Balko Des Flos
Flying high: Michael O’Leary kisses winner Balko Des Flos

By Robert Jones

Ireland's domination of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival reached new heights on St Patrick's Thursday when trainers from the Emerald Isle saddled the first six winners to wrap up the Prestbury Cup from Great Britain with a day to spare.

Willie Mullins edged ahead of Nicky Henderson as the leading trainer in Festival history, as a double courtesy of Penhill and Laurina took his tally to 61 in all and seven for the week.

Gordon Elliott is just one behind his great rival in the race for the top trainer award at this year's meeting, thanks to a treble through Shattered Love, Delta Work and The Storyteller.

Henry de Bromhead got in on the act with Balko Des Flos in the Ryanair Chase.

The latter's success saw Michael O'Leary finally get his hands on the owner's trophy for the Ryanair Chase he has sponsored since 2006.

After several near-misses, he struck gold when Balko Des Flos outpointed last year's winner Un De Sceaux under Davy Russell.

The 8/1 chance stepped up to Grade One company and starred on a brilliant day for Gigginstown, who also had Shattered Love and Delta Work.

"It's taken me 15 years to win the Ryanair, so I'm going to enjoy it," said O'Leary. "It's great for Henry. Henry has hit the bar a couple of times this week, so it's great to see him have a winner."

De Bromhead said: "I thought the ground had gone against us. It hasn't been raced on as much and it seemed nicer than yesterday, but I was still worried."

Cue Card was pulled up and trainer Colin Tizzard stressed there would be no quick decision on the 12-year-old's future.

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