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Towering Martello claims Bartlett

Mags Mullins saddled her first Cheltenham Festival winner when Martello Tower came out on top in a gruelling battle for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

In another race dominated by Irish raiders, Martello Tower (14-1) ground out victory for owner Barry Connell and his retained jockey Adrian Heskin.

Martello Tower took the lead from long-time leader Milsean, ridden by the winning trainer's son, Danny, who used to be Connell's number one. There was just half a length between them at the line, with No More Heroes a length away in third.

Heskin said: "He's a real tough horse, all he does is find off the bridle.

"He pricked his ears about five times after the last, I kept on asking him and he delivered.

"On the ground I was afraid he'd done too much early. He's a fair horse.

"I was up the tails of the leaders all the way so I didn't get the kickback."

The winning trainer said: "To win is just great. I was hoping he would win, but it doesn't always work out that way.

"I've had one runner in this race before and he was third and I've had a winner at the November meeting here. It's brilliant."

She went on: "You can't believe it when it happens, but it's great.

"I was shouting for them both. Danny rode him out this morning for me and told me he was well.

"Everything worked out lovely, I told him to be handy and ride it as he found it. I was glad it rained as it was just getting a bit lively.

"He's a lovely horse, he just does what he has to. I'll talk to Barry and we'll see about next year, he's good over three miles.

"I'm shaking, it's great to have a winner here."

Connell said: "He's an out-and-out stayer and he had the form coming into the race.

"This is my passion so it's great to get a winner at the Festival."

Willie Mullins, brother-in-law of the winning handler, said of Milsean and fourth home Arbre De Vie: "I'm delighted with both of them.

"Milsean had been a bit disappointing the last twice and I didn't think he'd run a race like that. It was not the plan to make the running, but we thought we'd jump off near the front and he seemed to enjoy it so Danny let him stroll along.

"Arbre De Vie just got bogged down on the ground and Paul (Townend) said he was too free early on and used up too much petrol. Both will probably go to Punchestown."

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