Cheltenham - At The Races

Fire still burns bright for County success

    Arctic Fire put up a terrific weight-carrying performance to give Willie Mullins a fifth Cheltenham Festival winner of the week in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.
  • Friday 17 March 2017
  • News

Arctic Fire put up a terrific weight-carrying performance to give Willie Mullins a fifth Cheltenham Festival winner of the week in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.

Runner-up in the 2015 Champion Hurdle, Arctie Fire (20-1) got up on the run to the line under Paul Townend to snatch the spoils.

Wakea held a clear lead up to the final flight where he was swallowed up by the pack, as Arctic Fire came through late to win by a neck from L'Ami Serge. Ozzie The Oscar was another neck away in third, and Air Horse One fourth.

Townend said: "It's some training performance to get him back after such a long absence.

"He had top weight but he had it for a reason and I went out with the mindset to ride him like the best horse, and thankfully it paid off.

"Donagh (Meyler, on Wakea) had a big lead but it's very hard to do round here, you don't get that much of a lead without doing a hell of a lot.

"At that stage I had no choice but to drop in, there was nothing I could do about it."

Mullins said: "It's a bit of a surprise for me, I fancied our other one, Renneti, as he'd been working well at home and I thought Arctic Fire could be a social runner!

"But he's a class horse on his day, even with top weight he'd been dropped 6lb.

"He pulled so hard going down Paul dropped him right in, lucky enough he got a clear passage on the outside. It's fantastic for Paul and Nick Peacock, the owner.

"He chipped a bone when I was getting him ready for last year's Champion Hurdle and he has joint trouble all the time, he's a bit like me getting out of bed on a morning.

"Donal, who rides him at home all the time, knows him inside out and he tells me when he's right or not."

Nicky Henderson said of the narrow runner-up L'Ami Serge: "He ran a great race. We ran him in the race as soon as we knew Arctic Fire was going to go for it as we knew it would keep his weight down.

"He proved he can still do it after he ran a shocker at Fontwell in what was a funny old race. He is still a decent horse.

"Daryl Jacob gave him a wonderful ride as he needs to get there as late as possible.

"He will definitely run again this season. I think we might go to Ayr for the Scottish Champion Hurdle. It is a good handicap on a big track that will suit him. He deserves to get his head in front in one."

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