SUPREME START FOR MULLINS
Klassical Dream, a hugely impressive winner of the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, gave his trainer Willie Mullins the perfect start The Festival™ presented by Magners. It was a record 62nd Festival success for Mullins and a sixth in this race.
Klassical Dream also fulfilled the dreams of his late owner, John Coleman, by providing him with a first winner at The Festival.
Ridden by Ruby Walsh, the Dream Well five-year-old - now owned by John Coleman's wife Jo - won by four and a half lengths at 6/1 from 28/1 chance Thomas Darby (Olly Murphy and Richard Johnson).
Mullins said: "It's terrific. He's a good horse. We took a risk running him on goodish firm ground at home, but we thought he had a fair engine all along. We debated whether we'd need to go for the other race [the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs] but when we saw the rain forecast, we decided to come for this [over two miles].
"It's a very poignant victory for us. John Coleman had a lot of cheaper horses with me and then he retired and sold his business two years ago and said, 'here's a few quid - go and buy me a Cheltenham horse, and this is the horse. Jo [his wife] and his family are here today and it is fantastic; a very emotional victory. John and myself had many a good night and Jo and family will be invited over for a few tears and beers to celebrate this winner. I'm delighted it happened for the family.
"Klassical Dream was well within his own cruising speed travelling there, so he looks a real one, especially in this type of ground, and we know he can go up in trip no problem. He's a very, very good horse. His work last weekend at the Curragh, we came away thinking here's one who will take a lot of beating at Cheltenham, no matter what he came up against."
Klassical Dream on his way to victory
MIND-BLOWING DREAM FOR WIDOW JO
Racehorse owner Jo Coleman travelled to The Festival™ today from her home in Essex with her late husband, and not just in a spiritual sense.
John Coleman died last summer from bone marrow cancer, but his wife was so keen to fulfil his wish of seeing Klassical Dream run at the meeting that she carried some of his ashes in her handbag. The fates were smiling on them, as their horse (6/1) romped to victory in the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle for trainer Ruby Walsh and jockey Ruby Walsh.
Mrs Coleman said: "It seems such a shock to be here to see John's horse run, let alone win. He bought Klassical Dream two years ago and dreamed he might be a good horse, and he's proved it. He never got to see the horse run at all.
"I didn't really watch the race, I just listened to the boys around me getting more and more excited as the race went on. I was too nervous to watch.
"John was a Willie Mullins' fanatic, which is why he put his horses with Willie.
"I don't know I can put into words how I feel, but it has blown our minds. It's mind-blowing. I've bought some of John's ashes with me because he said he wanted to be here, but he knew his time was limited. I wanted to make sure he got here."
Mark Smith, who has acted in the role of racing manager to Mrs Coleman, said: "John was my best mate, and we had been coming to Cheltenham together for about 30 years. He always dreamed of having a decent horse to run at the meeting, and then he went and died just when that horse arrived."
KLASSIC PERFORMANCE FROM DREAM IN SUPREME
Ruby Walsh & Willie Mullins made the perfect start to The Festival™ presented by Magners as they teamed up to land a sixth £625,000 G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle courtesy of 6/1 shot Klassical Dream.
The five-year-old son of Dream Well took the lead in the middle stages of the race and jumped with aplomb in the home straight to scamper clear of his rivals and score by four and a half-lengths from Olly Murphy's stable companions Thomas Darby (25/1) and Itchy Feet (25/1), who was a further half-length behind in third.
Walsh, registering his 59th winner overall at The Festival was impressed with the performance of the gelding who emulate future stars such as Douvan and Vautour, both also trained by Mullins, in winning the two-mile G1 event.
Klassical Dream was responsible for the false start before the contest and Walsh said: "Klassical Dream barged into the tape which wasn't ideal, but second time around, I got a good start and he jumped brilliant.
"He was magical and very professional at his hurdles. At the top of the hill, I could hear a couple of others tapping away and I was thinking I'm going better than those immediately behind me which gave me confidence.
"We thought he would get two and a half miles, so I thought in the home straight that he would obviously get home in this race.
"This is tinged with sadness - John Coleman had waited a long time to get a couple of good horses, then he came across this fella and unfortunately passed away before he got to see him race
"John was a real racegoer and a lovely man. His wife and kids are here today, but I am sorry for him. I am sure he is looking down on us. This is what he dreamt of and he is not here to see it."
Klassical Dream was originally going to run in the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13, before connections decided to switch to today's two-mile event.
Walsh continued: "This horse worked last Tuesday and we were very happy with him and then that's where we sort of decided where we wanted to go. I thought Al Dancer and Angels Breath were easier than the horses to take on in the Ballymore. We made a call and sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong, but that was the decision we made.
"We left it late and, having looked at the forecast, plumped for this race. We were a bit anxious this morning when it had not rained but it came in time for us.
"It is a fair relief to have a winner already. This lad has really improved from his run at Leopardstown last time."
1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 Klassical Dream (Joanne Coleman) Willie Mullins IRE 5-11-07 Ruby Walsh 6/1
2 Thomas Darby (Diana Whateley) Olly Murphy 6-11-07 Richard Johnson 28/1
3 Itchy Feet (Andrew & Kate Brooks) Olly Murphy 5-11-07 Gavin Sheehan 25/1
9/2jf Fakir D'Oudairies (4th), Al Dancer (10th)
Distances: 4½, ½
Time: 3m 59.56s
Tote Win: £6.70 Places: £2.40, £6.20, £5.50 Exacta: £250.50
Willie Mullins - 62nd winner at The Festival
Ruby Walsh - 59th winner at The Festival
MURPHY PROUD AS HIS TWO OUTSIDERS CHASE HOME 'FREAK' KLASSICAL DREAM IN FESTIVAL OPENER
Olly Murphy does not enjoy being beaten, but he was as proud as can be after Thomas Darby (28/1) ridden by Richard Johnson, and Itchy Feet (25/1), partnered by Gavin Sheehan, finished second and third behind a winner he described as "a freak" in the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the traditional opening race of The Festival™ presented by Magners.
Murphy does not go in for 'social' runners and had only one representative at the meeting in 2018, which was his first as a trainer.
After Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet had come from off the pace to chase home the impressive Klassical Dream on ground that did not play to their strengths he said: "The ground wasn't ideal for the pair of them and they've both run fantastic races. I'm never happy finishing second and third, but I'm delighted for them both, as they've done me proud and are horses who will win loads of races."
He added: "I'm not in a massive rush with them, but they might have one more run, either at Aintree or even Punchestown, but you won't see the best of them until they jump a fence.
"They were big prices, but there was no fluke about that as they are two good horses. They might just get the credit they deserve now. They are two lovely horses, and Thomas Darby in particular is still so raw. We'd never beat the winner, who looked a freak, but we had a nice bunch of horses behind us."
Thomas Darby was beaten four and a half-lengths by the winner, with Itchy Feet another half-length back in third.
Murphy, whose father Aiden sourced Thomas Darby, has only one more runner this week. He saddles Brewin'upastorm in Wednesday's G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
Joseph O'Brien was happy enough with the running of fourth-placed Fakir D'Oudairies, the 9/2 joint favourite with Al Dancer, who was the only four-year-old in the race. "He ran a good race," he said.
GOING AFTER THE FIRST
First race, 1.30pm: Sky bet Supreme Novices Hurdle
Gavin Sheehan, rider of the third, Itchy Feet, said: "Soft."
Sam Twiston-Davies, on Al Dancer, said: "Soft."
Nico de Boinville, rider of Angels Breath, said: "Heavy."
Paul Townend, partner of Aramon, said: "Testing."
Robbie Power, jockey of Beaufort West, said: "Heavy."
Bryony Frost, on board Brandon Castle, said: "Sloppy soft."
Sean Flanagan, partner of Felix Desjy, said: "Soft to heavy going."
Harry Cobden, on board Grand Sancy, said: "Soft."
James Bowen, on Mister Fisher, said: "It is soft at the moment but if there is any more rain it will be heavy ground."
Paddy Brennan, partner of Normal Norman, said: "Heavy all over."
Noel Fehily, rider of The Big Bite, said: "Soft."
Jamie Moore, partner of The Flying Sofa, said: "Soft."
Jack Kennedy, rider of Vision D'Honneur, said: "Soft, but it could go to heavy."