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Lift-off for O'Leary in Ryanair as Irish hot streak continues

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London (AFP)

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary won his own race and Willie Mullins' Penhill took the feature Stayers Hurdle as Irish trainers maintained their domination at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.

O'Leary, the public face of budget airline Ryanair, is a massive supporter of National Hunt racing through his Gigginstown Stud.

And after two winners on Wednesday, O'Leary was beaming from ear to ear as he led in his Balko des Flos (8-1), his first-ever winner of the Grade One race he sponsors, the Ryanair Chase.

"Finally we've got one, it's wonderful winning my own money back!" he told ITV.

"I'll happily pay excess baggage on Ryanair to bring the three trophies home!" the Ryanair boss added in a light-hearted dig at his airline's charging policy.

The Ryanair had been billed as a duel between Cue Card and odds-on favourite Un De Sceaux, but the much loved Cue Card was never travelling well and was pulled up while last year's winner Un De Sceaux had to settle for the runners-up spot.

Un De Sceaux's trainer Mullins took the Stayers with Penhill, running for the first time in almost a year.

"He must have some engine, he's fairly fragile," said his master trainer after greeting his sixth winner of the meeting.

The 12-1 shot -- running in the colours of Tony Bloom, owner of Premier League club Brighton -- fended off Supasundae in a stirring fight to the line of the three-mile Grade One.

Supasundae is trained by Mullins' compatriot, Jessica Harrington, who has high hopes of Our Duke landing Friday's Gold Cup.

Penhill was the 13th winner from Ireland out of a possible 18.

Gordon Elliot was responsible for five of them after a quick-fire double in the first two races on Thursday's card with Shattered Love and Delta Work.

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