Tag Archive for: Rachael Blackmore

Blackmore pleased to be part of Betfair charity initiative

Betfair have launched a charity fund which will see them donate £5,000 for every winner Rachael Blackmore rides between Betfair Chase day and the Randox Grand National.

The bookmaker has initiated the launch of the ‘Rachael Blackmore’s Serial Winners Fund’ by donating £100,000, and it is estimated that around £250,000 will be raised for the Injured Jockeys Fund and the Irish Injured Jockeys.

Blackmore, a Grand National and Gold Cup-winning jockey, has averaged around 30 winners in the period between the Betfair Chase meeting at Haydock and the Grand National, which this year takes place on April 13.

Blackmore, a Betfair ambassador, said: “This is a very generous initiative from Betfair and one that I am excited to be a part of over the coming season.

“The work of IIJ and IJF is vital in providing support services for jockeys past and present. It’s great to have Betfair supporting not only me, but two organisations that are so important to us as jockeys.”

Lisa Hancock, CEO of the Injured Jockeys Fund, said: “We are very grateful to Betfair who have been great supporters of the Injured Jockeys Fund for many years. Rachael of course is an inspiration to all aspiring jockeys, and we will be hoping she kicks home plenty of winners over the coming months.”

Michael Higgins of the Irish Injured Jockeys said: “We are very grateful to Betfair for this generous initiative and are delighted to be joint beneficiaries with our friends in the IJF.

“Rachael is a committed supporter of IIJ and a fantastic role model for our sport and hope her current run of success continues. We have major plans in 2024 and a project which will involve significant investment on our part which will transform facilities and services available to our riders. This, along with our existing support programs, will benefit hugely from the fund.”

Graded double for De Bromhead and Blackmore at Navan

Bob Olinger and Captain Guinness returned to winning ways to provide Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore with a Graded race double at Navan.

Lismullen Hurdle winner Bob Olinger was victorious for the first time since the Cheltenham Festival of March 2022, when the beneficiary of the late fall of Galopin Des Champs, and had struggled to hit the heights that once looked likely as a novice hurdler.

Having travelled supremely well for Blackmore when still hard on the bridle on the run to the last between Home By The Lee and Zanahiyr, it briefly looked like he would flatter to deceive once again.

When Blackmore initially asked him to quicken, the response was not immediate and Zanahiyr went on, but eventually Bob Olinger (15-8) did begin to find for pressure and ultimately was a good winner.

He went on to win by a length from the 5-4 favourite, with Home By The Lee, giving 9lb to all, a creditable third in trying to replicate last year’s win.

“I’m delighted. You know where we hold him, he’s one of the best horses I’ve ever trained,” said De Bromhead.

“Last year was tough but it’s lovely to see him back. He was brilliant and Rachael was super on him, she gave him a brilliant ride.

“There are a lot of people to thank but I have to mention Robert Power and Brian (Acheson).

“We stopped with him last January and Robbie has done a lot of work with him during the summer and into this season.

“He came down to us looking amazing. There are a lot of people to thank, the team at home, but Robbie stands out for all the work he’s done with him.

Rachael Blackmore was delighted with Bob Olinger
Rachael Blackmore was delighted with Bob Olinger (Damien Eagers/PA)

“We better ask him what he was doing and start doing it with all of them!

“He stayed at it really well. The way he burst through and then I thought ‘oh no, it’s the same as last year’ when Zanahiyr came back at him.

“I thought we were in trouble there, obviously Zanahiyr picked up and we were a bit slow at the last.

“It was lovely to see, he’s a real good horse and it’s nice to see him hopefully starting to come back.

“It was a tough race, his first run since January.”

When asked about plans, he added: “I don’t know, we’ll enjoy today. We’ve no plans and I wouldn’t like to say anything yet. Today was the day, we needed to see him back first.

“If you saw him at home, I don’t think any trip is a problem when he’s right, he has so much pace. At least we can think about the next step now.

“Nothing is set in stone (regarding hurdling or chasing). I don’t really want to say anything until we’ve all debriefed. A lot of work went into today and it’s just lovely to see him back.”

Captain Guinness repeated his victory in the Bar One Fortria Chase, again beating last year’s runner-up Riviere D’etel, this time by seven lengths.

Dysart Dynamo was the 4-5 favourite but he found disappointingly little for Paul Townend in the straight and Blackmore always looked to have him covered.

Betfair cut the winner to 6-1 from 8s for the Tingle Creek next month.

Captain Guinness clears the last with aplomb
Captain Guinness clears the last with aplomb (Damien Eagers/PA)

“I’m delighted with that, he jumped brilliant,” said de Bromhead.

“Rachael was brilliant on him again. I thought that was one of his best performances that I’ve seen for a while. I loved the way he picked up to the line, he was brilliant.

“At every fence, he went in four behind and landed two behind, he was so good. There was one halfway down the back that he winged and I don’t think that Rachael even expected it.

“I entered him in the Tingle Creek and I’ll speak to Declan (Landy, owner) and see. It’s three weeks so potentially he could go there. We’ll definitely consider it or otherwise it’s Leopardstown at Christmas.

“I always thought he was better on better ground but he loved that there. In the Champion Chase, I said to Declan that we’d run him but he probably wouldn’t like the ground, but he loved it.”

De Bromhead celebrates birthday in style with Cheltenham double

Henry de Bromhead enjoyed a birthday double at Cheltenham when Dancing On My Own and Whacker Clan powered up the famous hill in front

De Bromhead, who was celebrating his 51st birthday, got the day off to the best possible start with the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Dancing On My Own in the Epic Value At William Hill Handicap Chase.

The race was still in the balance on the approach to the last as Gary Moore’s Haddex Des Obeaux, who had made every yard of the running, was still holding a slender lead when coming down at the final fence.

Having set a searching gallop, Haddex Des Obeaux had seen them all off bar the eventual winner and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Guy, who were the only three in contention for the final half mile.

As Guy began to weaken up the hill and Haddex Des Obeaux came down, Dancing On My Own (14-1), the winner of Aintree’s Red Rum Chase in April, was left to come home alone. He had two lengths to spare over Triple Trade, with In Excelsis Deo and Notlongtillmay both making good progress for minor honours.

De Bromhead said: “Rachael gave him a super ride, she was brilliant on him.

“I was worried about his big weight and he was up 7lb for Aintree but I’m delighted with him, he jumped super.

“He’s funny, he just loves to go a good decent gallop the whole way, so the other horse going on suited him, and Rachael knows him better than anyone.

“Let’s see what the handicapper thinks, but he could come back for the Schloer maybe, we might need to look at conditions chases as he’s boxing up there.

“We haven’t managed to win the two-mile division (Queen Mother) but even with Energumene out, there are plenty of good horses in it.”

Whacker Clan jumped brilliantly all the way
Whacker Clan jumped brilliantly all the way (PA)

De Bromhead ran two in the Epic Jumps Season At William Hill Handicap Chase, with Blackmore on Amirite but it was the Darragh O’Keeffe-ridden Whacker Clan (12-1) who jumped his rivals into submission from the front.

He looked a sitting duck as Twig challenged over the last but pulled out more to win by three lengths.

“He’s a hardy fella and has just been progressing. A lot of plans were hatched for him in the Strand hotel at Dunmore East. It’s one of those pubs, and the syndicate members are very enthusiastic,” said De Bromhead.

“He might be a horse that could get into the Kim Muir but we need to back off him.”

Louise Foyle, one of the winning owners, said: “Henry’s our local trainer and we have three in syndicates with him. The Strand is our family business and we love a party. We’ve been coming for years, and it’s amazing to see our own horse win.”

Dancing On My Own delights birthday boy De Bromhead

Henry de Bromhead enjoyed a birthday winner at Cheltenham when Dancing On My Own was driven home by Rachael Blackmore in the Epic Value At William Hill Handicap Chase.

De Bromhead was celebrating his 51st birthday but the race was still in the balance on the approach to the last as Gary Moore’s Haddex Des Obeaux, who had made every yard of the running, was still holding a slender lead when coming down at the final fence.

Having set a searching gallop, Haddex Des Obeaux had seen them all off bar the eventual winner and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Guy, who were the only three in contention for the final half mile.

As Guy began to weaken up the hill and Haddex Des Obeaux came down, Dancing On My Own (14-1), the winner of Aintree’s Red Rum Chase in April, was left to come home alone. He had two lengths to spare over Triple Trade, with In Excelsis Deo and Notlongtillmay both making good progress for minor honours.

De Bromhead said: “Rachael gave him a super ride, she was brilliant on him.

“I was worried about his big weight and he was up 7lb for Aintree but I’m delighted with him, he jumped super.

“He’s funny, he just loves to go a good decent gallop the whole way, so the other horse going on suited him, and Rachael knows him better than anyone.

“Let’s see what the handicapper thinks, but he could come back for the Schloer maybe, we might need to look at conditions chases as he’s boxing up there.

“We haven’t managed to win the two-mile division (Queen Mother) but even with Energumene out, there are plenty of good horses in it.”

Minella Indo impresses on Punchestown return

Minella Indo proved he is no back number as he produced a superb front-running performance in the Irish Daily Star – Best For Racing Coverage Chase at Punchestown.

Winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2021 and runner-up to stablemate A Plus Tard 12 months later, Henry de Bromhead’s charge was pulled up on his most recent appearance in the blue riband back in March.

But despite the doubts, the 10-year-old was a well supported 15-8 favourite for his seasonal reappearance and the money proved right as he dominated from the front under Rachael Blackmore.

Minella Indo was soon bossing the proceedings, with last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third Conflated and his five-time Grade One-winning stablemate Delta Work his nearest pursuers for much of the way.

Blackmore steadily upped the ante and on several occasions outjumped the chasing pair before pulling clear before the home turn.

In the end it was left to Gordon Elliott’s apparent third string Hurricane Georgie to chase down the leader, but while she got within a length and three-quarters, Minella Indo was well on top at the line.

Betfair make the winner a 50-1 shot to regain his Gold Cup crown at Prestbury Park in March.

Henry de Bromhead with Minella Indo at Cheltenham
Henry de Bromhead with Minella Indo at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

De Bromhead said: “He’s given us so many great days and I’m delighted to see him start his season like that. His work was really good, but it was also good before the Gold Cup and it just didn’t happen for him there. It was a messy start and it just didn’t happen for him.

“He jumped from fence to fence today, his ears were pricked and Rachael said he really enjoyed it. I’m also delighted that Barry (Maloney, owner) is here as well.

“We entered him in the north (Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal) but that’s only a couple of weeks away, so we’ll see. We can enjoy today and decide in the next couple of weeks what we want to do.

“The Grand National is something we can discuss. Coming here after the Gold Cup, we couldn’t make any big plans but we’re really encouraged now for the rest of the season.”

Blackmore: Honorary MBE really is a privilege to receive

Rachael Blackmore has spoken of her pride at being made an honorary MBE for her services to sport.

Blackmore has become a household name in recent years after turning professional relatively late in jockey terms.

From Tipperary, Blackmore had her first winner in 2011, winning the conditional riders’ title as recently as 2017, becoming the first woman to do so.

Since then it has been one success story after another for the 33-year-old, with a first Cheltenham Festival victory coming on A Plus Tard in in 2019.

Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle proved a match made in heaven
Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle proved a match made in heaven (David Davies/PA)

It was in 2021 that her achievements reached the front pages, though, winning the first of two Champion Hurdles on Honeysuckle and being crowned leading rider at Cheltenham with six winners.

A month later her fame reached new heights when she won the Grand National on Minella Times, then in 2022 she added the Gold Cup on A Plus Tard.

Honorary MBEs are awarded to those who are from outside of the UK but who excel in their field in Britain.

“It’s an honour to see my racing achievements being recognised in this way,” said Betfair ambassador Blackmore.

“I have had some of the best days of my career racing in England. Cheltenham and Aintree have provided me with incredibly special days that I will never forget.

“I feel so lucky to get to ride the horses that I do, this award really is a privilege to receive.”

Rachael Blackmore recognised with honorary MBE

Rachael Blackmore has been made an honorary MBE for services to sport.

The 33-year-old won the 2021 Grand National on Minella Times and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2022 on A Plus Tard, becoming the first female rider to win the two biggest prizes in National Hunt racing.

She was crowned leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021 and in the same year won the BBC Sports Personality’s World Sport Star of the Year award.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates with Minella Times
Rachael Blackmore celebrates with Minella Times (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Blackmore is perhaps best known for her association with the Henry de Bromhead-trained mare Honeysuckle, who won 17 of her 19 races including two Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham.

Honorary MBEs recognise those from overseas who excel in their field in Britain.

Frankie Dettori was made an honorary MBE in 2001 for his services to racing.

Hewick returns to Sandown to plunder Oaksey Chase

Hewick justified Shark Hanlon’s decision to bypass the Punchestown Gold Cup and also not defend his bet365 Gold Cup crown, as he took the Grade Two Oaksey Chase at Sandown under Rachael Blackmore.

The eight-year-old, who won the American Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills in October, was going well in front in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he suffered a heavy fall when last seen.

Hanlon decided to swerve Punchestown as a result and his astute placement paid dividends – not that it was as easy the 6-5 favourite’s odds would suggest.

Hewick was bowling along in front, pestered by First Flow, when he made a mistake early on the final circuit in the extended two-and-three-quarter-mile affair.

Blackmore had to be patient thereafter and it was not until three out that he got back on terms.

The 11-year-old First Flow still had an advantage in front under David Bass, yet Blackmore persisted and a scintillating jump at the last, where the pair came close together, saw the pair take over and Hewick’s stamina kicked in. He ground out the victory margin to four lengths at the line.

Hanlon said: “I’m thinking the whole time should have I gone for the be365 Gold Cup, but just with the fall he got at Cheltenham I thought this was the right thing to do for the horse to give him a confidence boost. His season is only starting because he is a summer horse.

“Rachael was absolutely brilliant as she always is. I’m very sorry for Jordan (Gainford) that he is not here as he has made the horse for us. He will be back, and Rachael knows he will be back but until he does come back we have a great sub.

“He always comes off the bridle. There is no race he has ever run in that he didn’t come off the bridle. He came off the bridle at Cheltenham, but Jordan said three strides before the fence he was coming back on the bridle again. There is one thing we know about him is that he would have come up the hill.

“I don’t know if we were good enough to beat Willie’s (Mullins horse, Galopin Des Champs), but we would have been knocking on the door for second or third.

“He is back here today in front of a great crowd and on a lovely track. The ground was a little bit soft for him, but there is nothing that can be done about that. This morning I came across on the flight and I said that I was glad I had him in this race not the bet365 Gold Cup because of the ground being that little bit softer.

“He got home a little bit quicker than I got off our Aer Lingus flight today as we were delayed by four hours from Dublin and I thought we would never get here. We are here, but it may take us four hours to get home now.

“He stays and stays and Rachael is so good at thinking. When he made his mistake she took him back and filled himself up and the next thing he came back on the bridle again. That is what is he does. He is a miracle horse. He has been some horse for me.”

Of the next adventure for horse and trainer, Hanlon added: “I’ve something planned, but I’m not going to say it yet. You will see it in time. I’ve a plan going out for him in six weeks’ time. It won’t be in England or Ireland. He will have to go back to America but we might go somewhere else with him.

“Have horse, will travel.”

Inthepocket collects Top Novices’ prize for De Bromhead and Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore steered Inthepocket to a first Grade One success in the Poundland Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

A Grade Two winner at Navan earlier in the season for Henry de Bromhead, the JP McManus-owned six-year-old went on to fill the runner-up at the highest level at the Dublin Racing Festival before finishing a creditable fourth to Marine Nationale in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.

On the strength of that form Inthepocket was the 3-1 favourite for his third top-level assignment and after racing close to the pace throughout, he moved smoothly to the lead halfway up the straight and found plenty for pressure on the run-in to secure the honours by length and three-quarters.

Strong Leader came from a mile back to fill the runner-up spot, charging home to beat Luccia to the silver medal, with Hansard not far behind that pair in fourth.

De Bromhead said: “The Supreme form looks very good, I’m delighted with that and I think that is our first Grade One winner for the McManus family so really happy with that.

“He warmed into it, he was a little bit slow over the first couple but he’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of and it’s nice to see him go and prove it.

“I was a bit worried about coming back after Cheltenham, but it didn’t make a difference. He was really good.

“I imagine he’ll be going in a field now and then we’ll see. He’s obviously got good size and scope so we’ll see, there are no plans at the moment.”

Rachael Blackmore all smiles in victory
Rachael Blackmore all smiles in victory (PA)

He added: “I’m open minded about next year. There’s been some good novices this season. He won a nice race at Naas then it was a bit of a funny race at the Dublin Racing Festival before he ran a nice race at Cheltenham in the Supreme.

“But he’s growing up with every run. He’s got pace and he says, he’s a really exciting horse.”

Blackmore said:” I was always happy and if anything I got carried into it a bit too soon because it is a long way to the line from the back of the last. Dropping my stick didn’t help either, but we got away with it.”

Luccia could next be seen on the Flat
Luccia could next be seen on the Flat (Mike Egerton/PA)

Nicky Henderson will target the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with Luccia next term, but her immediate aim could be on the level.

He said: “She’s been to both dances (Cheltenham and Aintree) and run two good races in Grade Ones.

“My target with her is to visit the starting stalls as the plan is to give her a spin on the Flat in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot on May 3.

“I’m not afraid to go up to two and a half miles and next season her campaign will be based around the mares’ race.”

‘Blackmore effect’ sees Ain’t That A Shame power to forefront of National market

Punters are backing Rachael Blackmore to land a second Randox Grand National, with her mount Ain’t That A Shame rocketing to the top echelons of the market for Saturday’s Aintree showpiece.

Blackmore created history two years ago when steering Minella Times to victory, becoming the first woman to ride the winner of the four-and-a-quarter-mile marathon.

Like Minella Times, Ain’t That A Shame is trained by Henry de Bromhead.

The nine-year-old registered his first chase success at the seventh time of asking at Gowran Park last month, with the form subsequently boosted when runner-up Macs Charm scored at Fairyhouse on Monday.

Having been as long as 16-1 with some firms on Friday morning, he halved in price by the afternoon.

And Blackmore feels he has the right credentials to run a big race in the National.

“Ain’t That A Shame has a lovely profile for the race,” she told her Betfair blog.

“He was unlucky to be just beaten in the Munster National at Limerick in October, and it wasn’t my best day in the saddle when I finished fourth on him in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

“But he won nicely at Gowran the last day, and it was no harm that the runner-up came out and won at Fairyhouse there at the weekend.

“You don’t really know how a horse will handle the track or the fences until you get out there, but he had a pop over the National fences at the Curragh, and he went well. I’d be confident that he will take to the fences fine.

“He travels well through his races, which is a big help. You’re just hoping that you can get into a nice position and find a nice racing rhythm over the first few fences. I am hopeful that he can.

“After that, you never know, it’s the Grand National, but he has his chance and I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Speaking further after riding Inthepocket to victory in the Minella Times colours on Friday, Blackmore added: “Everyone who is down at the start is in with a chance, that is the kind of race it is. It is really exciting to be part of it and on such a good horse and I can’t wait.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning the Randox Grand National Handicap with Minella Times
Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning the Randox Grand National Handicap with Minella Times (Tim Goode/PA)

“I never really felt much pressure in the race in the first place. It is just a race that everyone knows there are so many different things that can happen. You might be on the favourite, but it is not like riding the favourite in the Champion Hurdle. It doesn’t carry the same pressure as there are so many different variables in the Grand National.

“You are delighted to be down there and I will give it a crack and see what happens. It is a different atmosphere in the weighing room. Everyone is wishing each other good luck. It definitely has a different feeling to any other race that I’ve ridden in.

“He has a really good profile for the race and he is a very exciting horse to ride in it. He did (run in the same race that Minella Times ran in before winning the Grand National at Leopardstown) and I maybe didn’t give him the best ride in that race and he finished fourth. There is definitely more to come from him.”

Ain’t That A Shame runs in the colours of Brian Acheson’s Robcour – but he seemingly does not share Blackmore’s optimism, saying: “I don’t know where the money is coming from. I really don’t, he’s useless, genuinely, he’s useless!”

Blackmore became the first female jockey to win Cheltenham Gold Cup when A Plus Tard scored for De Bromhead in 2022
Blackmore became the first female jockey to win Cheltenham Gold Cup when A Plus Tard scored for De Bromhead in 2022 (PA)

De Bromhead also saddles Gabbys Cross, who was third in the Leinster National at Naas when ridden by Blackmore.

Peter Carberry renews the partnership this time and the trainer said: “I think we’ve two live chances with Gabbys Cross and Ain’t That A Shame.

“They are both in good form and hopefully they can give a good account of themselves.”

Bookmakers are attributing the welter of cash to Blackmore’s popularity.

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: “The ‘Blackmore effect’ appears to be sweeping the nation as everyone seems to be getting behind Ain’t That A Shame in the Grand National.

“Blackmore made history by becoming the first woman to win the famous race two years ago and the public are backing her to repeat that feat. As bookmakers, it’s certainly a result we are praying to avoid.”

Summerville Boy back to winning ways at Thurles

Summerville Boy rolled back the years as he won for the first time since 2020 at Thurles on Saturday.

Winner of the Tolworth and Supreme Novices’ Hurdles when trained by Tom George back in 2018, Summerville Boy had not struck gold since winning at Aintree in November over two years ago.

Off the track for 420 days before debuting for Henry de Bromhead on New Year’s Eve, Summerville Boy was last seen coming home a distant second to subsequent Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up Teahupoo in the Galmoy Hurdle at the end of January.

Dropped down in company for the End Of The Season Hurdle, Summerville Boy (4-1) appeared to up against it with Asterion Forlonge, who was having his first run since finishing seventh in the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Summerville Boy was a Cheltenham Festival winner in 2018
Summerville Boy was a Cheltenham Festival winner in 2018 (Tim Goode/PA)

Asterion Forlonge was sent off 10-11 favourite but his lack of fitness appeared to tell when Rachael Blackmore went for home on the front-running Summerville Boy and the now 11-year-old kept on strongly to win by four and a half lengths.

Blackmore said: “He had been doing things nicely, had been schooling well and were hoping to get a day like that out of him.

“My lad is a lot fitter (than Asterion Forlonge) so had that on his side and that was a help.”

Blackmore and De Bromhead enjoyed two Grade One winners at the Cheltenham Festival with Envoi Allen claiming Thursday’s Ryanair Chase, but Honeysuckle’s victory in the Mares’ Hurdle on Tuesday was arguably the highlight of the week.

The dual Champion Hurdle winner bowed out in style with a fourth Festival strike and Blackmore was delighted to see immensely popular runner bow out on a high.

Honeysuckle returns to rapturous applause
Honeysuckle returns to rapturous applause (Tim Goode/PA)

She added: “It was an incredible week and Tuesday was a day I’ll never forget.

“That feeling from the very top of the chute, the whole way back in, the whole way back around into the winner’s enclosure, with the masses of crowds all looking at her, was incredible.

“Every letter I get in the post from kids mentions Honeysuckle, so there are a lot of people cheering me on and I’m delighted for everyone that we delivered on Tuesday. In this sport it doesn’t always happen, so it is fantastic.

“I was feeling the pressure on the build-up and you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t feeling it but it is a class position to be in. She was really on song and it is a big thanks to the team and to Henry.”

Michael O’Sullivan is hailed by the Cheltenham crowd
Michael O’Sullivan is hailed by the Cheltenham crowd (David Davies/PA)

Michael O’Sullivan rode Marine Nationale to Supreme glory on Tuesday and he was back among the winners at Thurles as Time To Rocco (4-1) lifted the Dillon Quirke Foundation Mares Beginners Chase.

Routine Excellence (12-1) landed the Jimmy Neville Memorial Handicap Chase, while Lorna Fowler’s Tophill Low (3-1) opened his account in the Adare Manor Opportunity Maiden Hurdle.

Envoi Allen flies high again in Ryanair Chase

There was Cheltenham redemption for Envoi Allen who made a triumphant return to the Festival winner’s enclosure by winning the Ryanair Chase.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned nine-year-old is a winner of both the Champion Bumper (2019) and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2020), but suffered an agonising reversal when sent off favourite for the Prestbury Park hat-trick in 2021, unseating his rider early into the Turners Novices’ Chase.

He had to settle for a creditable third in last year’s Champion Chase but back to an intermediate trip for his latest trip to the four-day showpiece, Henry de Bromhead’s charge bounced back to his very best to leave a disappointing showing in the King George at Kempton well in the past.

A big smile from Rachael Blackmore
A big smile from Rachael Blackmore (Mike Egerton/PA)

Always travelling menacingly in the hands of Racheal Blackmore, fortune shone on the Irish raider who was almost down on his nose at the third-last – the same fence evens-money favourite Shishkin made a momentum-stopping blunder.

However, whereas Shishkin was immediately under pressure to hold his position, Envoi Allen was gathered up by Blackmore and soon in the perfect spot to pounce in the home straight.

Eager not to head for home prematurely, the button was pressed approaching the last and the 13-2 winner showed his engine still purrs loudly to stride out to a two-and-three-quarter-length success – with Shishkin bravely rallying for second in the closing stages ahead of Hitman in third.

De Bromhead said: “It’s great for the Thompsons (Cheveley Park Stud) as they are great supporters of ours and the industry. It’s just brilliant.

“I kept saying to Richard (Thompson) that he is as good as he was before he went to Kempton, I was so happy with him before the King George, we really fancied him, but like a few of ours who went to England in the first half of the season, he just never showed up. A Plus Tard (Betfair Chase) and Arctic Bresil (Ladbrokes Trophy) just never ran their races.

“Nothing came to light, A Plus Tard had obvious reasons but not the other two. They were all beaten after four fences. I thought it might have been water and various other bits but anyway we left no stone and whatever we did seems to be working again.

“I was really happy the whole race, but there was a chance he was doing too much. He was jumping so well. Rachael felt early on he might have been doing too much, but then he settled. He’s a class horse. Everyone was delighted with him and I was hoping he would put his best foot forward and he did.”

A Plus Tard defends his Gold Cup crown on Friday in the same colours, and De Bromhead added: “You’d have to be a little more confident after that, but they are all individuals.

“The amount of people, our friends and family who have travelled over, and Michael O’Leary and Ryanair naming the race (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) in honour of Jack (de Bromhead), makes this week very special.”

Blackmore said: “He travelled and jumped really well today. I thought early on he was in my hands for quite a while – it just took me a while to settle him – but then he switched off going past the stands and he was lovely then, he was lobbing away and I was able to fill him up three out.

“He put in a phenomenal performance, but I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone – he’s a supremely talented horse and it’s fantastic that Henry got the day out of him today.

Jubilation for Henry de Bromhead
Jubilation for Henry de Bromhead (Tim Goode/PA)

“Ryanair are so kind to name their mares’ novices’ hurdle after Jack (who tragically died in a pony racing accident), such a kind gesture by them, so it is great to be able to win their race today.

“I actually got a nice clear passage – I didn’t find problems anywhere.”

She went on: “He was so disappointing the last day – going to Kempton we were really happy with him, and he was equally as good coming here today, so we were hoping the last day, whatever was wrong, he just didn’t perform, but we’ve been really happy with him all season.

“It’s a great team effort down there in Knockeen and it’s been a tough year for everyone, but everyone in the yard is a properly good grafter and it’s great to be associated with them.

“A Plus Tard hasn’t had the greatest preparation coming into the Gold Cup, but he’s in great form and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Blackmore will be forever grateful to ‘phenomenal’ Honeysuckle

Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle have been a match made in heaven, each responsible for boosting the other’s career.

So it was fitting the sun shone on both at Cheltenham on Tuesday, with the mare showing guts aplenty to down Love Envoi and take the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

With 11 Grade One victories to her credit – four of them at the Festival – Honeysuckle bowed out in style and will now embark on a second career for owner Kenny Alexander in the paddocks.

One felt that nothing could top the roar that greeted the start of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or Constitution Hill’s procession in the Champion Hurdle.

Yet the reception the Henry de Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle and Blackmore received raised the volume more than a touch higher. Few have been accorded such acclamation at this famous old amphitheatre.

Of course, the weight of feeling was for De Bromhead, who has faced a horror no father or family should face, when tragically his 13-year-old son, Jack, died following a pony racing accident last summer.

Emotions were understandably hard to check, and especially for Blackmore who has been deeply affected by the tragedy.

Her first thoughts after the length-and-a-half success were with Jack.

She said: “We all wish a very special kid could be here today. He’s watching down on us.”

After taking a deep breath, she paid tribute to Honeysuckle, who had carried her to victory in the Champion Hurdle in 2021, making history as the first female rider to win the race.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “The way Henry has produced her every day has been phenomenal.

“I’m so grateful. She is just a phenomenal mare. I knew I’d pick up again after the last but she is just an unbelievable mare.

“It is incredible what she has done for me, but it is incredible what she has done for all of us. You dream of being involved with something like her. It is just amazing and fair play to Henry he has done such an unbelievable job.

“What a way to be able to walk back in the winner’s enclosure today. I feel extremely lucky to have teamed up with her throughout my career.

“You come to Cheltenham with Honeysuckle to ride and every jockey dreams of having the likes of her to go to Cheltenham with. She has given us so much and I’m so grateful to her. It will be different without her here next year.”

Reflecting further, Blackmore told Racing TV: “Getting to come to Cheltenham for the last few years and having Honeysuckle to ride, that’s what a jockey wants. That is just dream stuff. I feel so lucky that I got to ride her the first day she ran and stay on her. It’s just great.

Joyous scenes at Cheltenham
Joyous scenes at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

“Ultimately Henry is the trainer and wants to train winners and his view was to aim her at the best race so we could walk back into the winners enclosure. I’m so glad he is an exceptional trainer because if she ran half an hour beforehand, it wouldn’t have been the same – we wouldn’t have got to the number one spot looking at that horse (Constitution Hill).

“Fair play to Henry for giving me and Honeysuckle and all of us the chance to celebrate her one more time.

“She is trying all the time. She is an incredible mare and Kenny Alexander is one of the coolest owners you can ever ride for. It is a weight off the shoulders, that’s for sure.”

She added of the dual Champion Hurdle heroine: “People are just unbelievable. The receptions she has got from Fairyhouse to Leopardstown, the crowds here. It is am amazing feeling to be the centre of that. You feel the centre of it when you are on the back of Honeysuckle walking in. It is directed at you. It is incredible. The people make it so special.

“She has been just an amazing thing for my career. She has just been incredible. It is not every jockey gets the chance to link up with something like her. I feel very lucky. So, so lucky.”

Honeysuckle brings the house down with emotional victory

There were joyous scenes on day one of the Cheltenham Festival when Honeysuckle brought the curtain down on her phenomenal career with an emotional victory in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

The sparkle of Henry de Bromhead’s superstar had seemingly been on the wane this term and the decision was made to return the dual Champion Hurdle heroine to the race she first announced herself in at the Festival for her swansong.

And the nine-year-old did not let her adoring public down by showing all the qualities that have made her one of the most loved and admired mares of the modern era.

Sent off the 9-4 joint-favourite, ever-loyal jockey Rachael Blackmore had Honeysuckle positioned in second throughout tracking the front-running Love Envoi and although the pack swarmed as the field made their way down the hill, the order remained the same until after the last.

With Love Envoi refusing to lie down, the brave mare Honeysuckle responded to every urging of her rider to gallop up the Cheltenham hill one more time, going to the bottom of the well and digging deep to edge her way to a titanic one-and-a-half-length triumph.

The win gave her a fourth at the Festival and she signs off as one of the all-time greats having won 17 of her 19 career starts.

The reception afterwards reflected not only the performance of Honeysuckle but the genuine affection for De Bromhead and his family, who lost son Jack in a tragic pony racing accident in September.

De Bromhead said: “It’s the fairytale ending that never normally happens. It’s incredible.

Henry de Bromhead celebrates Honeysuckle's latest Cheltenham success
Henry de Bromhead celebrates Honeysuckle’s latest Cheltenham success (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’m so happy for the mare and Rachael and Kenny (Alexander, owner) and all of us. This (reception) is what she deserves. She’s such an unbelievable mare. I’m blown away.

“We’ve had a terrible year with Jack and everything. It’s been an incredibly tough time and we’re really grateful for the support everyone has given us.

“You dream that these kind of things will happen, but more often than not they don’t. It’s the result everybody wanted, but you’d daren’t believe that it will happen.”

The County Waterford trainer felt justified in allowing Honeysuckle to bow out against her own sex following Constitution Hill’s breathtaking display in the Champion Hurdle earlier in the afternoon.

He added: “She’s been in great form all year and thankfully we picked the right race when you see the other lad in the Champion Hurdle!

“I was a bit worried jumping the last – I thought Love Envoi was gone on us. But Honeysuckle rarely knows when she’s beaten and she read the script.”

When asked if Honeysuckle’s racing career was definitely over, De Bromhead quipped: “I presume it is, but there is the Mares Champion Hurdle in Punchestown!

“I’ll get a few drinks into Kenny later, Peter Molony (racing manager) will be in one ear saying ‘Walk In The Park’ and I’ll be in the other saying ‘walk to Punchestown!’.”

Alexander, though, definitively confirmed his remarkable mare will be retired as he reflected on his “best ever day in racing”.

Kenny Alexander flanked by Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead on the winner's rostrum
Kenny Alexander flanked by Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead on the winner’s rostrum (Tim Goode/PA)

“It’s staggering really. It’s great for Henry and his family to get that victory under their belt,” said the Scotsman.

“I came here more in hope than anything, but I did back her. She went to 4-1 last night, which was outrageous.

“I’ve never said she’s the greatest ever hurdler, she undoubtedly isn’t. In fact, the one before (Constitution Hill) might turn out to be, but she’s got to be one of the bravest and one of the most loved. The people here love her and the people in Ireland adore her.

“I said after Leopardstown she’s not going to win a Champion Hurdle, but if she’s still running to a level of form where she can win a Mares’, let’s go for it – and if she loses, so what?

“This is a proper send-off. I don’t want to go to Punchestown. It would be nice to do it in front of the Irish people and if they want to take her there to show her off, I’m more than happy to do that, but I don’t want to run her and go to the well once too often.

“She’s going out on a high now – nothing can match it really. Let her enjoy her retirement.

“One million per cent this is my best ever day in racing.”

Blackmore confident Honeysuckle can still make her presence felt

Rachael Blackmore would love for Honeysuckle to go out on a high at the Cheltenham Festival.

Horse and rider will always be associated with one another, with Blackmore riding the mare in every one of her 18 starts under rules so far – 16 of which they have won.

The nine-year-old is the reigning Champion Hurdle heroine, but two defeats this season have caused connections to decline a bid for the hat-trick and instead aim for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

Honeysuckle won the latter race in 2020 and will bid to end her career with a fourth and final Festival success before she is retired.

Blackmore told Betfair: “There is not much more that I can say about Honeysuckle that I haven’t said before.

Rachael Blackmore with Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore with Honeysuckle (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“She is an unbelievable mare and she has been an unbelievable mare for me.

“She has been incredible for my career. All that she has achieved, and I have been lucky enough to get to ride her.

“As has been well publicised, this will be her last race, I won’t be looking back. We can look back when it’s over.

“She has given us all the big days that she could have given us so far, the crowds have been brilliant and I would love her to have one more big day.”

Blackmore reports Honeysuckle to be working well at home and is backing her for what looks a highly competitive renewal of her Cheltenham contest.

Blackmore and Honeysuckle after winning the Champion Hurdle in 2022
Blackmore and Honeysuckle after winning the Champion Hurdle in 2022 (David Davies/PA)

“She’s in great form, she still feels like she is very well, she still feels like she has plenty of fight in her.

“She showed that when she battled to hold off Vauban for second place behind State Man in the Irish Champion Hurdle last month.

“It’s a very strong race, but Honeysuckle is in great order at home, she’s showing us all the right signs and everyone is happy with her.

“It’s great that she is going to Cheltenham again and it’s great that I am going to get to ride her again.

“Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, she has been phenomenal mare and it will be brilliant if she can go out on a high.”