Rachael Blackmore can do little wrong around Cheltenham but trainer Henry de Bromhead paid tribute to her exploits off the track having guided Envoi Allen (13/2) to Ryanair Chase glory yesterday.
De Bromhead and Blackmore have been the dream team in recent years with a string of Festival successes together but the Waterford trainer hailed her support out of the saddle in the wake of his son Jack’s tragic passing last September.
“Probably 12 hours after Jack had died and this girl came out of one of the stables. You know like eight o’clock in the morning in our yard and Rachael lives an hour away from us. It was her,” De Bromhead said.
“And just to see her with the girls (daughters Georgia and Mia), she’s amazing to them. She goes go-karting, all sorts of things. And they’re very competitive, the three of them. And Zoe Smalley (head lass) as well, who does all our travelling.
“But everyone’s amazing to all of us. The support we get like, the amount of friends and family… and again down to Michael (O’Leary), who has been amazing putting on Jack’s race (the Jack de Bromhead Mares Novices’ Hurdle).
“He gave us tickets and we’ve so many friends and family here. It’s a massive day… I keep looking for a rainbow but he’s not around. There might be one just starting to come.
“But it’s a massive day for us, just a day to celebrate unfortunately his very short life. I don’t know, the support we’ve got is just ridiculous. And we’re so lucky in that sense.”
De Bromhead may have been denied victory in the race named in his son’s honour – Magical Zoe (15/2) was second to the Jamie Snowden-trained You Wear It Well (16/1) with Gavin Sheehan steering home the winner – but his faith in Envoi Allen was totally justified.
He arrived to his Knockeen yard amid plenty of fanfare as a dual Festival winner – when trained by Gordon Elliott – and he finally delivered his best over fences when it mattered most to fend off Shishkin (evens favourite) by three lengths.
“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,” a beaming Blackmore said.
“Ryanair are so kind to name their mares’ novices hurdle after Jack, such a kind gesture by them, so it is great to be able to win their race. He was so disappointing in the King George – going to Kempton we were really happy with him. 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.”
It was also a special day for Sam Curling and jockey Pat King with the seasoned amateur rider crediting the Tipperary trainer for resurrecting his career as he fulfilled a Festival dream with Angels Dawn (10/1) winning a thrilling Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
“It’s unbelievable, I thought I would never feel it,” King said. “That’s my first Festival ride. I’ve won at the October meeting, but I have never ridden here. Sam has played a big part in my career recently and I’m delighted for him.
“I was probably nearly at the end of riding because things had got very quiet for me, and I joined Sam and since then things have started up again. I’ve known him a long time – he’s married to my first cousin, but I knew him before that.
“I hadn’t really been doing much, and I rang him one day and he said, ‘Look, come in, and if it works there’ll be a chance for you’. He had her spot-on and it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Mighty Potter (4/6 favourite) was all the rage for Gordon Elliott in the Turners Novices’ Chase but Davy Russell’s mount could only muster third as Stage Star (15/2) handed Paul Nicholls a first Festival success in three years, and his 47th overall.
Harry Cobden put on a clinic from the front and the seven-year-old has next year’s Ryanair Chase in his sights after a three-length victory.
“He will be aiming for the Ryanair next year and that is what I’ve always thought,” Nicholls said. “He would get three miles but he has got plenty of boot and he jumps well. I was always hoping he might be a Ryanair horse after his last run.
“But he had to win today to be a Ryanair horse. He can only get better. We’ve only got 15 or 16 runners for the whole week and you have to make every one of them count and one has now so it is onwards and upwards.
“We’ve had a great time here over the years, it is hard to get those horses back but we are building them up again. We have got heaps like him to come through and I think the next few years will be positive.
“It is hard to win here and we haven’t got the numbers that the Irish trainers have and we are up against it all the time but we can only do our best.”