Rachael Blackmore races to victory as punters descend on Fairyhouse for day one of the Easter festival
It was a day for the history books as the Fairyhouse Easter Festival kicked off at the Co Meath course today, as Rachael Blackmore won her first Grade One race on Irish soil.
The 29-year-old rode Henry de Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle to victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.
Clinching the allusive Irish Grade One win, Blackmore from Co Tipperary said it came with a sense of “relief”.
“It’s brilliant, obviously there’s a bit of relief there as she was well fancied coming into the race,” she said.
“She has done what we all hoped she would do.”
“It is hard enough to get rides in Grade Ones let alone winners,” she added.
She was looking forward to tomorrow’s Grand National in which she rides Gordon Elliott’s A Toi Phil, who finished 12th at Aintree.
“I am very excited, it’s a fantastic race and hopefully a bit of luck comes our way.”
There was disappointment however for Love Island star Chris Hughes as he had his horse Annie Mc withdrawn from the same race.
The Jonjo O'Neill-trained five-year-old was set to be the only British horse to run yesterday and is owned by Coral Champions Club with Chris a Coral ambassador.
Due to a passport irregularity, she could not compete.
Chris, who had travelled to Ireland on Saturday with his girlfriend Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson, told Independent.ie that the decision was "gutting" for them.
"It's very disappointing - but it is lovely to be here, Ireland is a wonderful place," he said.
"Thank God I came over yesterday so I'd a bit of time to enjoy it.
"I'll watch the racing today but it's disappointing obviously, Annie was flying the flag for the British today. It seems to have been prematurely withdrawn," he said.
"There's nothing too much to add - she has been vaccinations so she has all the right stuff she just doesn't have the right stamp on her passport. It's something that you could prove in 10 minutes but she has been withdrawn without speaking to anyone involved in the horse. It's gutting.
"It would have been her last crack over the hurdles today before she goes chasing."
The feature race of the day was the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Steeplechase. It saw trainer Willie Mullins secure a one, two as Ruby Walsh rode Voix Du Reve to victory and Real Steel coming in second.
He has seven runners in tomorrow’s Grand National – a race he is yet to win.
“Hopefully one of them will win, my father was very lucky in the race he won it four times. Hopefully we can get one of them over the line.”
“Ruby will be riding Burrows Saint, the horse has only had a couple of runs over fences but statistically novices have a great chance in this type of race.”
It was a record-breaking day in terms of weather too as the hottest Easter Sunday was recorded on the course in ten years.
As the sun shone, 6,100 punters arrived to have a flutter, with attendance up 17pc on last year.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t just on the turf that there were winners called Ruby, with many of the races' youngest attendees showing off their creative abilities in the La Bucca Easter Bonnet competition.
The hat to top them all belonged to five-year-old local girl Ruby O'Neill from Rathoath.
Her mum Suzanne helped her daughter to produce a 'Fairyhouse' themed hat, with the bonnet made into a home for paper fairies stuck onto green material.
“We have been making it together for the last four weeks, Ruby is very creative and she did loads of it herself.”