THE Tipperary Branch of the Irish Pony Club was quick to once again celebrate the achievement of a former member when congratulating Rachael Blackmore on becoming the first female jockey to win the Grade 1nCheltenham Gold Cup last Friday afternoon on A Plus Tard.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained favourite was brilliantly and bravely ridden to reverse placings with his stablemate, the 2021 winner, Minella Indo, who, on this occasion was partnered by former show jumper Robert Power, a one-time member of the Meath Branch of the IPC.
Blackmore, who also competed in showing and eventing, began the Festival week by recording a second successive victory in the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle on the de Bromhead-trained mare Honeysuckle, the combination extending their unbeaten run to 15 with 11 of those wins coming at Grade 1 level.
De Bromhead and Blackmore had a third winner at the Festival in Bob Olinger who landed Thursday’s opening Grade 1 novices’ chase. However, that victory was gifted to them when the clear leader, Galopin Des Champs, fell at the final fence. That Willie Mullins-trained runner was partnered by the meeting’s champion jockey, Paul Townend, who took time out of his busy schedule last summer to ride out with members of the Kilkenny Pony Club.
There was much praise late on Thursday for the great ride Danny Mullins gave to the Gavin Cromwell-trained Flooring Porter as they made it back-to-back wins in the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle. The jockey’s sense of timing would have come as no surprise to those who saw him twice prove victorious in the competitive 128cms championship at the Dublin Horse Show.
There was a show jumping connection to two other winners during the week. First up, the Willie Mullins-trained, Paul Townend-ridden Sir Gerhard followed up his win in the 2021 Grade 1 Champion Bumper under Rachael Blackmore by landing the opening Grade 1 novices’ hurdle on the Wednesday. The Jeremy gelding was bred in Kilkenny by the Keatingstown Bloodstock operation of the Fitzpatrick family.
The final race of the four-day Festival, the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, was won by the Doyen gelding Banbridge who was bred at her family’s Bregarry House Stud on the Dublin/Kildare border by former show jumper Danielle McSorley. The six-year-old is trained by Joseph O’Brien, individual bronze medallist at the 2009 European pony eventing championships.
Banbridge provided his jockey, Mark McDonagh, with his first win at the Festival, an achievement which was instantly shared on Facebook by all those at the Clarina Equestrian Centre in Co Limerick where the Cratloe native learned to ride. It was a remarkable few days for the University of Limerick business student as, on St Parick’s Day, he won the featured chase at Down Royal on the Paddy Griffin-trained Roi Mage while on Sunday, at Downpatrick, he landed the Ulster National on the Gavin Cromwell-trained Spades Are Trumps.
Banbridge was a second winner at the Festival to score in the colours of Scotland’s Ronnie Bartlett who also owned the Irish Sport Horse gelding Coolio on whom Mark Kyle competed for Ireland in the eventing competition of the 2012 London Olympics.
Earlier on Friday, another jockey to record his first success at the Festival was former Killinick Pony Club member Sean O’Keeffe whose win in the Bartlett-sponsored Grade 1 novices’ hurdle on The Nice Guy was one of five on the day, and 10 overall, for the meeting’s leading trainer, Willie Mullins.