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.”
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