Rachael Blackmore completes Triple Crown with stunning Gold Cup triumph

Henry de Bromhead secures back-to-back Gold Cups as Irish trainers win all seven races on final day

Rachael Blackmore’s historic achievements now include the greatest prize of all in National Hunt racing as the groundbreaking jockey steered A Plus Tard to Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup glory on Friday.

Runner-up a year ago to his stable companion Minella Indo, A Plus Tard reversed the places in style, the 3-1 favourite secured a stunning 15 length success, with Blackmore becoming the first woman to ride a Gold Cup winner.

It was the centrepiece of an unprecedented clean sweep by Irish-trained horses of every race on a single Cheltenham festival card.

That included a five-timer for Willie Mullins who ended the week with a record 10 winners, the same as the entire British tally.


Once again, though, Blackmore dominated the occasion , this time on the 28th Irish-trained horse to win the Gold Cup.

Last year’s result, when Blackmore picked incorrectly from the Henry de Bromhead-trained pair, was a rare blip in a devastating streak of big race glory that catapulted the 32-year-old Irishwoman to global fame.

This time there was no mistake and having won on Honeysuckle earlier this week, Blackmore joins a select group of jockeys to have completed the Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double at a single Cheltenham festival.

It also completes an unofficial ‘Triple Crown’ of the sport’s most coveted races on the back of last year’s Aintree Grand National on board Minella Times.

If the National is the most high-profile race of the year then the Gold Cup remains the ultimate prize for racing purists.

Even in the midst of last year’s pioneering exploits, when becoming the first woman to be leading rider at the festival with six winners, the dejection of getting it wrong in the race that matters most stung Blackmore.

Although her festival haul this week halved, with Paul Townend securing the leading rider prize, the euphoric impact of a Gold Cup victory was written all over the winning jockey's face.

“I’ve had so many special days and I wouldn’t swap the Grand National for anything. But this is the Gold Cup. I just wish I had something better to say right now!” Blackmore said.

“You have all these plans about how things are going to work out and racing doesn’t let that happen all the time. For some reason it’s happened to me today. I just can’t explain how lucky I feel,” she added.

If last year’s bitter experience stung then perhaps it proved key to the winning of this Gold Cup as Blackmore delayed launching A Plus Tard’s challenge until as late as possible.

Minella Indo once again tried to grab the initiative coming down the hill but this time Blackmore slipstreamed the leaders into the straight and smuggled A Plus Tard through a gap to sweep down the outside.

When his jockey asked for maximum effort, any lingering doubts about the horse’s stamina proved unfounded and he bounded home for a wide-margin victory.

It completed a second successive Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double for De Bromhead, whose stable hadn’t been firing on all cylinders in the early part of this year.

On the biggest stage of all, however, and in front of a packed Cheltenham, the Co Waterford trainer delivered in style.

“The class of him there – he was so impressive and Indo ran an absolute blinder as well. It’s incredible stuff,” De Bromhead said. “Rachael was so brave the way she went about it.”

Richard Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud which owns A Plus Tard admitted to concern at one point and said: "I did feel she wasa bit far back. But I knew she had a game plan and she has totally delivered."

Yet again, Blackmore appeared to be the coolest customer around.

“I suppose I didn’t want to do the same thing as last year as it didn’t work. The wall of horses in front of me made sure I didn’t get there too soon. It’s just incredible. I tried to hold on to him a bit more this year and look, it worked.

“It has not been quite every day [that I thought of last year] but it is definitely in the back of your mind as this is what the whole week is about. I kind of knew after the second last that I had more horse under me than I did last year. I didn’t think I would be 15 lengths clear though!” she said.

Not many did.