Daily Mail

Honeysuckl­e’s fairytale finish has emotions running high

Trainer De Bromhead dedicates victory to his son Jack who died in riding accident

- Mike Dickson

WITH a devastatin­g late burst of pace into Cheltenham’s dipping sun, Honeysuckl­e ran victorious into retirement under an emotional Rachael Blackmore yesterday.

It was not just the jockey struggling to hold back the tears as the nine-year-old surged to a highly charged win in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle. As she powered past Love Envoi in the final furlong in her 19th and final race the sentiment was almost overwhelmi­ng for trainer Henry de Bromhead, whose 13-year-old son Jack died six months ago in a riding accident.

‘So many emotions, it was ridiculous,’ said De Bromhead. ‘I am just so happy for the mare, and for Rachael, and for all of us. It’s just a massive result. ‘We know Jack is always with us and I’m sure he was here on Rachael’s shoulder. Honeysuckl­e has been a huge part of our life and Jack just adored her — so she as much did it for him as for all of us.’ With Honeysuckl­e’s star apparently waning, the decision had been made to step down from the Champion Hurdle, although the field in the Mares’ race was formidably strong. She tracked Love Envoi until the closing stages, but looked set to fall just short before summoning up one last final effort, to a cacophony of support that could have blown the roof off.

‘You dream of the fairytale ending but so often it doesn’t happen,’ said De Bromhead. ‘This is what she deserves. She is just an unbelievab­le mare. We’ve obviously had a terrible year with Jack and everything, and just the support people have given us has been amazing. ‘This sport is mental. This is the result I think everybody wanted but you daren’t believe it will happen. Jumping the last I thought Love Envoi might be gone on us but I used to say she never knows when she’s beaten — she read the script.’

This was a fourth victory for Honeysuckl­e at the Festival and rarely will there have been one greeted with such popular acclaim. Blackmore spoke afterwards of her particular bond with her ride and of the poignant circumstan­ces around this first-day triumph.

‘We all wish a very special kid was here but he’ll be looking down on us,’ she said. ‘Honeysuckl­e has given us so much and I’m so grateful to her. It will be different without her here next year.’ Honeysuckl­e was one of five winners on the opening afternoon for the Irish contingent — ominously on a day which had held some of the better British chances. Pride of place went to 22-year-old jockey Mikey O’Sullivan who rode his first festival winner on Marine Nationale in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle. He took his second just over three hours later when Jazzy Matty landed the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Barry Connell, trainer of Marine Nationale, has put his faith in O’Sullivan when some trainers would have opted for a more experience­d jockey. Paying tribute to his jockey Connell said: ‘I wouldn’t swap him for anyone — he is a thinker, he has a university degree. He was a champion novice point to point rider and he is a real horseman.’

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