Rachael Blackmore did her best to choke back tears as she paid a moving tribute to Henry de Bromhead's late son following her Cheltenham Festival win on Honeysuckle in the mare's final ever race.
Honeysuckle was first over the line in the 14:10 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday ahead of Love Envoi and Queens Brook. It was an emotional moment for trainer De Bromhead, whose son Jack, 13, died in September after tragically falling from a horse during a beach race at the Glenbeigh Racing Festival in County Kerry, Ireland.
Speaking after her win, a visibly emotional Blackmore paused several times as she struggled to get her words out, telling ITV: "We all wish a very special kid could be here today but he's watching down on us."
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Jack was thrown from his horse to the sand during the accident on Rossbeigh beach before being treated by emergency services, though they were unable to save him. His father said after Blackmore's win: "I think we have had a terrible year with Jack but the support everyone has given us we are really grateful for that."
Honeysuckle has been one of the standout horses in De Bromhead's successful career, winning the Champion Hurdle three times at Leopardstown, twice at Cheltenham and twice at Punchestown, among other big victories. Its latest win at Cheltenham makes it four victories from four at Prestbury Park.
Following her tribute to Jack, a tired Blackmore panted: "Oh god, it's the happiness. She [Honeysuckle] was unbelievable. The way Henry has produced her every day is phenomenal.
"She's just a phenomenal mare, she's been incredible for my career, for everyone in Knockeen who has looked after her down the years. Henry's head lad Davy Roche has done an unbelievable job. She's just a credit to everyone. Kenny [Alexander]'s one of the coolest owners you'd ever ride for. It's brilliant."
De Bromhead said: "It's the fairytale ending that doesn't normally happen. I am so happy for everyone. You dream of it but this is what she deserves. She is an unbelievable mare. She is so special."
Delighted owner Kenny Alexander told Racing TV: "She's not the greatest Champion Hurdler ever but she's one of the bravest. She has guts and is incredibly talented. She had to dig deep today. I am really happy for Henry and his family."
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