A Plus Tard is a Festival first for Rachael Blackmore

Close Brothers triumph comes in colours of Cheveley Park Stud

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Rachael Blackmore booted home her first Cheltenham Festival winner as A Plus Tard streaked clear in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The 29-year-old is enjoying a fantastic season in Ireland, with her current tally of 84 winners seeing her sitting second in the race to be crowned champion jockey behind Paul Townend.

Carrying the famous colours of Cheveley Park Stud, Blackmore appeared to have strong claims of breaking her Festival duck aboard the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard – who beat Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres on his penultimate start and was sent on his way at 5-1 for his handicap debut.

His supporters will have had few concerns for the duration of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, as Blackmore’s mount fenced fluently on the heels of the leaders before moving ominously to the lead racing down the hill.

Once given his head, A Plus Tard shot clear between the final two fences and winged the last to seal a 16-length success.

Joseph O’Brien’s Tower Bridge was second, with Gordon Elliott’s Ben Dundee rounding off an Irish one-two-three.

Blackmore said: “It is fantastic to get a winner here, as this is what every jockey dreams about. I’m so lucky to get on a horse like him.

“I can’t thank Henry enough, he has put a lot of faith in me in this week and I’m grateful I can pay him back. The race went perfectly.

“On his form in in Ireland he beat Duc Des Genievres, who won the Arkle, when he won a beginners’ chase at Naas so he was entitled to do that. It is great when it works out.”

She added: “I’ve got the taste for it now. It is a phenomenal place and it’s great to get a bit of what it feels like.”

De Bromhead said: “That was fantastic. I’m really thrilled. It was a super ride from Rachael and that was her first Festival winner. I’m never brimming with confidence, but I’m delighted to get it for the Thompsons and Cheveley Park.

“We hoped he was better than his mark suggested. He looked tapped for toe at Punchestown the last day over two and a half. He seemed to get a fair mark so we said we would give it a go.

“I’m delighted for Rachael and I’m lucky to be associated with her. She is just a brilliant rider.

“I’m always nervous, but it is great to get a winner. I feel a bit better now than I did before the race. It would look like he would get three miles and in fairness that is what I thought after Punchestown.

“It was a case of this race if he got in or the RSA, but he got into this so we went this way and it has worked out.”

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