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Rachael Blackmore continues sensational Cheltenham start with Grade 1 double

Champion Hurdle-winning team in unstoppable form.

Updated Mar 17th 2021, 5:37 PM

RACHAEL BLACKMORE’S DREAM Cheltenham Festival continued into the second day as Bob Olinger landed the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and later Sir Gerhard won the Champion Bumper.

rachael-blackmore-celebrates-winning Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. Source: Dan Abraham/INPHO

With the Champion Hurdle already in the bag through Honeysuckle yesterday, this was Blackmore’s third Grade 1 win of the week and she is the leading jockey after the second day of the Festival.

It was a challenging day for Blackmore with wins in the first and last races while in between she was unseated twice and fell on the favourite Embittered in the Grand Annual Challenge Cup.

In the opener Harry Cobden tried to dominate from the front at a steady tempo on Bravemansgame and in the early stages the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger (6-4 favourite) was keen enough, pulling himself into second position.

As they went down the back straight Bear Ghylls attempted to inject some pace to the race and put pressure on the leader, as Blackmore sat in wait.

featureimage Bob Olinger pings the last on his way to victory. Source: Tim Goode/PA

Paul Townend was scraping the paint on Gaillard Du Mesnil and did get a little short of room at the second-last, as Blackmore forced her way between Bravemansgame and Bear Ghylls.

But turning in there was only going to be one winner and it was a matter of ‘how far?’. The answer was seven and a half lengths back to Gaillard Du Mesnil.

Later Willie Mullins won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for the 11th time as Sir Gerard held off stablemate Kilcruit to give Blackmore another winner.

rachael-blackmore-on-sir-gerhard-celebrates-after-winning Rachael Blackmore on Sir Gerhard celebrates after winning. Source: Mark Cranham/INPHO

Mullins was keeping up his recent trend of winning the race from outside of his apparent first string – although Sir Gerhard was sent off at only 85-40, having scored twice already for Gordon Elliott before switching stables in the wake of Elliott’s suspension.

Kilcruit was backed into 10-11 favouritism on the back of a scintillating display at the Dublin Racing Festival – but when Blackmore kicked off the home bend, she stole an advantage she would not relinquish.

Having only set what appeared a steady tempo, Sir Gerhard was soon in the clear as Paul Townend tried to close on Kilcruit.

As the line approached, Kilcruit was gaining – but they flashed past the post with Sir Gerhard still half-a-length to the good.

Mullins said: “I have to say well done to the Cullentra (Elliott) team. He came in great condition.

rachael-blackmore-and-sir-gerhard-with-trainer-willie-mullins-celebrates-after-winning Source: Dan Abraham/INPHO

“The first night he came, we didn’t have any of the feed he’d been eating at Cullentra, so we just gave him our usual feed – and he didn’t miss an oat.

“He’ll probably go for the Champion Bumper at Punchestown. We’ll have a word with (owners) Cheveley Park, but that would look the obvious target.

“They are two good horses, and I’m delighted to have them. Looking at it, Kilcruit looks like a Ballymore horse and Sir Gerhard a Supreme type (next season).”

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Sir Gerhard showed a fine attitude, to go with his evident speed.

Mullins added: “He looks to be a natural – he has a huge stride. Rachael let him bowl along, and he was lugging out with her – he’s still a bit green.

“He obviously has a lot of natural ability. He’s a fine, big horse who will be made for jumping fences at some stage.

“We were fortunate enough to get him. When he came to us he was very fit, and I just wanted to get him settled in, and I was surprised how well he settled in.

“We didn’t want to overdo things, because it’s a lot of stress to change yards and change gallops. It was all about having the horse relaxed, and it was all about hoping he was fit enough – which he was, and he has the ability.”

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