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Cheltenham Festival: Rachael Blackmore toughs it out for tip-top Honey glee

Glory: Honeysuckle, with Blackmore on board, claimed victory yesterday PICTURE: PA

RACHAEL BLACKMORE paid tribute to trainer Henry de Bromhead after guiding Honeysuckle to a thrilling Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle victory on day one at Cheltenham.

Honeysuckle travelled strongly for much of the way under Blackmore, but looked at the mercy of Benie Des Dieux in the hands of a motionless Paul Townend racing down the hill.

However, Honeysuckle quickened the better of the two rounding the home turn to steal the advantage, and try as she might, Benie Des Dieux could not get back on terms in the straight, with half a length separating the pair at the line.

A delighted Blackmore said: ‘This means so much, this mare is so special. They’ve done an unbelievable job with her, Henry has produced her in tip-top shape every time she runs, so I’m just the lucky one that gets to steer her round. She’s unbelievable.

‘This is brilliant, it’s a big week and I’m delighted. They [Festival winners] get better really, you kind of realise that they’re so hard to get.

‘I’m so lucky to be riding all of these horses, it’s brilliant.’

De Bromhead said: ‘They are two amazing ladies. It was a great bit of race-riding to nip up the inside when Paul opted to go wide and it looks like it won her the race. Rachael had to sit and suffer for a bit, but when the gap appeared she was gone.

‘She really toughed it out up the hill. She really battled and threw herself at the last.

‘Whatever about the mare, the lady on her back is something special — the pair of them are brilliant.’