Rachael Blackmore became the first woman jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the blue riband of jumps racing, as she eased to victory on A Plus Tard on Friday.
The 32-year-old Irish jockey has become the first woman rider to win the Champion Hurdle — which she won for a second time on Tuesday — the Grand National and the Gold Cup.
She is the first jockey to complete the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup double at the Festival since AP McCoy in 1997.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead repeated his feat of last year by training the first two horses to finish as defending champion Minella Indo was second.
Protektorat — co-owned by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson — finished third.
For Blackmore it made up for last year’s disappointment as she had chosen A Plus Tard ahead of Minella Indo and had to give second best.
Her joy was unconfined as she crossed the line 15 lengths clear and raised her head skywards in joy, before hugging and patting A Plus Tard.
“I cannot believe it!” said an emotional Blackmore.
“I am so lucky to be attached to Henry de Bromhead and look at what he has provided me with.
“You have all these plans in sport but racing has a habit of wrecking them,” she said. “Then there are days like these when they come to fruition.
“I never even dreamt I could be doing this,” said Blackmore.
“You can never dream too big and I thought this would never be possible.”
– ‘So brave’ –
Blackmore was showered with praise by former riding greats Ruby Walsh, McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald.
“She is the type of role model the sport needs,” said Walsh. “She is box office.”
De Bromhead — who teamed up with Blackmore to win the Champion Hurdle for a second successive year — said he could not grasp what he had achieved.
“No, definitely not,” said the 49-year-old Irishman.
“This is just incredible, amazing! Fairplay to everyone involved. I am delighted for these guys,” he said, referring to the Thompson family, owners of Cheveley Park Stud.
He said Blackmore was “so brave, she kept sitting and sitting”, adding “the pace A Plus Tard showed was just incredible.”
For those who filled the minor placings there were no hard luck stories.
Power had looked like he had stolen the race as he went clear rounding the final bend only to be run down by the unstoppable Blackmore.
“He ran a cracker and I thought we had the prize but there are no excuses, he was beaten by a better horse,” said Power, who won the 2017 Gold Cup.
Harry Skelton on Protektorat thought he was in with a chance till the horse ran out of puff.
“I am very proud of him I thought we could do something but he has been beaten by a very good horse,” the jockey said.