Jack Kennedy admits to ‘tough time’ after emotional win on Black Tears

Denise Foster-trained horse one of five Irish winners on opening day of Cheltenham

Jack Kennedy celebrates after riding Black Tears to win the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle during day one of the Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire

Jack Kennedy celebrates after riding Black Tears to win the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle during day one of the Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire

 

Gordon Elliott won’t see a racecourse again until September at the earliest but his presence was still stamped on Tuesday’s Cheltenham action as two horses formerly under his care were successful.

Galvin completed a long-term plan by landing the marathon National Hunt Chase for his new trainer Ian Ferguson.

The Ballymena handler recently received the horse from owner Ronnie Bartlett on the back of Elliott’s licence suspension for damaging the reputation of racing over a now infamous photo.

Elliott had his licence withdrawn for a year, with the last half of it suspended, in a controversy that has dogged the run-in to the festival.

However, Black Tears is still at Elliott’s Cullentra base and secured a thrilling first festival success for Denise Foster, now the licence holder at the yard, when she came to the bookmakers’ rescue with a thrilling head defeat of the odds-on Concertista in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Jack Kennedy rode both and is now rated the main threat to Paul Townend to be top jockey this week.

Black Tears’ victory appeared to carry particular significance for the jockey who has been an integral member of Elliott’s team in recent years.

“It’s massive that she’s won. The amount of effort that everyone puts in at home it’s days like these that make it all worthwhile. We’ve gone through a bit of a tough time but we’ve kept going and showed that today,” he said.

“When the Cheveley Park horses left the whole team was down, but we’ve all just had to pick ourselves up and get going again,” Kennedy added.

Appreciate It ridden by Paul Townend won the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 24 lengths at Cheltenham. Photograph: Tim Goode/Getty Images
Appreciate It ridden by Paul Townend won the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 24 lengths at Cheltenham. Photograph: Tim Goode/Getty Images

Willie Mullins was making comparisons with some of his great stars of the past after Appreciate It kicked off the festival with a 24-length rout in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The 8-11 favourite barely broke sweat to beat his old rival Ballyadam in a performance the festival’s most successful trainer described as “just awesome”.

It was a seventh win in the race, and a 73rd festival winner in all for Mullins, who didn’t hesitate to reference both his ill-fated 2014 winner Vautour and the former Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen.

“You’d have to think it was a Vautour-like performance. I know Vautour made all the running but the way that fellow strode up the hill was fantastic.

“At the start of the season I had him as a Ballymore horse and Albert Bartlett if that failed, so here I am after winning two Grade Ones over two miles I’m probably the last guy to ask where I should go!

“In my head I had possibly that he would be an Arkle horse. I never envisaged him as a Champion Hurdle horse but who knows?

“I think we will just go to Punchestown and leave that until next season. I always had chasing in mind for him but then I always had chasing in mind for Faugheen too. So I think we might be back to the same argument,” he said.

Day one ended with five Irish winners in all, highlighted by Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle romp under Rachael Blackmore.

She and Appreciate It, as well as the odds-on Arkle winner, Shishkin, had bookmakers feeling the pressure until Black Tears broke the streak of hot favourites.

For good measure their cups appeared to overflow when Noel Meade’s Jeff Kidder sprang an 80-1 ‘skinner’ in the Boodles Handicap Hurdle.

It was a first festival winner for jockey Seán Flanagan, who had two lengths in hand of the 9-2 favourite Saint Sam at the line.

“Even though there’s no crowds here it was brilliant – I can only imagine what it would be like if there was,” Flanagan said.

Cheltenham Day One Results

1.20 Supreme Novices' Hurdle
1 Appreciate It 8-11
2 Ballyadam 6-1
3 For Pleasure 40-1

1.55 Arkle Challenge Trophy
1 Shishkin 2/5
2 Eldorado Allen 33/1
3 Captain Guinness 10/1

2.30 Ultima Handicap Chase
1 Vintage Clouds 28/1
2 Happygolucky 10/3
3 Aye Right 11/2
4 Cepage 14/1
5 One For The Team 17/2

3.05 Champion Hurdle
1 Honeysuckle 11/10 F
2 Sharjah 11/1
3 Epatante 4/1

3.40 Mares’ Hurdle
1 Black Tears 12/1
2 Concertista 5/6
3 Roksana 3/1

4.15 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
1 Jeff Kidder 80/1
2 Saint Sam 9/2 JF
3 Elham Valley 66/1
4 Houx Gris 9/2 JF

4.50 National Hunt Novices’ Chase
1 Galvin 7/2
2 Next Destination 3/1
3 Escaria Ten 11/4
4 Snow Leopardess 16/1

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