'I just love this horse so much that it was very emotional'

'I just love this horse so much that it was very emotional'
It Came to Pass winning jockey Maxine O'Sullivan and trainer and Eugene. Picture: Healy Racing.

THERE were joyous scenes following the incredible victory of It Came To Pass for Maxine and Eugene O’Sullivan in the Foxhunters Chase on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

This race is known as the amateur’s Gold Cup and is run over the same course and distance which is three miles and two furlongs.

Of course, history was repeating itself as Eugene had trained the winner Lovely Citizen exactly 29 years ago which was ridden by his brother William and owned by his father Owen O’Sullivan.

That sense of history wasn’t lost on Maxine as she spoke later. It Came To Pass was returned at 66/1 after drifting from a morning price of 25/1 on track. It certainly came as no surprise to the O’Sullivan clan who appeared quietly confident before the race.

An elated Maxine O’Sullivan talked about her famous journey around when calm was restored at their base in Lombardstown, near Mallow, on Monday.

Picture: Healy Racing.
Picture: Healy Racing.

“Well it was the day of a lifetime really. This time last year the horse arrived into the yard, won a race and the Foxhunters was always the plan after that. 

"The horse got sick after his last run in Kilfeacle which meant we had to give him two weeks off. He got a small problem with his foot then so we just missed a lot of work in the crucial weeks running into Cheltenham.

“But thank God the horse came back to himself last week so it was all systems go after his final bit of work. We just always believed in him and his form is there for all to see. He generally wins or unseats me,” she said.

A family-run business in racing is full of highs and lows but generally requires a few good horses along the way.

Eugene O’Sullivan has sent so many good horses to England over the years and his yard is recognised across the national hunt community. Maxine has gone from strength to strength in recent years and knowing the horses is key to their recent success.

“Dad is very patient with the horses and lets all the riders get to know their horses. That patience has totally paid off in this instance. As a jockey knowing a horse well is a big advantage and I’ve ridden this horse in every race. I always knew he would make it up the famous Cheltenham hill whether that was to finish first or fifth.

“He makes so much ground at his fences and he was travelling so well we were picking up the horses in front of us with ease really.

“Finishing off races was always his greatest strength as sometimes during a race we mightn’t be travelling as well. But it was one of those days where he was just loving the whole experience and as a rider you can feel that.

Picture: Healy Racing.
Picture: Healy Racing.

“At the fourth last I knew the Irish boys were on my tail. The two McManus horses and the Mullins one but we just made lengths at the third and second last fences which put about five lengths between us. 

"He turns into a cheetah and gets so low at his fences making huge ground on the opposition. Coming to the last fence I could just see the big screen in front of me and I knew I was a good few lengths clear at that stage.

“I just love this horse so much really that it was very emotional. When I broke my leg in 2018 he was the first horse to get me back on the road again. My two cousins Michael and Alan were there at the finish line which was really special as well.

“Coming back into the parade ring and meeting and hugging my dad was amazing. I was so happy for him as he so deserved this success as well. Meeting plenty of people from the point-to-point fields back home it was just amazing getting the trophy.

Picture: Healy Racing
Picture: Healy Racing

“I had a flight booked back to Dublin but I decided to travel back with the horse, dad and my cousin Alan. We just drove back to Fishguard and got the ferry to Rosslare. It was surreal and we drove back into the yard here at 8am.

“In light of the current health crisis, there was no party or celebration. Hopefully, when all that calms down we will be able to celebrate. There are no plans for the horse as racing is very much up in the air right now.

“Aintree has been cancelled while the festival meetings here may be in doubt. It Came To Pass is a 10-year-old so we will be minding him even though he loves racing.

“I’ve had so many ups and downs with this horse along the way but he taught me a different lesson every time we went out to a track. He’s a very special horse and there is such an attachment to him.”

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