CONNA rider Richard Condon landed the biggest win of his career as Heaven Help Us romped to victory in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham on Wednesday afternoon.
On an extraordinary St Patrick's Day for the Irish, there were also victories for Aidan Coleman and Paul Townend as the travelling Irish landed six of the seven races.
Condon comes from a great racing family and his nine length victory was poetry in motion.
Trained by Paul Hennessy, who until recently was better known as a greyhound handler, the 33-1 shot was left clear at the last when Blue Sari fell.
“It’s unbelievable, quite incredible to be honest. We had a plan, something similar to Leopardstown," Hennessy said.
"There were probably 26 Plan As in the race, but at least we got to use our Plan A.
”Richie was absolutely incredible on her – I don’t think anyone could have ridden her any better than that.
"Training greyhounds is our career. We have about 40 and we were lucky enough to win a couple of English Derbys.”
Tiger Roll has joined the greats of Cheltenham as the dual Grand National winner recorded a fifth festival success, his third in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.
Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for Gigginstown House Stud, revealed he has no regrets about taking Tiger Roll out of the Aintree Grand National at the latest forfeit stages and confirmed that the Irish equivalent could be on the cards at Fairyhouse.
"You couldn’t put into words what that means. What a legend. What a bloody legend," O'Leary said.
"There is no end to him. You couldn’t retire him after that. I’m delighted for the whole team at Cullentra. It means the world to us all."
Willie Mullins described the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase as the most nerve-racking race he had ever watched, with hot-favourite Monkfish overcoming some sticky jumping, including a bad error at the last, to win as the 1-4 favourite.
A relieved Mullins said: "I think it's the most nerve-racking race I've ever watched – 1-4 in a 3m novice chase around Cheltenham is not good for the ticker, especially when he jumped the last the way he did.
“Chatting to Paul (Townend) he said he was idling in the first circuit and not concentrating and once he started racing alongside Colin Tizzard's horse, things were better.
"Once I got over my fright at the last, I was impressed how he pulled away to the winning post."
Rachael Blackmore’s dream Cheltenham Festival continued into the second day as Bob Olinger claimed the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in terrific style.
This looked a terrific race on paper but Blackmore was ultra-cool on the 6/4f and later she completed a double in the concluding bumper on Sir Gerhard.
With the Champion Hurdle already in the bag through Honeysuckle and a top-class book of rides to come through the rest of the week, Blackmore is proving unstoppable.
“I’m delighted with him. Rachael was brilliant on him again and he couldn’t have done it any better. He’s a horse we’ve always liked. He’s done very little wrong and he’s very exciting," De Bromhead said.
“I started the season aiming at the Supreme, but everyone persuaded me, quite rightly, to step up in trip.
"We were very hopeful coming here, but it was obviously a very good race and you never know on the day.”
On future plans, he added that he will wait and see.
“We’ll get through his novice season and see.
“He’s built like a chaser and jumps like one, so we’d normally look at going that way, but we’ll speak to Brian (Acheson, owner) and Robcour and see what everyone would like to do. We’ll enjoy today.”
The Bumper is always a huge betting race and two Willie Mullins horses dominated the betting, Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard.
In the end they ended up having a titantic struggle up the Cheltenham hill with Sir Gerhard and Rachael Blackmore just getting the better of Paul Townend.
It was a double on the day for the Tipperary woman who is enjoying a dream Cheltenham Festival.
“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," Mullins said
"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. “Rachael let him bowl along, and he was lugging out with her. He obviously has a lot of natural ability.
"He’s a fine, big horse who will be made for jumping fences at some stage.”