JUST a couple of weeks ago, Heaven Help Us provided trainer Paul Hennessy and young Conna jockey Richard Condon with the biggest success of their careers in the Grade B Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins (Mares), Handicap Hurdle, at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, the deadly duo teamed up again, winning the Coral Cup with the remarkable Heaven Help Us at the Cheltenham Festival.
Just like her previous winning outings, Heaven Help Us was sent off at odds of 33-1. It was a sensational winning performance after the mare made every yard of the running.
It was a fairytale success for Condon and Hennessy. Of course, Paul is no stranger to big-race success having captured many classics over the past 30 years, as a greyhound trainer, but this was very different to his ‘day job’.
After two false starts, Condon was able to manoeuvre the 33-1 shot into an easy lead and they kicked clear after jumping the second-last fence for a dream success.
“I can’t talk today, I’m absolutely speechless,” said Condon after the race. “All I can say is Paul Hennessy is a genius.
“It was unbelievable, with all the commotion down at the start I thought it was going to be a mad gallop. And when I landed over the first I had an easy lead the whole way to the finishing line.
“I was bred into the game that way. I did a stint in England, I went back to Ireland and things are going great back home. I’m delighted because this mare and Paul Hennessy have brought me to the next level.”
Hennessy — who describes greyhound racing as his day job in county Kilkenny — was full of praise for Condon, who claimed 7lb off Heaven Help Us and became the first conditional to land the Coral Cup since a young Nico de Boinville on Whisper back in 2014.
We took a chance and wasn’t Richie brilliant?” said Hennessy.
“He’d never ridden round here, but he took the race by the scruff of the neck.
“I said to Richie, ‘jump her round, stay out of trouble and we think she’ll stay.’ She is just amazing, I can’t describe her. We bred her, she was born at home and I’ve raised her.
“The places she has brought us are just ridiculous. We’ve been in Wimbledon and had great nights. It’s amazing, just one animal and there she goes. She’s my Enable.”
Hennessy has tasted success at the highest level in his chosen profession, winning the English Greyhound Derby with Jaytee Jet in 2016 and again three years later with Priceless Blake.
Condon himself comes from a great greyhound family, his father, John, is well known within greyhound circles.
The Cheltenham hill is where National Hunt’s champions are judged and Put The Kettle On is a mare who relishes that challenge. This was a fourth visit to the old course at Cheltenham for Put The Kettle On, and a fourth win over track and trip.
Henry de Bromhead’s mare led for much of the way but was headed by Chacun Pour Soi, the odds-on favourite, on the run to the final fence, only to power up the hill as Willie Mullins’ runner visibly faltered.
Ridden by Innishannon jockey, Aidan Coleman, he said: “Her form here is better than anywhere else and, as a two-mile chaser, if you’re going to have form around a track this is where you want it.
“Her tenacity and attitude is something to behold. She doesn’t give you anything easy, but when you are on her side, you couldn’t have a more willing partner.
“Chacun Pour Soi looked pretty solid coming into and there weren’t many question marks about him, only the track and that was the only thing we had massively in our case. We had a perfect run round and we love the track and the hill, it was just our day today.”
Trained by Henry De Bromhead, he spoke highly of the star mare after the big race success: “How she improves for being here. Did we feel it?
“I don’t know, but in mid-February, I was probably leaning towards the mares’ chase [on Friday]. Then I spoke to the owners and we looked at the stats of Arkle winners [going on to win the Champion Chase], it’s her trip and she loves the course, so we thought we’d give it a lash and see.
“She’s a bit crackers the whole time, to be honest, she’s just quite wild, but a real character. She’s nuts, but in a great way.”
A stunning week for Rachael Blackmore at the Cheltenham Festival was completed on Friday as she became the first woman to secure the coveted top jockeys’ award.
“It’s unbelievable. I share a house with Patrick Mullins and he’s got a McCoy trophy, so we’re now going to have both AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh on the mantlepiece!
“It’s phenomenal. I can’t even comprehend being leading rider in Cheltenham. Getting an award from AP McCoy in the shape of Ruby Walsh — that’s crazy!
“It’s been a brilliant week. Henry de Bromhead is just an incredible trainer and I’m just part of that team and getting on those horses.
“Honeysuckle is definitely the standout moment of the week for me. She’s extremely special and was phenomenal in the Champion Hurdle – and I got a great thrill off Allaho [in the Ryanair Chase].”