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Horse Racing - Racing: Rachael show returns home

After four stunning days at the Cheltenham Festival was capped with victory for A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup, star of the show Rachael Blackmore returned to her home track on Saturday.

The jockey won the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle last week in the Cotswolds and she was understandably the centre of attention at Thurles - her local track - a mere 24 hours on from winning the biggest prize in jumps racing.

Here's our review of the weekend's action.

Blackmore back on home soil, still winning

The plaudits that came thick and fast for Rachael Blackmore following her Gold Cup win on Friday mostly had a consistent theme going through them. Those closest to her point to the hard work, dedication and drive that exists within her - allied to an incredible talent and crystal clear understanding of the horse - as being major contributing factors in her story.

No shock then that despite winning the biggest race in the calendar on Friday afternoon, Blackmore was at Thurles on Saturday for one ride. She had given a commitment to trainer Mouse Morris that she would partner Gentlemansgame in a 2m7f conditions hurdle and she wasn't going to back out.

Thurles is the closest track to Blackmore's home pace in Killenaule and it was the scene of the first winner she rode, a decade ago. Nobody could have predicted where her career would take her at that point.

Typically, she scored on Gentlemansgame with lots in hand and gave the large crowd that had turned out to see her the result they wanted and plenty of photo opportunities to go with it.

Blackmore had become the first jockey since AP McCoy in 1997 to complete the Gold Cup-Champion Hurdle double at Cheltenham and she is a shining star for her sport now, putting racing front and centre in the sporting news for all the right reasons.

The major spring festivals at Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown will be next on her agenda. Minella Times, the horse she partnered to glory at Aintree last spring, is a 25/1 chance to record back-to-back wins in the Grand National on 9th April. You can follow the action via our Sports Live Streaming platform.

Midlands National one-two for Ireland

Britain did not suffer a rout at Cheltenham akin to 2021, with a double-figure return this time as Ireland outscored the hosts 18-10. That said, there was still the ignominy for the home team of seeing Willie Mullins match their tally as he became the first trainer to hit double figures at a single Cheltenham Festival.

Saturday's feature race was the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter and it was a one-two for Ireland there as well.

Screaming Colours was a clear-cut winner for trainer William Durkan, coming home ten-lengths in front under Conor Orr. Runner-up Young Dev, trained by Denis Hogan, was the mount of Mark McDonagh, thus continuing a good few days for both riders.

McDonagh landed the Martin Pipe on his first Cheltenham Festival ride aboard Banbridge for Joseph O'Brien on Friday as the curtain came down in the Cotswolds, while Orr finished third on Colonel Mustard for Lorna Fowler in the County Hurdle earlier on Friday afternoon and in Screaming Colours he was enjoying the standout win of his career to date.

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Cheltenham: Friday's Festival Review

Cheltenham: Thursday's Festival Review

Cheltenham: Wednesday's Festival Review

Three-way go for British trainers crown

With a month of the jumps season remaining, the British NH Trainer Championship is seemingly still very much up for grabs.

Paul Nicholls, reigning champion and 4/11 to come out on top this season, leads by less than £200k from Nicky Henderson, a 7/4 chance to reclaim the crown, while Dan Skelton is a further £123k behind the Seven Barrows supremo and trades at 7/1 to be champion trainer for the first time.

Worryingly, Henderson was the only one of the trio to get on the scoresheet in the Cotswolds last week. The Supreme Novices' scorcher from Constitution Hill was a thing of beauty, while Henderson added the Mares' Hurdle with Marie's Rock later on Tuesday.

Disappointment would follow on Wednesday for Shishkin, and Henderson has pinpointed the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown next month for him after his Champion Chase no-show in the rain.

Nicholls meanwhile saw his ace-card go unused as Bravemansgame was taken out of the Brown Advisory at the last minute. He will head to Aintree in a few weeks for a Grade 1 novice attempt.

Skelton failed to find the target last week but he did elect to keep some powder dry, with Elle Est Belle and Third Time Lucki amongst those held back for Aintree.

It could be a very interesting few weeks in the trainers' title race, that's for sure.

Constitution Hill's owner Michael Buckley doubled down over the weekend on the idea of going to Ireland for a clash with Honeysuckle at Punchestown, though perhaps Henderson will be eyeing Aintree instead and the chance to secure some all-important prize money.

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