LONDON (Reuters) - Minella Indo, ridden by Jack Kennedy and trained by Henry De Bromhead, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on a Friday afternoon of high emotion despite the absence of fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Plus Tard, with Rachael Blackmore in the saddle, finished second in a double for De Bromhead with 2019 and 2020 winner Al Boum Photo, the 9-4 favourite, denied a hat-trick and finishing third.
Blackmore had opted for A Plus Tard over her usual ride Minella Indo, her first error of judgement in an otherwise triumphant week.
It was all celebration for De Bromhead, though, as the Irishman became the first trainer to complete the 'holy trinity' of winning the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup in the same week.
In stark contrast to a year ago, when tens of thousands of racegoers packed the jump racing festival in one of the last large gatherings before lockdown changed everything, the grandstands were empty.
Blackmore, the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle after victory with Honseysuckle on Tuesday, came into the big race of the week with six wins already and A Plus Tard heavily fancied at 10-3.
It was Bryony Frost on 17-1 shot Frodon who made the early running and looked the more likely woman to win before being overhauled with two fences to go as Minella Indo, at 9-1, hit the front.
"This is what I’ve dreamt of since I was a child," an emotional Kennedy, who broke his leg just before last year's festival, told ITV Sport. "This is what I live for and I just can’t believe this is happening.
"I landed over the last and he pricked his ears. He was pulling up but it wasn't out of tiredness and when he heard Rachael coming back at him, he took off again. It's unbelievable stuff."
De Bromhead hailed his 'incredible horse'
"We've had so much fun with this guy...he's just an incredible horse, he comes alive here. He's amazing. He's like a different horse," he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Alison Williams and Toby Davis)