How Yorkshire stable girl Zoe Smalley proved invaluable to Rachael Blackmore’s historic Cheltenham Gold Cup victory Yorkshire News

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Rachael Blackmore makes Cheltenham Gold Cup history at A Plus Tard, leading…

She was the first to console Blackmore when A Plus Tard came in second in last year’s blue ribbon race. She stood by the jockey after the mercurial mare Honeysuckle successfully defended the Champion Hurdle in a tidal wave of excitement.

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And, as the roving leader of Bromhead’s Irish trainer Henry, Smalley was there when Blackmore and A Plus Tard galloped into the history books. She picks up the story: “The race before the Gold Cup, I was driving Rachael back to Shantreusse and someone in the crowd yelled ‘Believe in yourself Rachael.’

Zoe Smalley (purple cap) with Rachael Blackmore after the jockey’s historic Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup win at A Plus Tard.

“Rachael smiles and I turn to her and say ‘We believe in you.’ I know Rachael Blackmore and I know he won’t leave Cheltenham without the Gold Cup. The first thing I say is ‘I told you so’. She was never in doubt. We always believe in you’. She replies ‘Thank you girl, this is crazy’.

Rachel is very normal. She is very realistic. Very grounded. She is very nice and makes time for everyone. She also appreciates that racing is a team sport.”

This testimony could also apply to Smalley, born in Doncaster, who attended Ripon Grammar School as a boarder and whose life changed when she went to visit a friend who worked for a coach in Middleham. At the end of the day, she knew horse racing would be her career. “I had always been in the pony club and hunting, but there is no racing in my blood,” she said Smalley.

To his credit, he completed his A-Levels, studied at the Royal Agricultural College and worked in Australia before working in stables in North Yorkshire with, among others, Mark Johnston, James Bethell and the late Ferdy Murphy, who was an inspiration.

Zoe Smalley (purple cap) with Rachael Blackmore after the jockey’s historic Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup win at A Plus Tard.

And although, at one point, he combined his love of racing with running The Bay Horse pub in Ravensworth, serving pints never had the same appeal as cleaning and caring for some of the best National Hunt horses in the world.

He had already fallen in love with Ireland after a trip to the Galway racing festival in 2013 and worked for Gavin Cromwell and Willie Mullins before teaming up with the aforementioned De Bromhead two years ago.

However, while the spotlight remains on unassuming Blackmore and no-nonsense De Bromhead, it is workaholic Smalley, 32, who oversees the formidable operation on race days and at major festivals such as Cheltenham and Aintree. (Missed the historic Blackmore Grand Prix.) National victory in Minella Times last year due to Covid isolation).

“Cheltenham is a massive operation,” he tells The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview. “I start to prepare for Cheltenham after Christmas. I start shopping for tack and make sure we have enough colors for about 30 horses.

The Duchess of Cornwall meets stable jockey Rachael Blackmore (left) at Henry of Bromhead’s stables in Knockeen during her visit with the Prince of Wales to Waterford in the south-east of the Republic of Ireland.

“It’s a full-fledged military operation to make sure everything is where it needs to be: feed and hay are shipped ahead of time or they would take up too much space. I am effectively in charge of everything related to Team De Bromhead.”

This year’s Cheltenham Festival also tested Smalley’s calm under pressure before De Bromhead’s cavalry left their stables in County Waterford, and where the Duchess of Cornwall was a VIP visitor on Thursday.

Despite countless checks of weather forecasts, an unexpected storm caused Irish Ferries to cancel sailings before clearance was given for a harrowing journey across the Irish Sea.

Zoe Smalley (centre) with Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore as Henry’s team from Bromhead celebrate their victory in the Champion Hurdle.

“I thought they could kill me before everything was resolved. I spent the whole time hoping Honeysuckle and the other horses were okay. They were absolutely fine, better than me, and I don’t think the crossing was as difficult as we expected,” Smalley said. “It meant we arrived in Cheltenham at 5:30am on Sunday instead of 10pm the night before. It is a huge responsibility. To be fair, Honeysuckle is a pretty good traveler and he doesn’t make my job any harder than it already is.”

However, in addition to overseeing a team of 30 stable staff who take care of De Bromhead racers and transport horses between the Cotswolds and the Emerald Isle, Smalley is very sensitive to the needs of champions like Honeysuckle.

When the mare wants a little more grass from the lush turf of the racetrack, it was Smalley who took care of Kenny Alexander’s horse. “Honeysuckle is definitely in charge of all things…

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This notice was published: 2022-03-25 23:11:27

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