Jerry McGrath, 21 years of age from Waterfall, Co Cork and who learned much of his trade with the Muskerry Pony Club, drove Une Artiste to victory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday afternoon.
He was ice-cool on Nicky Henderson’s mare — it was the trainer’s fourth of the day — when producing a withering late challenge to beat his fellow countyman Davy Russell on Edeymi.
“This is unbelievable, I cannot believe it’, said the delighted young man, who is in his second season with the extraordinary Henderson.
“I spent a year with Dermot Weld, but my mum (Maureen) is a school teacher and she insisted I go back and do the leaving.
“I spent some time with Gerry Cully and a year with Brendan Powell. Then Mr Henderson gave me a job as a conditional. My dad (Pat) is steeped in horses.
“The mare isn’t very big and I was flat to the boards the whole way, but she is all heart and as tough as nails.
“This is my first festival winner and the last day I was here was in December when I took a really bad fall on my birthday. This has really made up for that.
“Believe it or not, there was less pressure on me, after the three winners earlier. He will probably kill me for saying this, but the boss (Henderson) is in great form, so anything I could do was a bonus.
“I want to dedicate this to my great friend, Andrew Twohig, who died of leukaemia at only 18 years of age.”
Winning trainer Nicky Henderson, recording his fourth win of the afternoon, on the day when he broke Fulke Walwyn’s record for most winners at the Cheltenham Festival, said: “I think it’s the type of day we will wake up and realise it’s all a dream.
“For everybody here, this is the place to be. It’s only once a year and to have four winners, there is no better feeling.
“This is my first win in this race and it’s very special. My dad (Johnny Henderson, who played a major part in saving the track in the 1960s) and Fred Winter were the two most important people in my life.”
Henderson revealed he was actually wearing his father’s suit as he thought he might break Fulke Walwyn’s record to be crowned leading trainer at the meeting.
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