Denise Foster will be a steady hand on the Cullentra House tiller while Gordon Elliott sees out his six-month suspension, calling on a lifetime of experience in the sports equestrian world.
The hugely popular 67-year-old, known universally by her childhood nickname ‘Sneezy’, has been training a small string at Possextown Farm in Enfield, not far from Cullentra, for more than 20 years, saddling in excess of 40 winners over both codes on the track since 1998.
Among her most significant triumphs was that of Lily’s Rainbow in the Listed Heritage Stakes at Navan in 2016, with Billy Lee doing the steering, and the success of the Andy Duff-piloted My Cool Lady in a valuable Premier Bumper at the Punchestown festival six years earlier.
She took over the licence in very sad circumstances, after her husband David, a renowned three-day eventer who had represented Ireland at four Olympic Games, was killed in a fall at a local event in Rathmolyon at the age of 43 in 1998.
Further tragedy was to visit the family when her 27-year-old daughter Lucy, married to trainer Fozzy Stack, passed away in 2014.
In the wake of her husband’s death, Foster set up the David Foster Injured Riders’ Fund, which has paid out more than €200,000 to riders injured while eventing.
A qualified riding instructor, Foster worked initially in showjumping in Ireland and Belgium.
While working for the legendary Eddie Macken at Ferrans Stud in the remarkable Boomerang era, she met her future husband, a member of the Army Equitation School who would rise to the rank of Captain.
Together, they established Possextown for the production and education of eventers but David, who had ridden in point-to-points and hunter chases, had a passionate interest in racing and took out a licence to train.
Foster took up the baton and Twisted Logic was her first winner, in a point-to-point, within days of doing so.
Her first victory on the track came courtesy of Supreme Touch at Naas in 2001.
She has never managed an operation of the size of Cullentra House, nor had racehorses of the calibre of Tiger Roll, Zanahiyr, Abacadabras, The Storyteller and Shattered Love under her care but will not be daunted, having worked with extremely valuable and talented individuals in the other equestrian pursuits.
What’s more, she is well known to the staff at Cullentra House and such familiarity is likely to be crucial.
She is moving her own string of ten horses into new and previously unused barn at Cullentra House for the duration of her caretaker role and now has the exciting prospect of joining the Cheltenham Festival roll of honour with a slew of rich prospects, despite the departure of Envoi Allen and his fellow Cheveley Park-owned steeds.
She will not be able to attend Prestbury Park however, with developments having occurred too late to complete the necessary paperwork required to travel due to Covid-19.