Daniel Holden on Ellie Mac after winning the the Horse and Jockey Hotel Maiden Hurdle on St Stephen's Day in Leopardstown
A young Kilkenny jockey has helped bring a smile back to the faces of a couple who lost their son in the Berkeley College balcony tragedy in the US.
Daniel Holden from Mullinavat gave Ellie Mac, owned by John and Graziella Schuster from Dublin a perfect ride to win the Horse and Jockey Hotel Maiden Hurdle on St Stephen's Day at Leopardstown.
It was the 20-year-old's first win as a professional and the horse had been backed from 200/1 into 50/1 before the race.
John Schuster told the Kilkenny People that Daniel gave the horse a magic ride and that he is grateful for Daniel's patience with the horse.
“We are over the moon and we have big connections with Kilkenny and so it makes it all the sweeter,” John said.
The horse is owned by a horse racing club established by the Schusters in memory of the late Nicolai, who was one of six Irish students that lost their lives in the Berkeley balcony tragedy on 16 June, 2015.
Before the race, Daniel dismounted from the mare as she came out of the parade ring because she was getting too excited and at the start more drama followed. He and Ellie Mac were shoved into the railing as other jockeys jostled for position before the white flag was raised - the omens didn't look good.
From the start, Daniel was gentle with his charge and as the race progressed, he noticed she was improving and before the last hurdle he realised he could be placed and dreamed of winning it.
He couldn't get over the guts Ellie Mac displayed over the last furlong to win and beat much more fancied runners. He said it will always be a special moment for him.
“I am delighted for the Schusters and they deserve this bit of joy after what they went through,” he said.
Daniel is a son of former Fine Gael councillor, Catherine Phelan who hugged her son and the Schusters in the parade ring after the race was over. Daniel is a nephew of Minister for Local Government, John Paul Phelan. He is attached, full-time, to the Henry De Bromhead stables in County Waterford.
He will go to Cheltenham in March for the annual national hunt racing festival and have his first ride their on Ellie Mac.