Northern Ireland was on winning form on the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as Ravenhill - owned by a syndicate of lawyers from Belfast and ridden by leading amateur jockey Jamie Codd - took top spot in yesterday's National Hunt Chase finale.
Sent off at 12/1, Ravenhill did the business for Meath trainer Gordon Elliott and cruised over the line off the final bend despite having to dig deep to repel front-running Lord Du Mesnil (11/2).
The winner was bred locally by Aaron Metcalfe, owner of the Beechlawn Hotel at his Comber base. He is one of the syndicate members along with Ray Nicholas, a Belfast businessman and a committee member of the Down Royal Corporation of Horse Breeders, as well as a bookmaker at the local courses and point-to-points.
Wexford jockey Codd saluted the crowd after claiming a third win in the National Hunt Challenge Cup aboard the 10-year-old. The result also took his collection of Festival winners to 10.
"We really like this horse," he said afterwards.
"The plan was to run in the Kim Muir [for amateur riders] but Gordon rang and said he was going the run in the National Hunt Chase - he is just a genius.
"He was a handicapper running against novices.
"He was running away with me the whole of the race."
Mr Elliott (42) added: "It's brilliant, Jamie gave him a great ride.
"I was worried about him staying, so we said we'd hunt away.
"I'm very lucky to have Jamie riding for me, he's a star.
"He travelled brilliantly and I'm absolutely thrilled to have a winner after hitting the crossbar a couple of times.
"He'll go straight to the Irish Grand National now."