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Holden hoping Ex will give her perfect Cheltenham present

Ellmarie Holden has high hopes for Ex Patriot at Limerick
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A lot of trainers never get to experience the thrill of having a runner at Cheltenham. Ellmarie Holden is just 27, got her restricted trainer's licence only in June 2016 and has a mere handful of horses in her Co Kilkenny stable, but Ex Patriot has been doing her proud and has earned his right to rock up in the JCB Triumph Hurdle

Ex Patriot used to be a moderate 78-rated middle-distance maiden on the Flat for Ger Lyons. Some might argue the €38,000 Holden paid for him at Goffs last November was steep. It looks a steal now.

The son of Elusive Pimpernel made a winning debut at Fairyhouse in January. He found the going tough in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle next time at Leopardstown when fifth to Mega Fortune, but he got his head back in front on his return to Fairyhouse last time, only to be demoted to second in the stewards' room. Not to worry, this is his big day.

“It's mad to have a runner at Cheltenham, it feels like a dream,” said Holden. “He's in brilliant form. We came over Tuesday night and he travelled perfectly, it didn't bother him at all. I was worried about the travelling but he took it all in his stride. I couldn't be happier with him.”

She added: “I think he's improved again since Fairyhouse. He just keeps better and I don't think he's ever been so well. It's great to have Rachael [Blackmore] back on board; she knows him so well and gets on great with him. She's flying at the moment, there's no stopping her. She's can't stop riding winners.”

Here's hoping Blackmore doesn't stop flying in the Triumph. What a fairytale it would be.

It is just mad to have a runner at Cheltenham. It feels like a dream

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Ex Patriot
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