There were some absolutely lovely scenes after the opening race at Leopardstown today, as the family and friends of Berkeley victim, Niccolai Schuster, celebrated an incredible 50-1 win for their horse, Ellie Mac.
Ridden by Dan Holden, the winner of The Horse & Jockey Hotel Maiden Hurdle has a very special backstory. A lover of racing, Niccolai was one of six people killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse of 2015. In the aftermath, his parents and friends decided to set up a syndicate in honour and they purchased Ellie Mac.
— HRI Ownership (@HRIOwners) December 26, 2017
Following their win, Niccolai's father explained that the horse was actually pulled up in its first race but they never lost faith:
The greatest day of our lives since the tragedy. My son died in Berkeley, he was a great racing fan and we decided at a party to put a racing club together. We had no shortage of neighbours and friends, with support from all over the world.
His mother told Tracy Piggot 'He loved the Christmas festival here. He'd be here every day and what a way to start it off [today]. He was on Daniel's shoulders.'
You can watch the full interview below:
Ellie Mac sprung a 50-1 shock in the Maiden Hurdle at #Leopardstown, a hugely emotional and poignant winner for an Irish syndicate who suffered a tragic loss in the Berkeley balcony collapse pic.twitter.com/IY9QfJnjeL
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 26, 2017
Niccolai was also a massive football fan and supporter of Bayern Munich. Following his death, Bastian Scwheinsteiger welcomed the Schusters to a Germany training session in the Aviva and presented them with a special jersey.
While Berkeley was a terrible tragedy it's lovely to see these little moments bring joy to those who knew him best.