Levels of pride could hardly have been higher after Strong Leader landed the Grade 1 JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle, earning the Rainbow family the nomination as TBA Breeder of the Month for April.

Olly Murphy described it as “the best day” of his training career, and a month on from the big day, Sam Rainbow, representing the owner-breeders who will receive a complimentary HorseLight
Original ‘blue light’ and a complimentary light design for a yard of their choice in the UK, reflects: “We still can’t quite believe it.”

The ‘we’ is Sam, his father Mark, 84, Mark’s brother Rob, 81, and Rob’s son John, who race Strong Leader as the Welfordgolf Syndicate, but not far away in the wings are other Rainbows, including Sam’s wife Jess, an equine vet, and sister Mandy.

“Rob and I make most of the decisions,” Sam explains, “but really everyone has got involved since the day we talked about buying a well-bred mare to race and breed from. Although we’d never have been able to buy one to go into training, they don’t take a lot to keep at home once you’ve got them on the ground.”

The partners took the plunge into ownership in 2011, having diversified from  rearing sheep on the farm at Welfordon-Avon in Warwickshire to building an 18-hole golf course.

“We went to Doncaster looking for a filly with a bit of pedigree who could run as a three-year-old,“ Rainbow recalls, “and we saw Strong Westerner, a half-sister to Strong Flow, whose performance in winning the Hennessy stuck in my mind. We had a budget of £8,000 but would go to £10,000, although Fergal O’Brien, who we asked about the filly, reckoned she would fetch more. In the end we got her for £10,000.

“Fergal took her, but she picked up an injury quite soon into her time with him, so couldn’t run. We thought, ‘Well, that’s a waste of time,’ but a vet said she would be fine for breeding, and since Pitchall Stud was half a mile from us, we walked her down the road and had her covered by Midnight Legend.

“She didn’t get in foal, but we went back to Pitchall, where David and Kathleen Holmes stood Passing Glance, and Strong Glance was the result. He won us five races with Fergal and Olly Murphy but he was always very sharp, whereas Strong Leader, the third foal, is so chilled out.”

Strong Westerner has since been joined by the Midnight Legend mare Midnight Flyer, whose first foal, the now five-year-old Chasing Glance – another Passing Glance – won a Pytchley point-to-point maiden by 15 lengths on his April debut, trained by Tom Ellis.

Meanwhile, Strong Westerner has belied her stuttering start as a broodmare. She has a five-year-old sister to Strong Leader, called Strong Run, ready for her debut with O’Brien; a four-year-old filly by Telescope, who has been broken in; as well as a two-year-old sister – “one of the nicest horses on the farm,” Rainbow says – and a yearling sister. She missed to Golden Horn last year but is back in foal – to none other than Passing Glance.

The obvious question is whether the partnership has been tempted to sell Strong Leader. “We’ve had people approach Olly and have always said no,” Sam reveals. “Uncle Rob has been involved
with pointers for a long time and he always dreamed of having a good horse. Now he’s got one, he says he wants to enjoy it, and that’s what all of us think.

“We’re in a privileged position that we have fillies from the family on the place and we could sell one or two of those. But the plan is to keep ticking over. You can’t describe the thrill of winning at Aintree, having had the horse on the ground as a foal and seen him all the way through to winning a Grade 1 race. It feels like winning the lottery.”