Rachael Blackmore: A year to remember for a superstar Jockey

Rachael Blackmore was crowned top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival this year.
Rachael Blackmore was crowned top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival this year.

Rachael Blackmore has had an incredible last 12 months, with the superstar Jockey smashing record after record and making history along the way. Joe Tuffin looks back on her stunning season...

While for the majority of us the last 12 months have been memorable for all the wrong reasons, Rachael Blackmore will be looking back on these tumultuous times as some of the finest she’s experienced, propelling herself to the top of the jockey tree and cementing herself as a flag bearer and a rare household name. While racing has struggled to concoct positive headlines in recent times, Blackmore has shone a light on everything that’s great about the sport; the bond between Jockey and horse, the ability for anyone to compete on a level playing field, and just how glorious success at the top can be - even without the crowds roaring the runners home. We look back on some of her key moments, and how a promising year snowballed into a ground-breaking, history making 12 months.

27th June 2020 - A first ride in a Classic

Rachael Blackmore’s talent in the saddle isn’t exclusive to the National Hunt sphere with the County Tipperary born Jockey clocking up 151 rides on the level in ten consecutive years, but in June she stepped up to the plate to ride in Ireland’s most prestigious classic, the Irish Derby, on Emmet Mullins’ King Of The Throne. The pair had teamed up ten days prior to win the Listed Martin Molony Stakes, which provided a first taste of blacktype, and a shortage of Jockeys due to restricted travel allowed Blackmore to get the ride in the Group 1. Unfortunately King Of The Throne failed to land a blow and finished 11th, but it would be the first of many memorable moments in the coming months.

6th February 2021 - Honeysuckle defends her Irish Champion Hurdle crown

Sometimes, a Jockey just needs that special relationship with a racing star to propel them to stardom - and the combination of Blackmore/Honeysuckle has become one of the most deadly duos in the game at the minute - shown none more so than when storming home in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. The wonder mare’s season had got off to a strong start when defending her Hatton’s Grace crown, but a demolition job of Ireland’s best hurdlers confirmed she’s a superstar of the sport and she tee’d herself up for a crack at the big one at the Cheltenham Festival.

16th-19th March 2021 - Five Grade 1 wins at the Cheltenham Festival

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the level of performance Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead would perform at when heading over to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, but as those four days rolled on the pair just kept up the gallop, and Blackmore piloted five to Grade 1 glory - including one on every day. Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle win was of course the highlight, but Bob Olinger’s Ballymore, Sir Gerhard’s bumper, Allaho’s Ryanair and Quilixios’ Triumph were all dazzling in their own right, and all involved a touch of genius from Blackmore. A Festival she could barely have dreamt of just a few years prior, but a highlight for the year and almost certainly not a flash in the pan.

19th March 2021 - Crowned the Cheltenham Festival top Jockey

For most, five winners at the Festival would be enough of an achievement, never mind five Grade 1s, but those five top level success’ combined with a win in the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle saw her crowned the top Jockey at the Cheltenham Festival - the first female to achieve this feat. The battle between herself and Paul Towned, who was the ⅖ favourite to claim the crown pre-Festival, came down to the final day but Paul Townend’s failure to win on Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup and Billaway in the Foxhunters was enough for Blackmore who claimed a history making award.

10th April 2021 - Wins the Grand National

As if those wins at the Festival weren’t enough, Blackmore went on to land the biggest prize of them all when piloting Minella Times to success in the Grand National at the start of the April - again becoming the first female to land such a prize. The pre race betting had Jonjo O'Neill's Cloth Cap as an absurdly (easier to say with hindsight) strong favourite but Minella Times, who looked handicapped to perfection, continued to flirt with a single figure price before being sent off at a very easy to back 11/1. Blackmore kept her mount out of trouble in a predictably action packed race before hitting the front on the turn for home and staying on strongly to claim racing’s most famous race - cue a near speechless Blackmore in a post race interview that captured the hearts of the 8.8 million that tuned in to witness the historic moment.

30th April 2021 - Wins Paddy Power Champion Hurdle

The fairytale season for a while didn’t look like it would end with another huge success for Blackmore, with the likes of Allaho, Envoi Allen and Quilixios all failing to fire at the Punchestown Festival. But just when the last shot in the chamber would be a blank, Honeysuckle stepped up to win her eighth Grade 1 and maintain an unbeaten streak of 12 races. A bit of a sloppy leap at the last gave backers a small heart attack, but the brilliant Blackmore and the ever amazing Honeysuckle managed to fend off Sharjah to cap a stunning 12 months in the saddle.

 

Cheltenham Festival
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