Everybody knew that Rachael Blackmore had talent, but it’s fair to say that throughout the 2020-21 jump racing season, the Irish jockey proved her skills in the saddle beyond any doubt.
Blackmore has propelled herself to the top of the agenda in the conversation surrounding racing’s top jockeys, and you can’t say it isn’t deserved. With wins aplenty, including those memorable four days at Cheltenham in March, Blackmore has risen up to the next level.
She is an inspirational figure for so many young horse racing fans, but Blackmore is not someone who chases the spotlight. In many ways, she is still learning how to cope with the clamour and attention that have accompanied her success in recent times, but that will come with experience. Legendary jockey AP McCoy, arguably the most famous name in the sport’s history, recently waxed lyrical about Blackmore.
“She is a great credit to herself and racing has been very lucky to have her,” McCoy told BBC Radio Ulster. “It went through a difficult time and she put it on the front pages.
“We talk about gender a lot in the world today, but it’s about results – and she is getting results. Whether I say she is great, or someone else says she is great is irrelevant. Her statistics speak volumes, they are top class and she was the best jockey riding at Cheltenham. She has been able to do what no other female has been able to do in any sport.”
Her status as a female role model within the sport has never quite sat comfortably with Blackmore, who is adamant that a good jockey is a good jockey regardless of gender, but there’s no doubt that her achievements have inspired masses of young female riders hoping to one day follow in her footsteps. Blackmore is an unassuming type, and would never take all the credit for herself, but there’s a good chance we could look back on the Irishwoman’s 2020 as a glass ceiling moment for the sport in terms of female participation and success.
A total of six winners in the 2021 Cheltenham Festival speaks for itself. From the very first day of the Festival, it looked as though something special was on the cards for Blackmore, and following her victory on board Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, everything fell into place. Across the Festival’s four days, Blackmore made more and more headlines, and as a result she was swept into the public eye. Her mother appeared on ITV television, and videos were sent in of young girls up and down the UK and Ireland cheering her on.
Then, there came the Grand National, where Blackmore was heavily backed in the horse racing betting. Usually, just winning the Grand National in itself would make a jockey’s season a hugely successful one, but given Blackmore’s incredible performances at Cheltenham, it was even more amazing when she triumphed in the Aintree showpiece on board Minella Times.
“I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human,” she said after that triumph. A lot has changed in a short space of time in terms of Blackmore’s wider fame, but it is still the same jockey wearing the silks. She is one of the most fiercely determined riders to ever grace the sport, and the sky’s the limit.
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