Rachael Blackmore has already made waves in the racing world, but this year’s Cheltenham Festival could really stamp her mark on the sport.
A career as a jump jockey was never initially on the cards for Blackmore, but making the move from a self-confessed “average” amateur jockey to impressive professional has seen the Irish rider win twice at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival.
“Being a professional jockey wasn’t what I wanted to be,” she told The Irish Times. “100 per cent I wanted to ride winners as an amateur jockey.”
Despite this, Blackmore is now the first Irish woman to make jump racing her profession since Maria Cullen in the 1980s. Since going professional in 2015, Blackmore has well and truly put female jockeys on the map especially following her two winners at Cheltenham last year.
“It was absolutely massive. A Cheltenham winner is such a coveted thing for any jockey to achieve and I was lucky enough to get two of them last year. To think that Ruby [Walsh] rode 59 – unbelievable.
“The hype – it all does come true,” Blackmore told the BBC.
30-year-old Blackmore races for trainer Henry De Bromhead and rode his A Plus Tard and Minella Indo to victory at the Festival last year. Again she will line up for De Bromhead’s stable this year with a real chance of snatching the title of the Festival’s leading rider.
Only two other riders have been given odds to beat Blackmore to top spot; Davy Russell and Paul Townend, to whom she narrowly lost the Irish champion jump jockey title.
Yet, the spotlight Blackmore has now found herself under following these momentous Festival moments is not something she feels entirely comfortable with.
“I probably find it a little tiresome within the small racing bubble because I don’t think it should be a thing anymore.
“Within the small racing bubble I love that it's not making headlines anymore - after all, Henry [De Bromhead] doesn't care, the owners don't care and no one I deal with cares,” she added.
Blackmore's chances at this year's Festival look as good as any, especially with favourites for the Arkle Trophy and Ryanair Chase on her book. The unpredictability of jump racing could be exactly what she needs to secure the lead rider's crown.
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