The best jockey in the world. That’s the only way to describe Rachael Blackmore as she continues to be a trailblazer for horse racing and re-write the record books.
Fresh off her exploits at Cheltenham Festival last month, the 31-year-old created history again at Aintree yesterday by becoming the first woman to win the Grand National on Minella Times.
Markedly humble yet equally brilliant, Blackmore’s words after her victory will eternally resonate: ”I don’t feel male or female right now,” she stressed. “I don’t even feel human.”
Her success in recent times has garnered widespread plaudits, but while many are now well aware of her Champion Hurdle heroics and Grand National glory, these triumphs have been forthcoming for a long time.
Here are five things you didn’t know about the Irish jockey:
She grew up riding horses on a farm
Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, Blackmore is the daughter of a dairy farmer and a school teacher.
Her father, Charles, was a horse breeder, which led to her learning to ride on a farm in Mortlestown Castle.
Initially taking part in pony racing competitions, Blackmore says she was “bitten by the racing bug” by the age of 13 after beating fellow top jockey Paul Townsend and hasn’t looked back since.
She wanted to be a vet
Blackmore attended the University of Limerick and studied equine science, hoping to one day become a vet.
Following this, she went to Dublin and achieved a diploma in Business to add to her qualifications.
Despite her keen interest in horses, Blackmore never truly believed she’d make it as a professional jockey, telling the Irish Times: “I always wanted to be an amateur jockey and ride in races, but I never envisaged the professional jockey route. It was not a career I thought would work out for me.”
She finished as the Irish Champion jockey runner-up in 2018/19
Blackmore rode her first Cheltenham Festival winner in 2019 on A Plus Tard before achieving her first Grade One race victory in Ireland that same year.
The Grand National winner ended the season with 90 victories to finish second in the Irish jump racing Champion Jockey standings, behind Paul Townsend who rode 109 winners.
The following season Blackmore finished third, though the season was ultimately curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She loves working with Henry de Bromhead
Victories at Cheltenham on Honeysuckle and the Grand National on Minella Times this year have both come on Henry de Bromhead trained horses, though Blackmore has long been associated with the trainer.
The Irish jockey rode the first treble of her career when partnering Theatre Dreams, Monbeg Chit Chat and Classic Theatre to win at Tipperary in July 2018 –– all three of which were trained de Bromhead.
Her first Grade Two winner over fences was also on the De Bromhead trained Monalee in the Red Mills Chase, while her first victory at Cheltenham in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase was on the trainer’s five-year-old A Plus Tard.
She does not see herself as a pioneer for female jockeys
Hailed as the “Queen of Cheltenham”, Blackmore has also been lauded as the “reluctant heroine” of horse racing.
Despite making history this year, the jockey previously told The Telegraph that she doesn’t see herself as a pioneer for women within the sport.
“I probably find it a little tiresome within the small racing bubble because I don’t think it should be a thing anymore,” she admitted.
“I fully get why it’s a thing outside the bubble because it is a male-dominated sport. But at the end of the day, it’s the horses doing the running – we are just on their backs doing the steering. It would be a lot different if some female sprinter was beating Usain Bolt.”