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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 6 December, 2019

Sheer grit: Blackmore aiming for big Festival week in race for historic champion jockey title

The 29-year-old sits second in the jockeys’ table in Ireland.

Rachael Blackmore: will make a big impression in the Cotswolds next week.
Rachael Blackmore: will make a big impression in the Cotswolds next week.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

RACHAEL BLACKMORE ‘WASN’T gifted anything’ and has achieved what she has through ‘sheer grit’.

That’s Anne Widger’s assessment of Rachael Blackmore, the unassuming star of the excellent Jump Girls documentary.

This season, only Blackmore’s second since being crowned champion conditional, has been fairly spectacular and like every other aspect of her career, any initial successes are hastily built on.

The first Grade 2 win came in early November. She steered Bedrock to victory over Samcro and Sharjah — hardly boats — beating Jack Kennedy and Ruby Walsh, hardly Corinthians, to the winners’ enclosure.  

Blackmore has since picked up another couple of Grade Two races and sits second in the Jockeys’ table in Ireland. By any metric, this season is a success, but as her mentor Shark Hanlon noted during Jump Girls, “All that matters to Rachael is winning, everything else is second”.

Talk of her becoming champion jockey seemed fanciful during the summer months and early parts of the season, but as Cheltenham looms into view, she is second in the table and the suggestion is far from preposterous.

As Shark observed: “Riding good horses and getting confidence, riding in big races and getting confidence, maybe that’s the only difference (in her)… Her personality hasn’t changed.”

The one thing that has changed this season though, is Blackmore has been associated with a different sort of animal, literally. The resurgence of Henry de Bromhead has helped with 47 winners in her championship total so far. The grit that was mentioned is borne out in the numbers; she has ridden winners for 17 different trainers in Ireland, and has ridden for another 77. Have saddle will travel, appears to be the motto. 

Rachel Blackmore Blackmore speaks to Des Cahill at the Irish Times sportswomen awards last year . Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The quantity has been peppered with quality galore and this year looks to be the former champion conditional’s best potential book of rides going into the Festival.

Honeysuckle looks a monster in the making. She is unbeaten and second favourite for the Mares’ Novice hurdle. Carrying the same colours and entered in the same race is Sinoria. Both have been impressive pattern winners this season for the rider. Trainer Henry de Bromhead has suggested the pair will be kept apart at Prestbury Park.

This removes any difficult choices for the jockey. They both have the potential to be a first Festival winner for the former Tipperary Pony Clubber. Given her love of winning, having to make the choice and watching the other oblige would be tough to swallow.

She may not have to wait until the Mare’s Novice to break her Fetsival duck such is the quality of beast she has been associated with so far this season.

It is unconfirmed whether or not she will ride Monalee in the Ryanair and Chris’s Dream in the JLT, but won on both last time out. Monalee in particular has been frustrating to win with in recent years so connections may look to stick with the Blackmore formula. Robbie Power had ridden Chris’s Dream previously, but Puppy could only watch from down the field as Chris’s Dream, under Blackmore, got the better of another Festival contender in Champagne Classic at Navan in the Ten Up.

On Tuesday A, Plus Tard is a single figure price for the Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase, and Dylan Robinson’s misfortune may play into Blackmore’s hands with Ornua as short as 8/1 for the Arkle earlier in the day.

There others sprinkled in handicaps throughout the week, including potentially Mormon, Mind’s Eye and Due Reward in the Gigginstown colours who have all been ridden by Rachael this year.

She’ll head for the Cotswolds this week with by far her best book of rides. Should Rachael Blackmore have a winner, a Frankie Dettori style flying dismount is highly unlikely. It’ll likely be a bit more Roy Keane, a postman doesn’t celebrate if he delivers letters, approach. Why? Because this isn’t an aberration or a novelty or tokenism, this is what she does. 

Cheltenham winners are what top riders want and as owner Aidan Archdeacon put it in Jump Girls: “We always knew she was a good rider but we didn’t know he was as good as this.”

A winner next week, and the world will know.


Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Thom Malone

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