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As week’s go, Rachael Blackmore’s 2021 Cheltenham Festival was pretty much perfect as she took the sporting world by storm in becoming jump racing’s undisputed Queen.
A 14-1 shot at the start of the week to be the meeting’s leading jockey, the 31-year-old smashed in six winners – neatly spread out across all four days – to become the first woman ever to win Cheltenham’s top jockey crown.
The daughter of a dairy farmer and school teacher from Killenaule in County Tipperary, Ireland, Blackmore’s rise to the top has been rapid and unrelenting – and she’s not done yet.
If Cheltenham needed good headlines for the health of the sport, coming as it did off of the back of the Gordon Elliott saga, then Blackmore’s remarkable record did just that, and some, as she ended the Festival proudly holding the Ruby Walsh Trophy aloft.
“I feel like life in racing is always an unfinished chapter,” Blackmore told Horse Racing Ireland.
“I'm right in the middle of everything now, nothing is ever done. Our sport is a constant turning wheel but it's great to be part of it, it's what makes it so special.
“You are always looking for the next race, the next challenge, the next big moment and you don't get a lot of time to think and appreciate it. Perhaps lockdown gave us a chance to take a breath but racing never really finishes.
“In this sport you can never be sure what's next, that's why I don't look too far ahead.”
Given the seeming ease with which she achieved the feat, and her sensational success of the last few years, perhaps we should have expected this.
But Blackmore only turned professional six years ago, persuaded by a trainer she had already spent much time with in Shark Hanlon.
It was a huge gamble, having only rode 11 point-to-point winners and seven winners as an amateur beforehand.
Looking back now, it more than paid off.
Most Honourable, trained by Hanlon, provided Blackmore with a first professional winner at Clonmel only months after making the switch, and the winners kept rolling in from there as she landed the Leinster National Handicap Chase at Naas in March 2017 for her first big success, before becoming the first female jockey to win the Conditional Riders’ title in the 2016/2017 season.
Ever since she has become Paul Townend’s biggest rival to the Irish jockeys' championship – and 2021 could be her year to finally claim the title as she currently sits just five wins behind Townend.
Over the past two years Blackmore has amassed a hugely impressive 17 Grade One wins but it is at Cheltenham, the ‘Olympics’ of jumps racing, that jockeys and trainers are most judged.
A Plus Tard gave Blackmore her first Cheltenham Festival success when landing the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase two years ago, and she arrived this week with three Festival wins in total under her belt.
As it turns out, she would triple that overall tally thanks to a week of unprecedented success that began with her most significant – Champion Hurdle success under the glorious unbeaten mare Honeysuckle.
Add to that the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Champion Bumper, Ryanair Chase, Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Triumph Hurdle and you have a superstar of women’s sport created on the biggest stage.
“To see my name up there with these legends like Willie [Mullins], Henry [de Bromhead] and Ruby is such a massive deal for me,” Blackmore said.
“It doesn't matter how well I'm riding if I'm not getting on the right horses and I'm always super thankful for that - they are the ones that are winning me these races.
“To be involved with Henry de Bromhead has taken my career to a new level and I'm so grateful to the support I receive from him and other trainers.”