The last day Rachael Blackmore was riding at Cheltenham, she won a Grade One race on a 50-1 shot. Now the Irish jockey, who made such a stunning breakthrough into the big time last season, is on her way back to take part in the three-day race meeting at the Gloucestershire track this weekend, an occasion that, for many jump-racing fans, marks the true start of each season.
“It’s a special place,” the 30-year-old said. “For anyone who gets a jockey’s licence, a winner at Cheltenham is the dream. It’s brilliant I can say that I’ve done it. There’s always an extra bit of buzz there. Cheltenham in general is a very special place and winners any time of year are hard to come by.”
Blackmore did so well last winter there was quite a bit of expectation for her prospects at the March Festival, where her total of 17 rides was a record for a female jockey. She delivered on day one with a comfortable handicap success on A Plus Tard, followed three days later by Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett.
“People tell you what it’s like to win a race at Cheltenham but I think to believe them, you have to go and do it. It does live up to all expectation. It was a lot of relief when A Plus Tard won, as well as joy, it takes the pressure off. But it was just a fantastic moment. You’ve ridden a winner in Cheltenham, it was incredible. And then for Minella Indo to do it on Friday in a Grade One was very special.”
Blackmore is “really looking forward” to this return to the scene of those triumphs, though at the moment she is only scheduled to be at Cheltenham on the Friday, before returning to Ireland for valuable contests like Saturday’s Morgiana Hurdle.
“I’ll be on Dancing On My Own in the Ballymore Hurdle on Friday. We thought a lot of him last year. He’s got some good form behind Klassical Dream. I was very disappointed with him in Galway, he didn’t perform, but back going left-handed last time, he did it very easily. Hopefully he can do the business. It looks a good race.”
More immediately, she will be on the likely favourite, Monalee, in Thursday’s exciting Clonmel Oil Chase, opposed by the mighty Douvan, who last ran in April 2018. “I think Monalee’s going to run a very big race. He’s fit and he’s well. You wouldn’t want to underestimate him.”
Life has changed a bit for Blackmore now that her profile is so much higher. She is an ambassador for the bookmaker BetVictor and sounds a shade regretful not to be taking part in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday. She has a similar role for Kildare Village, a collection of luxury shops that led to her doing some modelling this summer.
And she enthuses about her role supporting Ireland’s 20×20 campaign, aiming to increase the visibility of women’s sport. “The aim is to get 20% more coverage by the end of 2020 for women in sport and 20% more participation. It’s a fantastic campaign.”
She is more reticent about ambitions for her own career. “A lot of jockeys would say the same, you’re just going day by day, I don’t set myself any major targets. I never would have set myself a target of what I’ve achieved, so I think I’ll just continue with that mentality, take every day as it comes and hope to just keep the momentum up and stay in the winner’s enclosure.”
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