Rachel Blackmore

The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for March: Rachael Blackmore

13 Apr 2024
Sarah Stanley

So busy is Rachael Blackmore’s sporting life, there’s not much time to sit back and bask in recent glories. She was on her way to the airport when we caught up with her this week, Aintree her next port of call, and you wondered if she ever gets any time to catch her breath and savour her triumphs. “Sure look”, she said, “you’re happy to be going over and not watching it from home”.

When she does manage to get home between meetings, she sneaks the odd peak at recordings of her races. “Some of them you enjoy more than others”, she laughed, the Champion Chase at Cheltenham last month very definitely falling into the “pleasurable watch” category.

Having won the Gold Cup on A Plus Tard and two Champion Hurdles on Honeysuckle, Blackmore secured the third jewel in the festival’s crown on 17-2 shot Captain Guinness, a horse that had failed to win in 13 previous Grade One attempts.

“I’m not shocked,” she said after the race, “because I thought his day would come – but at the same time I can’t believe it came today”.

It was trainer Henry De Bromhead’s fourth win in the race, but Blackmore’s first, one that saw her join a select group of jockeys to have won Cheltenham’s “big three” as well as the Aintree Grand National. It was also her 16th Festival winner since her first in 2019, making her the joint 10th most successful jockey in Cheltenham’s history – and she’ll have a few more visits there yet.

“She’s such an incredible rider”, said De Bromhead, doffing his cap to the 34-year-old Tipperary woman. “As good as she is everywhere else, she’s even better here. We’ve had some incredible days.”

Not that Blackmore had a whole lot of time to let it all sink in. “In our sport you probably don’t look back too much, things happen so quickly, you’re always on the move. I came back from Cheltenham, then we had the Irish National and now I’m heading to Aintree. Then we’ll have Punchestown. Things come quick and fast. You’re all the time looking ahead, there isn’t much time to reflect.”

“But it was an incredible day, I really never imagined this happening. I probably never imagined having one winner at Cheltenham, never mind this. Henry had won the race a few times before, but I hadn’t, so that was a real thrill. I was hopeful beforehand, Captain Guinness had been in really good form back home and Henry has a habit of getting his horses spot on. But still, it was hard to believe, hard to take in.”

“It’s just an honour to be associated with Henry’s stable. He has such wonderful owners and fantastic horses, and he does a brilliant job with them. I’m very lucky to be getting legged up on those type of horses.”

She’ll be legged up on De Bromhead’s Minella Indo, the winner of the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup, for today’s Grand National, three years after she made history by riding Minella Times to victory in the race – an achievement that, naturally enough, earned her our sportswoman of the year award.

“I’m just really looking forward to it. It’s a fantastic few days racing and Henry has some lovely horses going over, including Minella Indo. The Grand National is obviously the highlight, it’s a special race with an incredible history and one that captures the imagination in different parts of the world like no other race does. And yeah, of course, it has very special memories for me.”

“It’s an honour to get this award, thank you”, she said, at which point she was told the March decision was probably the easiest since the awards got under way when she was 15 – just the 15 years before she rode her first Cheltenham winner.

Four of her happiest days at the Festival came, of course, on board the now retired Honeysuckle with whom Blackmore won 17 of her 19 races. And Honeysuckle recently became a mam for the first time – although, granted, “mam” isn’t generally the term used in the racing world.

“Ha, yes she did. She had her first foal there two or three weeks ago, a filly by Walk In The Park – it’s great, her story will live on now.”

Will they name it after you?

“I doubt it!”