Rachael Blackmore probably still pinches herself when she thinks back to her success last season. The fame and fortune which suddenly engulfed her were the products of stunning performances in horse racing’s biggest events. At the Cheltenham Festival, she rode six winners to claim the top jockey accolade, before following that up with a win in the Grand National — the holy grail for every jockey.
Now, with the dust having settled on those victories, the challenge for Blackmore is to go again, but it’s hard to know how she can back up what she achieved last season. It would be churlish to suggest that she can do the same again — after all, the sport is so competitive that you can never look at any race and be assured of victory — but Blackmore and her horses will consistently be considered as favorites in the horse racing betting odds.
But Blackmore is still in a great position to succeed. For one, she is the primary jockey for trainer Henry de Bromhead, who enjoyed something of a purple patch last season, being the mastermind behind quite a few of Blackmore’s triumphs over the course of the campaign. There’s no doubt that de Bromhead is one of the most in-form trainers at the moment, the only question is how long can that momentum last?
With horses like Honeysuckle under their care, it seems as though there will be plenty more success to come. It was the unbeaten mare who gave Blackmore a historic win in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last year, helping her become the first female jockey to win the race. Honeysuckle is still yet to taste defeat, and who knows what heights the De Bromhead-trained mare can soar to in the new campaign.
One challenge facing Blackmore is regaining full fitness again. The 32-year-old underwent surgery back in July after suffering a nasty fall at Killarney, in which she fractured her ankle. The procedure is said to have been a success, and for a jockey of Blackmore’s immense determination, you wouldn’t expect it to faze her for one second. She’ll still be fancied by many in the horse racing betting tips.
She has always been one to take setbacks in her stride, and for a number of years now it has felt like Blackmore has been assured that one day success would come her way. But even she couldn’t have predicted being leading jockey at Cheltenham and claiming victory in the Grand National too. Few jockeys have ever been in such a position where so much is expected of them heading into a new jumps season, but Blackmore strikes you as someone ready to rise to the challenge.
“I’m in a fantastic position now, but you know, you always want to stay there,” Blackmore said in an interview with the Irish Times. “Obviously it makes me happy. But if you’d told me a couple of years ago I’d be leading jockey at Cheltenham and I’d win the Grand National, I’d say, I’ll be so happy I’ll retire. But you always strive to want it again, or want more. I don’t know. Am I happy? I am happy. It’s unbelievable. But you’re always wanting it again. I want more I suppose.”