ICON Legends – Rachael Blackmore – The Queen of Horse Racing

ICON Legends Thursday March 21, 2024 By: Harry Howes

As the sun sets on another thrilling week at Cheltenham, it would be remiss of us not to honour one of the festival’s greatest jockeys as we continue our ICON Legends series.

Rachael Blackmore has made history throughout her career, often breaking records by becoming the first female to win countless races and accolades. The Irish jockey grew up on a dairy farm riding ponies and had her first amateur win at the age of 21.

Since turning professional in 2015, Blackmore has gone from strength to strength, riding her first winner just six months into her career. And after adding to her long list of Cheltenham winners last week, we’ve taken a look back at some of her greatest achievements.

Cheltenham Festival glory

The Cheltenham Festival wouldn’t be the same without Blackmore celebrating in the winner’s enclosure and she was back there again last week. The 34-year-old has ridden 16 winners there since 2019, smashing records on the way.

She’s made a habit of setting standards for female jockeys and in 2021 she became the first woman to be the leading rider at the festival, winning six races including the Champion Hurdle.

And the following year she picked up where she left off. Aboard A Plus Tard, Blackmore became the first female Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in 2022, dominating with a phenomenal finish to win by 15 lengths.

It wasn’t the first time that Blackmore and A Plus Tard celebrated together at Cheltenham. Her maiden festival victory came in 2019 aboard the gelding in the Chase Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Last week saw another incredible Cheltenham Festival and once again, Blackmore wowed spectators as she rode to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Her Queen Mother Champion Chase win aboard Captain Guinness came as something of a surprise. They set off at 17/2 but were able to take advantage when clear favourite El Fabiolo pulled up, opening up the field.

Grand National history maker

In a sport traditionally dominated by men, Blackmore has paved the way for women and she continued in this vein in 2021 as she became the first female jockey to win the Grand National, three years after her first appearance.

Blackmore made history aboard Minella Times, navigating the iconic Aintree course perfectly, having started the race as the 11/1 fourth favourite. Despite there being no fans present due to the pandemic, Blackmore remained focussed throughout to see off the challenge of runner-up Balko des Flos.

Minella Times was the first Grand National winner for trainer Henry de Bromhead, who also trained Balko des Flos, ridden by Aidan Coleman.

Honeysuckle heroics

Some of the best stories in sport are built on partnerships and for Blackmore, her career could have been so different without the incredible Honeysuckle. The dynamic duo won 17 of their 19 races together under the tutelage of de Bromhead.

It was with Honeysuckle that Blackmore completed another of her iconic ‘firsts’, becoming the inaugural female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2021. Not content with winning it once, the pair repeated the feat the following year.

Between them, Blackmore and Honeysuckle have won both the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on three separate occasions, as well as the Punchestown Champion Hurdle twice.

Regarded as one of the greats, Honeysuckle’s career came to an end last year. It was fitting that Blackmore took the reins for a final time as the pair raced to victory in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham to secure their fourth win together at the festival.

For Blackmore, there have been no whispers of retirement and fingers crossed she’ll continue to make history and be a role model for aspiring jockeys for many more years to come.

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