A regular feature at the end of any sporting year is the presentation of awards in recognition of success throughout the season.
Last week saw Irish jumps jockey Rachael Blackmore collect four prestigious awards in the space of four days. Horse Racing Ireland Irish Racing Hero 2021, Irish Times Sportswoman of the Year 2021, RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year 2021 and BBC Sports Personality World Sport Star of the Year 2021 were all presented to the County Tipperary-born jockey.
In spite of major international victories for Irish sports starts during 2021, Rachael Blackmore’s achievements surpassed them all.
Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, England, last March, when partnering the brilliant mare Honeysuckle to success. That achievement in itself was something to behold. Rachael Blackmore didn’t stop at just winning the opening day feature of the four-day festival.
She won the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle with Bob Olinger, the Champion Bumper on Sir Gerhard, the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle aboard Telmesomethinggirl, the Ryanair Chase with Allaho and the Triumph Hurdle on Quilixios – all of these races at Grade 1 level.
So brilliant was the Irish rider’s Cheltenham Festival that she was crowned Leading Rider at the meeting – again the first female jockey to achieve such an accolade. More than six Grade 1 wins was only once ever achieved at Cheltenham – by the Festival’s leading rider of all time, Ruby Walsh. Ironically the Leading Rider prize Blackmore received at the Cheltenham Festival was a Ruby Walsh statue.
This achievement was big news in Ireland, Britain and further afield. More, much more, was to come for the Equine Science graduate, however.
In April the Killenaule-born jockey partnered Minella Times to win the Aintree Grand National, the most famous steeplechase in the world. Riding in the colours of top Irish owner JP McManus, Minella Times was trained by Henry De Bromhead, with whom Blackmore had tasted so much Cheltenham success just weeks earlier. This achievement garnered worldwide headlines for the young rider as she became the first female in the 182 year history of the race to win the Grand National at Liverpool, England.
Rachael Blackmore, who rode her first winner as an amateur jockey on 10 February 2011 when Stowaway Pearl took the Tipperary Ladies’ Handicap Hurdle at Thurles, Ireland, turned professional in March 2015. Her first professional success came only months later, on 3 September 2015, when winning aboard Most Honourable at Clonmel. Two years later, Blackmore became the first woman to win the conditional riders’ championship in Ireland – the first of many recording breaking achievements.
2021 also saw Rachael Blackmore win the Betfair Chase in England, while at home in Ireland, she took the Slaney Novice Hurdle with Bob Olinger, along with the Hattons Grace Hurdle, Irish Champion Hurdle and Punchestown Champion Hurdle with her trusty partner the now 13-race unbeaten daughter of Sulamani, Honeysuckle.
As well as the major race wins at home and abroad, Blackmore took 570 rides in Ireland during the 2020-21 season, and ended the season 8 wins behind the Champion Jockey Paul Townend.
2021 many believe may be a season of a lifetime for 32 year old Rachael Blackmore. With all her big race winners from the season still in training, and many of them likely coming into the prime of their careers, you wouldn’t wager against Blackmore having another season of incredible achievements in 2022.
She has been breaking down barriers, setting new standards and achieving incredible feats throughout her career to date, why should she stop now?
Photo: Rachael Blackmore (@TheJockeyClub)