No ankle injury is going to burst Rachael Blackmore’s bubble. The jockey has been the story of the year in horse racing. Her sensational performances landed her the top jockey accolade at the Cheltenham Festival and a stunning victory in the Aintree Grand National. In a year where the sport has unfortunately been overshadowed by controversy, Blackmore has been a beacon of positivity.
A fall at Killarney earlier this month meant she required surgery on her ankle, though it shouldn’t keep her out of action for too long. Indeed, the period of rest may well give Blackmore a chance to reflect on what a stunning year it has been for her, with success following success for so much of the jump racing season. Let’s take a look back at how she achieved glory at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Blackmore was considered as one of the strongest riders in the build-up to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, but it’s fair to say that few anticipated the success that would follow. It all began on day one, with arguably Blackmore’s biggest win of the whole week. On board the talented Honeysuckle, she continued the horse’s unbeaten streak with a sensational triumph in the Champion Hurdle, becoming the first female jockey to win the day one feature race.
The wins kept on coming. There were two victories on day two, the first of which came in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Bob Olinger. That was followed with success in the Champion Bumper on board Sir Gerhard. Allaho brought her victory in the Ryanair Chase on day three, and further wins with Telmesomethinggirl and Quilixios rubber stamped a sensational four days of racing.
As Blackmore scooped up the wins at Cheltenham, so did her public profile rise. Suddenly she was thrust into superstardom, both in the UK and her native Ireland. In the space of a few days, Blackmore had become the face of jump racing.
It was no surprise that Blackmore was touted as one of the favourites for the Grand National, but the Aintree is such a difficult race to win, and the favourite is only ever nominally so. But from the get-go, it looked as though Blackmore was destined for greatness. She produced a stunning display, overcoming the race’s various traps and obstacles to earn a memorable win with Minella Times.
Many of the best horse racing betting sites users had jumped on Blackmore to win in the days leading up to the race, and they were vindicated, leaving the bookies reeling. But that didn’t matter to Blackmore, what mattered was that she had proved herself on the biggest stage jump racing had to offer. If Cheltenham had been the realisation of her dreams, the Grand National saw her ascend to a new dimension altogether, becoming the first woman to win the famous race.
“I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human,” Blackmore said in the aftermath of the win.
Her recent ankle injury will have reminded her that she is indeed human, but her sensational 2021 will live long in the memory of racing fans. As soon as she is fit again, you can bet that she’ll be back in the winners’ enclosure before too long.