Blackmore after yet more history in the Grand National

Fresh from Cheltenham glory, the jockey has high hopes for the Liverpool showstopper

Tuesday, April 06, 2021
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Blackmore and Jack Kennedy received a guard of honour at Thurles last month after returning from Cheltenham

What do you do in the aftermath of best week of your career so far? If you're Rachael Blackmore, you try to top it three weeks later, writes Bradley West.

Blackmore took her rising star to even greater heights as she became the first ever female top jockey at Cheltenham Festival, riding an incredible six winners.

Yet the dust has barely settled from the Prestbury Park showcase, and the 31-year-old is already back for more on another of jump racing’s biggest stages.

The target now: to become the first female jockey to win the Grand National in its 182-year history.

And, after the year she’s had, who would bet against her achieving even more history.

“I just try not to get too wrapped up in it all,” Blackmore said in an interview with former jockey Katie Walsh for The Jockey Club’s website.

“You’re just looking forward to it, it’s a great three days and I’m really looking forward to going over there.

“Things are different this year, but Cheltenham was a success for the Irish so hopefully we can do the same in Aintree.

“I think when you’re riding in the National, I think you allow yourself to picture yourself winning it and I think everyone has.”

If Blackmore was a superstar of the sport before the Festival, what transpired across those four days in March put her name on the global sporting stage – the County Tipperary jockey becoming a subject of a media frenzy of interviews and appearances in the days after.

You would be forgiven for thinking then that she may need a rest and some time out of the spotlight, but that’s not the way Blackmore rolls.

Indeed, the Grand National holds very special memories for her and it is a race which she wouldn’t miss for the world.

“The Grand National is definitely my first memory of racing,” Blackmore said. “I remember being very young and everyone having their sweepstakes.

“I couldn’t tell you much about the race or who won it, but I remember the buzz - the race has got a worldwide buzz.

“Getting my first ride in the National was amazing. I remember when Mouse [Morris] told me he was going to put me up, it was incredible. I couldn’t wait to walk the track as I’d never been there before and I remember thinking ‘these fences are absolutely massive!’

“I was just excited, there was such a buzz about it all and it was so cool to just be a part of it. Even beforehand, everyone’s wishing each other good luck in the weighing room and it’s just different.

“That year the horse fell, but I finished on Valseur Lido the next year. I think he finished tenth, but he was so good and I didn’t think I’d get a buzz from that. He jumped unbelievably and it was just so cool.

“There is always a chance in the National, because there’s so many variables that can go wrong for people and no matter where you go, trouble will find you. You’ve just got to take your chances and the only time you’ve got no chance is when you’re not on something’s back heading to the start.”

It is not yet known who Blackmore will pilot come 5.15pm on Saturday in the world's biggest jump race, but her rivals will all be expecting a fierce fight no matter what.

Just one look at her Cheltenham triumphs, from the Champion Hurdle with Honeysuckle to Allaho in the Ryanair Chase, shows she can win regardless of the race situation.

And, if she wasn’t motivated enough, Blackmore will be determined to avenge the one that got away on Merseyside, having partnered Gold Cup winner Minella Indo several times before – but not when it mattered most.

“Minella Indo let me down a little bit at Leopardstown the time before, but it wasn’t an easy decision,” Blackmore added.

“The vibe I was getting from the yard was one of extreme confidence in both horses, but I’d made my decision and as horrible as that feeling in my stomach was when I crossed the line, you’re delighted for Henry [de Bromhead].

“He’s trained a one-two in the Gold Cup, but on a personal level it was just horrendous. You never get that close to a Gold Cup and he was mine to ride.

“It was my decision and I chose the wrong one and it happens. But I’m not going to take anything away from Minella Indo, who was the best horse on the day.

“Gold Cups don’t go away. The replays will be on at award shows and at next year’s meetings and it’ll always be when the ball didn’t bounce right - but I had an incredible week.”

I think when you’re riding in the National, I think you allow yourself to picture yourself winning it and I think everyone has.

- Rachael Blackmore

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