With six months to go until the Cheltenham roar gets the 2022 Festival underway, there’s no better time to look back on the triumphs of last year’s undoubted star, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.
Rachael Blackmore made history in the 2021 edition, becoming the first female rider to win the Ruby Walsh trophy for leading jockey, as she ended the week with six winners.
With the countdown to next year’s Festival now truly under way, one of the biggest questions for racing fans will be whether she can get close to repeating her extraordinary feats next March, this time in front of a packed crowd.
Let’s take a look back at Blackmore’s super six that stole the show six months ago.
Honeysuckle – Champion Hurdle
Blackmore’s first winner was possibly the most important of the week, in a number of ways.
It not only set the tone for what was to come but also made her the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle, steering the wonderful bay mare Honeysuckle to a glorious victory.
The seven-year-old was 11/10 favourite for the 91st running of the prestigious Grade One and the win was never really in doubt.
Blackmore and Honeysuckle ended up six lengths clear of Sharjah, securing her first of many trips winners’ enclosure that week.
“Henry (de Bromhead) produces her at her best every time and it's just phenomenal. She's still getting better,” said Blackmore after the race.
Bob Olinger – The Ballymore
Day two brought victory two number for the 32-year-old from Tipperary.
Bob Olinger roared home in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, after a wonderful climb up the hill to also notch another Festival winner for de Bromhead.
The second Grade One victory of the festival for Blackmore was even more comfortable than the first as the 6/4 favourite powered away from his rivals, winning by seven-and-a-half lengths from Gaillard Du Mesnil.
"I'm so delighted for (owner) Brian Acheson and his family – he puts a lot into this game and he's got a very special horse on his hands now,” she told ITV post-race.
"His potential is sky high, I'd say – he was phenomenal there.”
Sir Gerhard – Champion Bumper
A first win at the 2021 festival for the Blackmore-Willie Mullins combination rounded off day two perfectly and sent Rachael to the top of the jockeys’ standings.
Riding the Mullins-trained Sir Gerhard, Blackmore managed to claim a victory in the most prestigious bumper on the National Hunt calendar.
The pre-race favourite was stablemate Kilcruit but it was Sir Gerhard who kicked brilliantly off the turn for home and never relinquished the lead.
Allaho – Ryanair Chase
With the wins rolling in and a number of good rides still to come, by this point Blackmore momentum was taking over Prestbury Park.
It was perhaps little surprise therefore to see Allaho top the market at 3-1 ahead of the Grade One Ryanair Chase.
In the end he romped home, finishing 12 lengths clear of nearest challenger Fakir D’oudairies.
The Ryanair success meant Blackmore had now ridden more winners at the 2021 Festival (four), than she had in her previous Cheltenham Festival outings combined (three).
– Mares Novices’ Hurdle
By now, Blackmore appeared unstoppable and she landed her second Thursday winner less than two hours later.
Telmesomethinggirl, trained by de Bromhead, finished with a flourish to oust stablemate Magic Daze, putting daylight between the two in the latter stages.
This meant win number five for Blackmore, who could scarcely believe it herself.
“It's overwhelming, to be honest,” she said.
“Henry's done an unbelievable job with her, he always thought a lot of her and she showed it today.
“She's got speed as well as everything else, she jumped brilliantly everywhere and she settled better than she had done before."
The final day brought one last moment of magic from a week that belonged to one jockey only.
Rachael Blackmore piloted Quilixios in Friday’s opener, the Triumph Hurdle, who was unbeaten in five starts but had just moved from Gordon Elliott’s stable to de Bromhead’s.
The four-year-old was up with the pace from the off and when she asked for effort with two flights left, he responded magnificently to bring Blackmore her sixth triumph of a golden week.
It was a classy display, Quilixios eventually finishing three-and-a-quarter lengths clear of Adagio in second.
It completed a dream week for Blackmore, who was later confirmed as leading jockey for the festival.