Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore will reflect on 2021 as being a huge year in her career and one in which she made history in the sport. Major wins over the last 12 months for the female rider include the Grand National, Champion Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle.
Blackmore is the favourite to be named the RTE Sports Person of the Year in 2021. If successful, she will replicate Katie Taylor, who won the award 12 months ago when she beat numerous male sports stars from Ireland.
There could also be prizes for Blackmore in the UK, as she has been tipped to win the World Sport Star of the Year at the 2021 BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. She is up against Tom Brady, Max Verstappen and Novak Djokovic in that category.
More wins could follow for Blackmore this season as she is likely to be riding the 3/1 favourite in the betting on horse racing for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. She finished second in that race earlier this year.
A Plus Tard has been one of the racing tips for the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup ever since he won the Betfair Chase at Haydock with Blackmore on board back in November. The Irish rider is likely to have the option to decide which horse she rides in that race. Her trainer Henry De Bromhead has the top two in the betting, with defending champion Minella Indo also set to return to Cheltenham.
The highlight of the year for Blackmore was her success in the Grand National at Aintree. She became the first woman to win the world’s most famous steeplechase when she partnered with Minella Times to victory at the Merseyside racecourse.
Prior to her win in the race, the best position a female jockey had achieved in the Grand National was third when Katie Walsh partnered with Seabass in 2002. This win could inspire a whole new generation of female jockeys to take up the sport.
Blackmore was fearless over the bigger fences onboard Minella Times and justified going off as the 11/1 favourite. She could keep her horse away from trouble and timed her challenge to the front of the field to perfection.
Dominant Week at Cheltenham Festival
Blackmore also had an incredible week at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021, the biggest meeting of the year in National Hunt racing. She prevailed in six races, including the Champion Hurdle. The Irish rider finished the week as the leading jockey, taking home the Rugby Walsh Trophy.
On day one of the meeting, the 32-year-old won the Champion Hurdle with the talented mare Honeysuckle. The pair blow the field away by just over six lengths in the feature race of the day.
The Ryanair Chase was another notable race in which Blackmore was victorious at the Festival with Allaho. It was a brave ride from the Irish jockey, as she set a strong pace with her horse, but it proved to be a good tactic.
Other wins during the week included the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, Champion Bumper, Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Triumph Hurdle.
Blackmore is now considered to be one of the best jockeys in the UK and Ireland. It may not be long before she becomes Champion Jockey in Ireland.