The Year of Rachael Blackmore: “There’s AP McCoy, Frankie Dettori – and now Rachael”| Latest News Headlines

The Year of Rachael Blackmore: “There’s AP McCoy, Frankie Dettori – and now Rachael”

| Local News | Usa news

Rachael Blackmore arrives at the Cheltenham Conquerors precinct, a home away from home in 2021, beaming sheepishly, and accepts applause and congratulations from an adoring crowd.

They pay homage to the queen of racing, enjoying an all-season season that has made her a star far beyond the limits of what can be a most island sport, shattering ceilings and rewriting the history books at every turn.

Unfortunately, it is not March and it is not the Festival, which took place entirely behind closed doors. Blackmore isn’t even sitting on a horse.

Instead, the impromptu ovation, delivered by some 500 participants at a Jockey Club event in the fall, is the idea of ​​legendary jockey Ruby Walsh.

Broadcaster Ed Chamberlin picks up on the story: “He grabbed the microphone and said, ‘Look, we couldn’t give Rachael a reception in March – let’s give her one now!’

“She was rather embarrassed, but she ran into the winners’ enclosure with her arms in the air and at a man and a woman they yelled their approval.”

Return to the first morning of the Cheltenham Festival, before the Blackmore show began, and crowd or not, the scenes of such joy seemed a distant dream.

The sport was, to put it bluntly, hammering, already faced with embarrassing questions during the previous year’s Festival, one of the last mass events to take place before the first lockdown, when a photo top Irish trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse has appeared on social media and sparked the racing crisis.

“It couldn’t be overstated,” says Kevin Blake, racing expert and journalist. “The atmosphere in Cheltenham this year was incredibly toxic. I have never known anything like it. It was just awful, it was just awful.

“I often refer to ITV viewers as floating voters,” adds Chamberlin. “And it was like we were losing them.”

I said at the time – Rachael had ridden to the rescue of the race

And then Rachael Blackmore happened, single-handedly transforming the narrative and the vibe as she straddled six winners over the four days, including five in freshman company, to become the first woman to complete as a main jockey at Jumps racing’s most prestigious meeting.

“I said at the time that Rachael Blackmore came to the rescue of the race,” recalls Chamberlin. “She just lit up an empty Cheltenham which was a pretty desolate place.”

She did light up the racetrack, but, frankly, the 32-year-old probably could have done what she loved with it – renamed it, remortgage it, installed a jacuzzi in the Royal Box – being given how she owned Prestbury Park that week. .

“She outdid just about everyone,” Blake says. “Dominate the races, put the guys in the pockets at crucial times. It was like watching the first Ruby Walsh in the sense that she was just running things. “

Blackmore celebrates Champions Hurdle success with unbeaten Honeysuckle mare

/ Getty Images

That’s really praise for a jockey who didn’t seem really destined for the top until she got there. The daughter of a farmer and a teacher, Blackmore did not come from a family of runners – mistakenly or bizarre decision to turn pro in 2015.

“They won’t admit it now, but people were laughing at her,” Blake adds. “It’s pretty much unprecedented. Usually, people who have the talent to reach the top will be early and get noticed early. She wasn’t like that at all.

And yet, less than a month after her exploits at Cheltenham, Blackmore had done something even more groundbreaking, pairing Minella Times with Grand National glory and, in doing so, becoming the first woman to win the horse race. the most famous on the planet.

The National is a different kind of Cheltenham, a race that doesn’t represent the absolute pinnacle in terms of equine ability, but goes through like nothing else (except, perhaps, scandal) in the sport.

“You basically have AP McCoy and Frankie Dettori and now Rachael,” says Aidan Coleman, who has known Blackmore for most of her career and was second behind her at Aintree on Balko Des Flos 100/1. “The race is a pretty small bubble in the bigger picture, but it was her, AP and Frankie who really got past it and brought it to a bigger audience.”

Balko Des Flos (left) pursues Minella Times on the last of the National

/ POOL / AFP via Getty Images

Coleman jokes that being the first to congratulate Blackmore is “probably my claim to fame,” modestly, given the big racing wins on his own CV, including this year’s Champion Chase with Put The Kettle On.

This horse, along with the top two at home in the National and Gold Cups, not to mention four of the winners from Blackmore to Cheltenham, have all been trained by Henry de Bromhead, who has had a year almost as historic as the jockey he made the career. helped to reach unimaginable heights.

“He’s just an absolute genius of a trainer,” says Coleman. “He can be very proud of what he has accomplished himself, but he can also be very proud of what he has accomplished by bringing Rachael to where she is. Rachael needed Henry and Henry needed Rachael, and they’ve just been an absolutely amazing partnership.

Speaking to people through the game, there’s a feeling that Blackmore’s humility doesn’t quite allow her to appreciate the magnitude of what she’s done for the sport. You felt that disbelief shortly after the National when she proclaimed, “I can’t believe I’m Rachael Blackmore.”

Chamberlin conducted this interview on ITV and calls it the most enjoyable of his racing career, but it arguably didn’t even produce the most iconic quote of the afternoon because, when asked On the significance of her pioneering triumph as a woman, while still on horseback, Blackmore replied breathlessly: “I don’t feel like a man or a woman right now – I don’t even feel human.”

I suspect it will be a long, long time before I see something like Rachael again

Running is one of the few sports in which male and female athletes compete on an equal footing (at least in the UK and Ireland – in France female jockeys are still given a weight allowance), a USP of which she is justifiably proud. But there’s also a feeling that failing to recognize the challenges the Horsewomen still face might even underestimate Blackmore’s brilliance.

“People are going to frame her because Rachael is a sign that times are changing and there will be others after her to follow suit,” says Blake. “I don’t know if there will be any particularly. She is remarkable.

“I hope I’m wrong because it’s fabulous for the sport, but I wouldn’t underestimate how outlier she is, she really is amazing. I think it will be a long, long time yet before I see something like Rachael Blackmore on Jumps again.

On the dish, Hollie Doyle forged a similar path, watching Blackmore from afar in awe, until the couple’s paths finally crossed for the first time as they shared a weigh-room at Royal Ascot this year. Like everyone else, she found her “quite cool, very relaxed” but, like everyone else, considers her exploits anything but ordinary.

“It’s just mental, what she accomplished,” Doyle says. “It’s not amazing, though, because she’s a fantastic jockey, so it was going to happen, right?” That she did that just broke all the barriers and ended a few conversations, hopefully! “

Getty Images

Like Blackmore, Doyle has spent the past few years breaking records, scoring victories at the biggest meetings, and gaining fans and recognition beyond sport, most notably finishing third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year vote of Last year. She describes the result as “breathtaking”, but says it is vital that the races and their participants, male or female, are recognized by the general public: “I think sometimes the outside world can forget how much the races and how many sport horses there are and how many athlete it takes to be a jockey.

As an Irishwoman, Blackmore is not eligible for the main award, but instead is in contention for the World Sport Star award at Sunday’s ceremony, which, given the names on the shortlist, makes it even more clear the magnitude of its golden year. focus.

“To have Rachael Blackmore among Novak Djokovic, Tom Brady, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Max Verstappen – it’s crazy,” Chamberlin said. “Brilliantly, brilliantly mad.

“They are some of the greatest athletes in history. Tom Brady … Rachael Blackmore. It doesn’t take more than that, that says it all.

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