Recently described by Conor O’Neill, Chairman of the Association of Irish Racecourses, as a ‘fantastic ambassador’ for National Hunt racing, jockey Rachael Blackmore is probably best known as the first woman to ride the winner of the Grand National. On April 10, 2021, she partnered Minella Times, trained by Henry de Bromhead, to a 6½-length victory over stable companion Balko Des Flos in the celebrated steeplechase. Reflecting on her groundbreaking success, Blackmore said, ‘I don’t feel male or female – I don’t feel human.’
Even before the Grand National, Blackmore and de Bromhead were already enjoying what the Racing Post described as a ‘season of wonder’ in 2020/21. At the Cheltenham Festival, Blackmore rode six winners, including Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, to become the first woman in history to win the Ruby Walsh Trophy, presented to the leading rider for the week. Back at the Festival in 2022, Blackmore rode three more winners, including Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle again, but stole the headlines again by becoming the first woman to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After riding 3/1 favourite A Plus Tard to a 15-length victory over defending champion, and stable companion, Minella Indo, she said, ‘You can never dream too big because this is something I never thought would be possible.’
A graduate of the University of Limerick, Blackmore rode her first winner, Stowaway Pearl, trained by John Joseph ‘Shark’ Hanlon, at Thurles in February, 2011, as a 20-year-old amateur. She turned professional in 2015 and, in 2017, became the first woman to win the Irish Conditional Jockeys’ Championship. That summer, she began a partnership with Henry de Bromhead, whom she described as a ‘game-changer’ as far as her riding career was concerned, and has never looked back.