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Steadily through 2021, the name ‘Rachael Blackmore’ began hitting bigger and bigger headlines. Initially, it was the racing pages that would headline the jockey as having collected numerous wins, but then, she became national, even international news. Through an incredible rise to the top of the racing world, Blackmore quickly amassed a devoted fan base and etched her name into the history of books of the sport’s most prestigious meets.

Just in the last five seasons in Great British jump events, the Tipperary-native has earned over £1.6 million, not to mention the €6.3 million earned in Irish jumps over that spell, too. Now atop the sport with one of the most connected followings in the world, it’s strange to think that Blackmore just wanted to compete at an amateur level while completing her degree in equine science.

A life with the ponies led to veterinary pursuits and track glory

In the south of Ireland, Blackmore grew up on a dairy farm ran by her father, who also bred horses and raised ponies. Age 7-years-old, she got her first, Bubbles, which helped to cultivate a fascination and affection for horses. Though she would regularly ride the ponies and even compete in amateur meets, her initial pursuit was to become a vet. As we detail in the Health & Education section, there are many ways to study horses and horse health, with Blackmore taking the formal route of gaining a degree in equine science.

Throughout her course, she’d continue to compete in amateur races, even to the extent that she graduated in absentia as there was a race on the day of the ceremony. The now-31-year-old’s racing days span back to the early ‘00s, even though she never wanted to become a professional jockey – just wanting to ride horses and compete. In 2004, in a race that’s now scribed as the origins of a modern rivalry, she faced Paul Townend for a pony race in Cork.

Blackmore officially turned professional in 2015, with it taking half a year for her to find her first victory. By her own admission, she wasn’t the kind of standout amateur jockey that would usually transition to the professional ranks. As it turns out, all that was needed was the experience of riding as a pro to ignite a future champion jockey. Throughout her rise to prominence, it’s been stated that Blackmore has a smart racing brain, so she just needed the runs and the horses to back it all up.

Becoming the peoples’ champion

Horse racing is very much the sport of the people as anyone can make the right call to be on the winning side, and over the last year or so, Blackmore has become the undisputed champion of the people. The writing was on the wall for her rise to the top only as recently as 2020, a year in which the late-starting pro jockey would reignite an old rivalry. In the 2020 Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Blackmore would, once again, see Townend across the starting line.

In the year prior, Townend had finished ahead of her in the championship of the meet – being far more seasoned and standing as the first jockey in the prestigious Willie Mullins stable – but Blackmore did manage to ride in her first two Cheltenham winners. Still, this time would be different. Astride Honeysuckle, she pulled a decisive move to slip along the rail while Townend was on the outside, which proved to be pivotal for the victory.

Then came 2021 and her official coronation as the top jockey in National Hunt racing. Astride Honeysuckle, she claimed the Irish Champion Hurdle and then the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. The Cheltenham Festival was huge for Blackmore, and not just for becoming the first woman to with the prestigious Champion Hurdle. She also beamed to the Ruby Walsh Trophy as the leading jockey with six winners, becoming the first woman to achieve that feat, too. All of this was more than enough to win over horse racing fans and the general public.

There isn’t one single other sport that is so inherently tied to betting, and as anyone can’t simply play their way into the sport as they can football or cricket, horse racing draws a deep connection to viewers. It’s why it’s easily one of the two most popular sports to bet on in the UK, with SBO showing that their top-rated sites offer deep markets and a vast range of betting options for almost every race in the world. So, when Blackmore rose to prominence, fans were not just happy to see her win, but their support was rewarded by the winning bets.

After Cheltenham, often seen as a strong precursor to Aintree, Blackmore arrived at the most challenging jump race in the world with an army of backers. Atop Minella Times, she flew up the odds tables on race day, closing in on the favoured Cloth Cap, Any Second Now, and Burrows Saint as the wagers came in for the 11/1 runner. In another historic feat, Blackmore won the Grand National to become the first female jockey ever to do so, making front-page news and firmly winning over both casual and hardened followers of the sport.

When jump season comes around, all eyes will be on the history-making Rachael Blackmore. So, it’d be worth taking note of what she said in an interview with Zoe Smith for Careers in Racing. When asked for a horse to look out for, Blackmore named Bob Olinger, who she rode to first in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle this year, too – perhaps her emphatic rise to the top will continue with Bob Olinger next year.

There are more interesting articles in our section on Horse Racing.

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