Rachael Blackmore: if you had told me I'd be top in July I'd have laughed
Rachael Blackmore, who is setting the pace in an unlikely quest to become the first female champion jump jockey, could not be more excited about the forthcoming festivals at Killarney and Galway as she looks to build on her lead.
Victory on Supreme Vinnie in the Galway Plate Trial at Limerick on Sunday brought Blackmore’s impressive tally to 18 for the season, and a double at Roscommon on Tuesday evening stretched her lead to six over Danny Mullins and Sean Flanagan at the top of the table.
The rider, who turns 29 on Wednesday and only became a professional in the spring of 2015, is now being compared to Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh, but she feels such talk is premature – just like suggestions she can win the championship.
"It is the last thing on my mind, I promise you," said Blackmore about her title aspirations.
"Realistically I have no chance but if you had told me at the start of the season I would be top of the table in July with 20 winners I'd have laughed at you and said I had no chance of doing that either.
"The season so far has been incredible. I've got so much support from so many different trainers. I've been so, so lucky. You need so much luck in this game. I started riding a few for Henry [de Bromhead] and his horses just took off. He hit a hot streak and his horses were unstoppable, so to get on a few of those really helped me."
For so long Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh flew the female flag in Irish racing but that pair retired in tandem at the Punchestown festival in the spring so there was a niche in the market for another female rider to start hogging headlines. Up stepped Blackmore right on cue.
She said: "Nina and Katie were amazing to me when they were riding. There were so talented and so professional and you have no idea how much I looked up to them. I miss them so much around the weighing room. It is not the same without them.
"To be mentioned in the same breath as either of them is very premature, though. Their achievements were phenomenal. They both won Irish Grand Nationals and had winners at Cheltenham so I have an awful long way to go before I get near their level. It is nice to hear people compare me to them, though."
Blackmore has ridden for 40 different trainers this season and she is hoping they will all continue to support her as she attempts to better last season's total of 34 winners.
She said: "I'm really looking forward to Killarney and Galway, they are both fantastic summer festivals. Hopefully trainers will continue to support me and I will have a nice few rides at both of them, but I won’t be counting my chickens.
"I remember what it was like when I had one ride a week. You might ride a horse on a Sunday and be disgusted with yourself for doing something wrong and you'd have to wait until the following Sunday or even longer for your next ride to try to put things right.
"I never thought it would get to the stage where I'd have a couple of rides at each meeting. I will never take that for granted. I feel very, very lucky and long may it continue. I'm not thinking too far into the distance and I'm living in the here and now."
FIVE OF THE BEST
Dawn Shadow Listed Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle, Punchestown, 2018
Dot Love's assistant trainer Ciaran Murphy always preached that Blackmore got the best out of Dawn Shadow and so it proved in this Listed contest on the fourth day of the Punchestown festival. Always prominent, she kicked for home off the final bend and held on bravely to beat Creation by a length.
Meri Devie Ballymore Handicap Hurdle, Punchestown, 2018
Big winners for Willie Mullins are crucial to Blackmore's career and she was seen to good effect on Meri Devie, landing this €100,000 contest with a typically cool ride. She was always in the right place at the right time
Blow By Blow Grade 3 Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle, Thurles, 2018
Blow By Blow had been completely out of sorts before Blackmore got her hands on him. This was her first Graded win and prompted Gordon Elliott to say: "She's the first one to get a tune out of him this season." Blow By Blow went on to land the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle at Cheltenham."
Ballyegan Hero Galway Shopping Centre Handicap Hurdle, Galway, 2018
"Rachael gave him a cracking ride, I thought he was beaten," said winning trainer John Joe Walsh after Blackmore somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the Saturday feature of Galway's summer festival. The winning distance was a nose over Mine Now.
Abolitionist Leinster National, Naas, 2017
Nationals are precious for jump jockeys and Blackmore bagged her first one on the Ellmarie Holden-trained Abolitionist, with whom she has developed a terrific relationship.
'I used to hear her coming with the exhaust pipe hitting the ground, now she sneaks in silently in a BMW'
Denise O'Shea was one of the first to spot Rachael Blackmore's talents. She booked her to ride Oisin James in a handicap hurdle at Limerick's Christmas festival in 2015 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Only third that day, Oisin James went on to win three times under Blackmore and O'Shea snapped up her services for the prolific Supreme Vinnie, who registered his sixth success with Blackmore in the Galway Plate Trial at Limerick on Sunday.
"She is something else, she's amazing," says O'Shea. "She has a great racing brain and she always has her homework done before she comes into the ring to talk to owners. Even when she was a 7lb claimer I never regarded her as a claimer. She was so much better than that.
"She's not changed one bit since she's become successful. She's still the same Rachael I've always known and loved. She has a terrific work ethic and she's a huge asset to me. The sky is the limit for her now. Who know's how far she can go.
"I remember when she first started coming to the yard, you would hear her coming from a mile away as there was something hanging down from the exhaust in her old car. Now she sneaks in silently in a brand new BMW. How times have changed!
"I'm delighted for her, though, it could not have happened to a nicer and more talented person."
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