What a Year! How Rachael Blackmore Has Changed the Future for Female Jockeys in 2021
The likes of Julie Krone and Donna Barton Brothers have blazed a trail for female jockeys in horse racing Stateside. But for riders in the rest of the world, there is still a glass ceiling to be smashed in a male-dominated sport.
However, that dynamic could be changing in the UK and Ireland, at least, and the person largely responsible is Rachael Blackmore. It’s been an extraordinary year for the 31-year-old, who has not only flown the flag for women in racing but has also surely inspired future generations of female jockeys too.
Blackmore has been a dominant force in UK and Irish racing. Winning the champion jockey crown at the Cheltenham Festival – the first female to achieve this – was followed by a win in one of the most prestigious races on the calendar, the Grand National, just weeks later. The worldwide press coverage has been remarkable and shows that Blackmore can lead horse racing into a brave new world where jockeys are judged on their skills in the saddle – not by their gender.
Blackmore has admitted that her newfound fame is still taking some getting used to, and recalled one story to the Irish press in which she knew things would never be the same. “I was in the bank the other day, a bank I wouldn't use normally,” she recounted. “The woman behind the counter didn't need any ID from me when I'd always be asked. I still find it very strange.”
Given the brilliance she has shown at such high-profile events in 2021 so far, Blackmore might just have to get used to the attention.
Going for Gold
The Cheltenham Festival is, by some margin, the most respected horse racing meeting on UK soil. The March extravaganza brings together the best horses from the UK, Ireland, and further afield to battle it out for some of the richest prize money available on the National Hunt calendar. To win one race at the Festival is some going, but to claim six over the course of the four days? That is extraordinary, but then Blackmore is no ordinary jockey.
She became the first female in history to win the Champion Hurdle, achieved in some style aboard one of her favorite horses in Honeysuckle. Blackmore also went on to claim glory in the Ryanair Chase, the Triumph Hurdle, and the Champion Bumper in a week in which she well and truly ended the gender divide in British racing.
The Irishwoman, and her connections, will be hoping for more of the same in 2022. There’s absolutely no reason why Blackmore can’t repeat the feat given that a number of her regular rides are favorites in their respective Cheltenham Festival and ante-post horse racing betting markets.
Sir Gerhard and Honeysuckle are the market fancies in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Champion Hurdle respectively, while a repeat of her Ryanair Chase heroics aboard Allaho is also a distinct possibility.
How about this for a shot at history – no female jockey has ever won the meeting’s flagship race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Blackmore could get a shot at the big one with A Plus Tard, who she guided to second place in the race in 2021. It would be typically Blackmore to smash the last glass ceiling left for female jockeys in UK racing - and we wish her the very best of luck!