How many winners did Rachael Blackmore ride at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival?
Notwithstanding a fractured ankle and hip injury sustained when Merry Poppins fell heavily at Killarney in July, it would be fair to say that 2021 turned into an annus mirabilis for Rachael Blackmore. At the Cheltenham Festival in March, Tipperary-born Blackmore rode six winners, thereby becoming the first woman to win the Ruby Walsh Trophy, which is presented to the leading jockey during the week. Of course, less than a month later, she won the Grand National on Minella Times, thereby becoming the first woman to do so.
Back to the Cheltenham Festival, though; Blackmore opened her account for the week, and made a little more history, when partnering the unbeaten Honeysuckle to an impressive, 6½-length victory in the Champion Hurdle. Two more winners followed on both Wednesday and Thursday, courtesy of Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Sir Gerhard in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Allaho in the Ryanair Chase and Telmesomethinggirl in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Last, but by no means least, Blackmore brought up her sixth win of the week on Quilixios in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Later on the Friday afternoon, Blackmore narrowly missed out on a memorable Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double when A Plus Tard was beaten 1¼ lengths by lesser fancied stable companion Minella Indo. Nevertheless, she described winning the Ruby Walsh Trophy as ‘crazy stuff’, adding, ‘I was hoping I would get one [winner]…’