When did Rachael Blackmore ride her first winner at the Cheltenham Festival?
It would be fair to say Tipperary-born Rachael Blackmore enjoyed an ‘annus mirabilis’ in 2021. At the Cheltenham Festival in March, she made history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle, on Honeysuckle, and capped a stellar week by becoming the first to win the leading jockey award. The following month, she achieved another notable first when partnering Minella Times to a 6½-length victory in the Grand National at Aintree. A fracture ankle and hip injury, sustained at in a fall at Killarney in July, took the shine off an otherwise remarkable year, but served as a timely reminder of the dangers National Hunt jockeys face every day.
Blackmore did not turn professional until 2015, but became Irish champion conditional jockey in 2016/17. She subsequently joined forces with Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead and, thus, began a meteoric rise that would take her right to the top of her profession. She rode her first Cheltenham Festival winner, A Plus Tard, in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap in 2019 and her second, Minella Indo, in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle three days later. Ironically, two years later, it was Minella Indo who prevented Blackmore from becoming the first female jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, staying on gamely to beat A Plus Tard by 1¼ lengths.