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Gold-en girl Blackmore left ‘feeling like a rock star’

When it comes to rewriting the record books, Rachael Blackmore has few peers.

The 32-year-old has long since established herself as one of National Hunt racing’s leading jockeys. But her achievements in the past 12 months have taken her profile to stratospheric levels.

Blackmore lit up a 2021 Festival that had to be held behind closed doors – becoming the first woman to win the Champion Hurdle with victory aboard Honeysuckle and booting home six winners overall to see her crowned the meeting’s leading rider, another first.

Just a few short weeks later she received global acclaim after steering Minella Times to a history-making success in the Grand National at Aintree.

And now she has the Gold Cup to add to her rapidly growing collection after her faith in last year’s runner-up A Plus Tard was justified in sensational style.

No match for Minella Indo a year ago, A Plus Tard turned the tables and then some – benefitting from the coolest of cool rides as he tracked his stablemate to the final fence before sprinting up the hill for a whopping 15-length verdict.

“I’m so lucky,” said a typically modest Blackmore afterwards.

“I can’t believe it’s not even 12 months since the Grand National happened.

“Honeysuckle this week has won another Champion Hurdle and now this. I wish I had better English to describe how I feel, to be honest. It’s very overwhelming.”

Rachael Blackmore returns victorious aboard A Plus Tard
Rachael Blackmore returns victorious aboard A Plus Tard (Mike Egerton/PA)

There was never any question Blackmore would switch sides for this year’s Gold Cup.

While many observers felt A Plus Tard was simply outstayed by Minella Indo last season, Blackmore took the view she was partly to blame. And boy did she set the record straight.

She added: “I was happy that I’d rather get beaten for something different than be in the same position as I was last year, as that definitely didn’t work.

“He felt very happy throughout the race this year. He jumped fantastically and I was kind of able to take him back a little bit everywhere.

“He was good over the last two and picked up incredibly after the last. It’s an incredible feeling at the back of the last in Cheltenham when they take off like he did.

“I was never worried about A Plus Tard’s stamina. I was just conscious not to use up his speed like I did last year. His stamina wasn’t a worry, the ride I was going to give him was the worry!”

Just as she did aboard defending champion Honeysuckle earlier in the week, Blackmore returned to the winner’s enclosure and a wall of noise, with just a brief raising of her gloves sending the gathered masses into raptures.

“Cheltenham is such a special place, but it’s so special because of the atmosphere and the people,” Blackmore continued.

“To get them all back and walk back in when you can’t see any space and just see bodies, it’s the closest thing you can feel to feeling like a rock star without being able to sing!

“The Gold Cup is what the whole week is building up for. When I turned professional, my ambition in doing that was to ride out my 7lb claim. I could never see myself doing that as an amateur.

“I suppose things have escalated dramatically from that!”

No words needed for this picture!
No words needed for this picture! (David Davies/PA)

A particularly proud onlooker was Blackmore’s father, Charles.

“This is a moment of a lifetime to be here and watch her win this,” he said.

“To have all the family here, apart from Eimir (Blackmore’s mother), who was holding the fort at home, is just incredible.

“I can’t quite believe what she has done over the last 12 months. She is such a kind person. She speaks to everyone and gives everyone a bit of her time, but she also knows when to draw the line. I don’t know how she does it but she is able to balance riding the horse, deal with owners and trainers and the press. She gets a balance that doesn’t upset anyone which is a hard thing to achieve.

“She was always determined when growing up. She will be in Thurles tomorrow and that is what she will be focussing on as that is the way her mind works.”

Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead
Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead (Steven Paston/PA)

With Blackmore understandably the centre of attention, De Bromhead was more than happy to take a back seat.

His achievement in the saddling the first two home in jumps racing’s most prestigious race two seasons in a row, however, should not be underestimated, especially at the climax of a campaign which has had its ups and downs for the County Waterford maestro.

“This is just mental – incredible stuff,” he said.

“It definitely feels different this year with the crowds. Standing here looking at the stands, it’s unbelievable. This is what it’s all about.

“It was amazing to win it last year, but it’s triple amazing this year with all the people here.

“For them to get the roar this year – Rachael, the horses. It was amazing to win it last year, but with the crowd here it’s just a different league.

“I’d love to let myself enjoy it more.”

Of Blackmore, he added: “She’s extremely professional and works extremely hard. If a mistake is made, she learns from it and corrects it.

“She’s just a pleasure to work with, a great person and a brilliant rider. She’s got a huge amount of ability as well, obviously.

“Horses want to run for her. The other day she was schooling Honeysuckle in the field and she jumped great and even before she went to pull up she was patting her down the neck. She’s a real horsewoman.”

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