Rachael Blackmore has no intention of revelling in past glories ahead of her return to the Cheltenham Festival.
By anyone’s standards, it has been quite the 12 months for the 32-year-old.
Heading to Prestbury Park last year she looked to have a strong book of rides, and boy did she deliver – lighting up a Festival that had to be run behind closed doors due to Covid-19.
Not only did Blackmore become the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle aboard the brilliant mare Honeysuckle, but she was also crowned the Festival’s leading rider with six winners.
The following month her global profile reached stratospheric heights after steering Minella Times to a historic Grand National success.
Almost a year on, while Blackmore – who was voted BBC World Sport Star in December – reflects on her achievements with fond memories, she is keen to write the next chapter in a remarkable story by enjoying further success in the Cotswolds.
She said: “We’re already talking about Cheltenham and Aintree this year, so what happened last year seems to be fading a bit now. It’s probably something that will sink in when you’ve got grey hair and you can enjoy what happened.
“I suppose when I came home (from Aintree) and I was driving through my home town of Killenaule and I could see posters in the windows of people’s homes with my face on them, it really resonated then what my personal achievements meant to the people where I’m from.
“But it’s a constant, revolving wheel and as a jockey you’re looking forward. It’s always ‘what’s next?’. That’s the way you’re looking as a jockey.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Cheltenham. As it gets a bit closer, you just can’t wait for things to kick off on the Tuesday.
“The expectation is there, but I know how hard it is to get winners in Cheltenham and I’m going there with the same mindset I do every year – you’re just hoping to ride one winner.
“I try not to get too wrapped up in what horses I’ll be riding. Obviously it’s massive, but you just want to go over there, get one winner and whatever happens after that happens.”
Blackmore’s book of rides will once again be led by Honeysuckle, who will be a red-hot favourite to successfully defend her Champion Hurdle crown.
Now unbeaten in 14 starts after winning her third Hatton’s Grace and her third Irish Champion Hurdle already this season, her regular rider has the utmost faith in her beloved partner.
“To win a Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle was such a pinnacle for me. That was absolutely massive,” said Blackmore.
“It’s a great help when something like that happens on the Tuesday as it takes a bit of pressure off for the rest of the week. We’ll be trying our best to do it again.
“Honeysuckle has never let me down to this day, so I can’t see why this year will be any different.”
Another returning Festival hero Blackmore is relishing the prospect of being aboard once more is Honeysuckle’s stablemate Bob Olinger, who destroyed his rivals in last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
The seven-year-old has not been as impressive in two stars over fences to date, but Blackmore is expecting a bold showing on his return to Prestbury Park in the Turners Novices’ Chase, where he is set to meet the exciting Galopin Des Champs.
She said: “I’ve been extremely happy with him. I think his jumping is improving the whole time, he’s a horse with a serious engine and one I’m very lucky to ride.
“It was an incredible feeling riding him last year. There’s not too many out there with an engine like him.”
One of the few things Blackmore got wrong at Cheltenham 2021 was picking the wrong one in the Gold Cup, siding with runner-up A Plus Tard over his winning stablemate Minella Indo.
Both horses are in the mix once more, with Blackmore hoping A Plus Tard can reverse the form.
“The Gold Cup is obviously a race that I got wrong last year. Hopefully we can amend that,” she said.
“I’m in a very lucky position – I’ve got some very nice horses to ride. I’m just really looking forward to getting over there and getting cracking.
“It doesn’t matter what race you’re in, you’re a very lucky person if you get to walk into the winner’s enclosure in Cheltenham.
“I’ve had so many people that have helped me along the way and where I’m at now is not a position I ever thought I’d be in my career. I feel extremely lucky.”