The Cheltenham Festival was another huge week in the career of jockey Rachael Blackmore. She had three victories at the meeting, with the pick of her success coming on A Plus Tard in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Blackmore will be hoping she continues her hot run at the major meetings in the UK when she returns for the Grand National at Aintree. She became the first female rider to win that race in 2021 when Minella Times prevailed by just over six lengths.
The Gold Cup heroine is expected to partner Minella Times again in the marathon contest at Aintree in Liverpool. The nine-year-old horse is +1600 in the Grand National betting. He is 15lb higher in the weights this year, so it is going to be a tougher challenge for the defending champion.
Given she was successful in the Champion Hurdle and Turners’ Novices’ Chase, as well as the Blue Riband event in the sport, Blackmore should be full of confidence at Aintree. She has proven on numerous occasions that she can handle the big occasion.
Experience Over Bigger Fences
This year’s race will be Blackmore’s fourth appearance in the Grand National. She made her debut in 2018 onboard Alpha Des Obeaux. The horse was traveling well in the contest before coming down at the Chair.
Blackmore returned to Merseyside 12 months later hoping for more luck with Valseur Lido. She was able to complete the course on that occasion, as her tired horse came home in 10th place when Tiger Roll defended his title.
When he lined up in the Grand National for the third time in 2021, the Irish jockey knew what to expect in the race. She resisted the temptation of going off too fast with Minella Times. He was tucked away in midfield, and only started making headway from the 19th fence.
Blackmore held on to her runner for as long as possible. She hit the front when they turned for home. It was a well-timed attack for the finish line from the 2021 Ruby Walsh Trophy winner.
What’s Left to Achieve in Racing for Blackmore?
Although she has been victorious in many of the leading races in National Hunt racing, there are still some goals Blackmore will have. One of them will be to be the Champion Jockey in Ireland.
No female jockey has ever captured that title. It looks as though Blackmore is going to fall short this season as Paul Townend is on course for his fourth consecutive crown. She finished second to Townend in 2021, just nine winners behind the eventual champion.
Blackmore will believe a first Jockeys’ Championship is not far away. She may need to reach 100 winners for the first time to get there, but she will feel she can get to that milestone. She is supported by a strong stable in Henry De Bromhead. It is also likely she will pick up a lot more spare rides next season, given how well she is performing in major races.
Before she thinks about the 2022/23 campaign, there is a lot still to play for this season for Blackmore. Her year could be set to get even better with the Grand National and Punchestown Festival on the horizon.
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