Rachael Blackmore’s historic Grand National victory has made her a superstar who can transcend the sport

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Rachael Blackmore paused for a moment as she considered the question posed by ITV’s Gabriel Clarke. It was during an interview that aired on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival in 2020.

“Do you want to be a star?” Clarke asked.

Blackmore replied with a faint smile, “What’s a star? Beyoncé is a star to me. ‘

It was a nice line that deftly turned the conversation away from itself. She’s humble, humble, and those who know her will tell you that she’s still the same jockey – and, crucially, the same person – whose first success came on February 10, 2011, aboard Stowaway Pearl at Thurles.

Humble and humble, Rachael Blackmore is now a superstar pioneer of horse racing

Humble and humble, Rachael Blackmore is now a superstar pioneer of horse racing

Her iconic position as the first female Grand National winner allows her to transcend the sport

Her iconic position as the first female Grand National winner allows her to transcend the sport

Her iconic position as the first female Grand National winner allows her to transcend the sport

Adulation may not be easy, but this 31-year-old from Tipperary has not broken barriers so much as smashed them to pieces with her genius.

There is always a knot in the stomach on Grand National morning, the fear that disaster will unfold and those who loathe the spectacle will provide ammunition to defeat it. We cannot hide from the fact that one horse – The Long Mile – did not return and two jockeys (Harry Cobden and Bryony Frost) ended up in the hospital.

But Blackmore’s historic ride has given this great race – and sport as a whole – the kind of positive exposure no marketing campaign could evoke. She is a pioneer, someone with the rare ability to push boundaries and get outside people enthusiastic and interested.

None of these compliments are exaggerated. When Blackmore gave that interview to Clarke, she had already won two races at the Cheltenham Festival (A Plus Tard and Minella Indo in 2019), but the feeling was that her big moment was just around the corner.

She proved it that opening day when she gave the flamboyant Honeysuckle a flawless ride in the Mares Hurdle. She was strong and tactically brilliant at beating hot favorite Vroum Vroum Mag in that Grade One match.

However, when she returned to Prestbury Park last month, she treated us to an exhibition of an athlete in their prime.

Blackmore hates the idea of ​​discussions with her going down the path of ‘what is it like to be a woman in a man’s world’, but it was impossible not to casually refer to that theme because her exploits were as extraordinary as that of Cheltenham. leading rider.

No pilot has ridden that course more elegantly or successfully than Ruby Walsh, and the biggest compliment you could give the stylish Blackmore was to compare it to her old weigh room colleague.

Yesterday it was the same at Aintree. You could see her, perfectly positioned just outside the railing, quietly in her saddle, ducking, making Minella Times – the horse that would enter her history books – found its way and got into a rhythm.

This was all she ever dreamed of. When she got her first pony, a little steed called Bubbles, Blackmore was inspired by the Grand National; she let her parents ride with her all over Ireland to compete in small races in the hope that one day she could actually do it.

Blackmore had been dreaming of the Grand National ever since she got her first pony, a steed called Bubbles

Blackmore had been dreaming of the Grand National ever since she got her first pony, a steed called Bubbles

Blackmore had been dreaming of the Grand National ever since she got her first pony, a steed called Bubbles

On the second track, your gaze was drawn to her, in that famous green and gold JP McManus silk, as she sat motionless, giving Minella Times confidence and unrelenting momentum. When she hit the front, there was a glorious inevitability as to what would happen.

“I just think I’m so lucky,” she said in those immediate breathless moments after getting up. “I never thought it could happen.”

We have to dispute that statement. It may be Blackmore’s way of being guarded, but there was nothing luck about the winning ride, just like there was nothing luck about a career that exploded like a gunfight.

A graduate of the University of Limerick in Equine Science, Blackmore has gotten to where she has come through hard work and talent.

There has been a willingness to go the extra mile, the ability to gain the trust of trainers and owners and it all blossoms wonderfully. “It’s unreal,” said AP McCoy, the most successful rider of all.

“We will continue to praise her and what she has done. She gives hope to any young girl who wants to be a jockey. She is the queen of Aintree. ‘

When winning at Cheltenham, Blackmore was on par with the legendary Ruby Walsh in terms of driving

When winning at Cheltenham, Blackmore was on par with the legendary Ruby Walsh in terms of driving

When winning at Cheltenham, Blackmore was on par with the legendary Ruby Walsh in terms of driving

Henry de Bromhead, the Minella Times trainer, added: ‘Aren’t we so lucky to have her? They broke the mold with her. ‘

They did. Sometimes it can be hard to appreciate the weight of sporting excellence when you live through it, but we have to stop and acknowledge what Rachael Blackmore accomplished at Aintree on a day when the absence of a crowd has never been felt so strongly.

She would have been applauded to the brim when she returned to that famous winner’s abode, locals would have been 10-deep to let Blackmore know exactly how they felt about her in a day that will never be forgotten.

Does she want to be a star? There is no longer an option. Going back to that question from 13 months ago … if Blackmore doesn’t know the answer, there’s an easy way to find it. All she has to do is look in the mirror.