There can be no doubt as to who the star of the Cheltenham Festival 2021 has been.
Of all the narratives and all the highlights, it’s Rachael Blackmore’s incredible winning streak that has captures the hearts and the headlines at a meeting like no other.
Her six victories have swept her to the champion jockey trophy, and confirmed the assertions of both Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh who told ITV Racing that she was the best jockey on the planet right now.
It’s not that long ago that female jockeys were winning Grade 1 races for the first time, but now Blackmore has well and truly broken through in a stellar week for the Irish.
“How would I describe this week? Out of this world,” the 31-year-old said as she tried to take in the enormity of her achievement.
“It’s incredible. I’m very grateful to be getting these opportunities.”
Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. Blackmore has been entrusted with some big rides this week, but her stellar record at Prestbury Park – she was already a three-time Festival winner prior to 2021 – convinced the likes of Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead to give her the nod.
Now, they’ll be plenty glad they did….
Blackmore’s Super Six
|Tuesday||Champion Hurdle||Honeysuckle||Henry de Bromhead||11/10|
|Wednesday||Ballymore Novices Hurdle||Bob Olinger||Henry de Bromhead||6/4|
|Wednesday||Champion Bumper||Sir Gerhard||Willie Mullins||85/40|
|Thursday||Ryanair Chase||Allaho||Willie Mullins||3/1|
|Thursday||Mares’ Novices Hurdle||Telmesomethinggirl||Henry de Bromhead||5/1|
|Friday||Triumph Hurdle||Quilixios||Henry de Bromhead||2/1|
The Cheltenham Festival got off to a fairly slow start for Blackmore, believe it or not, as she struggled to make inroads into the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle.
But her first genuinely live chance came in the Champion Hurdle aboard her beloved Honeysuckle, and this pair – who had won the Mares’ Hurdle a year prior – showed their Festival chops once more in a flawless run. The fancied Epatante and Goshen could not get near the seven-year-old, and Blackmore was up and running.
Honeysuckle cruises to the Unibet Champion Hurdle
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 16, 2021
Wednesday was where the Irishwoman once again confirmed her elite-level credentials. She opened her account for the day aboard Bob Olinger, a rangy sort who looks to have a very bright future. With Blackmore steering the ship, they combined for a comfy seven-length victory.
Painful falls in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the Cross Country Chase did not diminish her enthusiasm, and after dusting herself down she climbed aboard the impressive Sir Gerhard to take the spoils in the Champion Bumper.
One of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival this year has to be the run of Allaho in the Ryanair Chase. On paper this looked to be a close, high quality renewal, but once gain Blackmore timed her mount’s charge up the famous hill to perfection, and the horse that promises so much truly delivered a sumptuous 3/1 winner for his backers.
Another Grade 1 success for @Rachaelblackmor!
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 18, 2021
Winner number five came in the Dawn Run Novices’ Hurdle as Blackmore picked her way through a crowded field aboard Telmesomethinggirl, and at that point late on Thursday it seemed inevitable that the likeable Irishwoman would be going home with the prestigious champion jockey’s trophy.
Confirmation of that came with victory in the Triumph Hurdle on Friday with Quilixios, and while the crowning glory of the Gold Cup was not forthcoming this was a week that Blackmore, and those have backed her horses, will never forget.