It’s not just rhetoric to suggest that female jockeys still have to overcome sexism – be it overt or implied – in horse racing, with the likes of Bryony Frost confirming that there is still something of a ceiling in place for women in the sport.
Frost has been garnering plenty of column inches for her exploits in the sport – particularly her heart-warming connection with the former Cheltenham Festival winner Frodon, while Hollie Doyle showed just how prominent racing is in the public’s consciousness by finishing third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year contest in 2020.
Other female jockeys go more quietly about their work, and one trailblazer is looking to add to her ever-impressive haul of wins in 2021.
Rachael Blackmore now has eleven Grade One victories to her name, and while a large swathe of those have come in her native Ireland she has also shown a knack for delivering winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
Back in 2019 she celebrated double success, landing the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase on A Plus Tard and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ aboard the 50/1 shot Minella Indo.
And a year later she was back in the saddle at the Festival and back in the winners’ enclosure, guiding Honeysuckle to victory in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle. A list of Rachael Blackmore’s Grade 1 successes to date is shown below.
|1||15/3/19||Minella Indo||Albert Bartlett Nov’ Hurdle||Cheltenham||50/1|
|2||21/4/19||Honeysuckle||Mares Novice Hurdle||Fairyhouse||6/4|
|3||1/5/19||Minella Indo||Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle||Punchestown||5/1|
|4||1/12/19||Honeysuckle||Hatton’s Grace Hurdle||Fairyhouse||9/10|
|5||26/12/19||Notebook||Racing Post Novice Chase||Leopardstown||7/1|
|6||27/12/19||A Plus Tard||Paddy Power Chase||Leopardstown||4/1|
|7||1/2/20||Notebook||Arkle Novice Chase||Leopardstown||5/4|
|8||1/2/20||Honeysuckle||Irish Champion Hurdle||Leopardstown||8/11|
|10||29/11/20||Honeysuckle||Hatton’s Grace Hurdle||Fairyhouse||4/11|
|11||13/1/21||Bob Olinger||Lawlor’s Of Nass Hurdle||Naas||6/4|
The 32-year-old will be back with A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup in March, where he is currently a 10/1 chance to help Blackmore become the first ever female winner of the Festival showpiece, while Honeysuckle will go off as favourite to retain her honour in the Mares’ Hurdle once again.
But it’s another horse – Bob Olinger – that could offer Blackmore’s best chance of adding to her glorious reign at Cheltenham.
Bob Proves His Worth
A highly regarded member of the Henry de Bromhead team, Bob Olinger has only shown occasional glimpses of his true self in competitive racing thus far.
But the six-year-old timed his run to perfection in the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle on Wednesday, clinching his own maiden Grade One triumph and the eleventh of Blackmore’s increasingly outstanding career.
It was notable too that the quicker the action unfolded the better that the horse travelled, and a sublime jump at the last swept Bob Olinger to the most eye-catching of victories less than eight weeks until the Cheltenham Festival gets underway.
Punters, always eagle eyed at this juncture of the campaign, have not slept on De Bromhead’s young fancy, and he has already been backed into 5/1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and 12/1 for the Albert Bartlett – both of which he is declared for.
“He’s always shown us a lot at home, and I think today was the stamp of the kind of horse he is for the future,” Blackmore remarked afterwards.
De Bromhead’s assistant David Roche was even more effusive in his praise.
“He’s brilliant, a proper horse,” he said.
“No matter what tactics they try, they can go quick or slow, he just hacks away and the quicker they went the better his jumping was.”
Bravemansgame is the current 9/2 favourite for the Ballymore, while Stattler is expected to go off as the market’s choice in the Albert Bartlett.