Welcome to a new post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. After the incredible few days racing at Aintree last week, I thought it was only fitting this evening that I looked into the first female jockey to ever win the Grand National and that is of course Rachael Blackmore. I was lucky enough to interview Rachael at the beginning of the year which you can read in full right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/23/an-interview-with-rachael-blackmore/. We spoke about all things racing including interestingly how her partnership with Grand National winning trainer Henry De Bromhead materialised. However, today’s post is all about Rachael’s career this far. She has started breaking records within the sport and proving that females can compete in an even field with the men and personally, I think that is so important for young girls who may want to get into the sport. So without further ado, shall we just jump straight in? Before we start, this post was written on April 10th and 11th 2021 therefore does NOT include Rachael’s rides at Fairyhouse on the 13th of April 2021.
Rachael Blackmore was born on the 11th of July 1989 in Killenaule, County Tipperary in Ireland, making her currently 31 years old. Rachael’s first ride came on the 28th of January 2010 where she competed in the DBS/EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Commonly known as a bumper) at Ffos Las on board Pilsudski Rose for trainer A J Kennedy where unfortunately they only managed an 11th place at 66/1. It was actually a whole 13 months before Rachael managed to find her first winner, which came on the 10th of February 2011 when she rode Stowaway Pearl to victory at Thurles at 10/1 for trainer John Hanlon in the Tipperary Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle as an amateur jockey.
Just over 4 years later in March 2015, Rachael turned professional and on September 3rd of the same year, she rode her first winner as a professional when she won on the 11/2 shot Most Honourable in the Woodrooff Handicap Hurdle at Clonmel, again for John Hanlon.
Just 2 years later on March 12 2017, Rachael won her first ‘big’ race when she won the Download The Ladbrokes Exchange App Leinster National Handicap Chase (Grade A) at Naas on Abolitionist, a 12/1 shot for Ellmarie Holden. That same year, Rachael became the first woman to win the Conditional Riders’ Title for the 2016/2017 season.
A fact that may surprise some is that Rachael actually also rode on the flat, with her first winner coming on May 16th 2017 at Killarney in the July Racing Festival 17th-20th 2017 Race for Denise O’Shea on Supreme Vinnie at 14/1.
One month later, on June 21st 2017 Rachael rode her 60th racecourse winner at Wexford in the Oulart Maiden Hurdle, where she rode out her claim. She ended up winning on the 4/1 shot Sweet Home Chicago for trainer Colin Bowe by a massive 16 lengths.
We swiftly move into 2018 and on July 22nd at Tipperary, Rachael rode her first ever treble when she partnered up with Henry De Bromhead to win on Theatre Dreams (10/1) by 8 and 1/2 lengths, Monbeg Chit Chat (9/4F) by 2 and 3/4 lengths and Classic Theatre (5/4F) by a head.
Rachael followed that up on February 16th 2019 with another treble when she won on Star Max (5/2) for Joseph O’Brien by 1/2 length, followed up with her first Grade 2 win of her career when winning on Monalee (EvensF) in the Red Mills Chase for Henry De Bromhead by 2 lengths with her third win of the day coming on Smoking Gun (4/1F) for Joseph O’Brien again. Just the next day on February 17th, Rachael would go on to win her second Grade 2 when winning by just 1/2 length to the 5/4 favourite Champagne Classic in the Ladbrokes Acca Boosty Ten Up Novice Chase on Chris’s Dream (5/2), again for Henry De Bromhead.
Moving ahead just one month, we head into the Cheltenham Festival 2019. This was the year that Rachael rode her first Festival winner when she rode 5/1 favourite A Plus Tard to victory in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase by a massive 16 lengths for Henry De Bromhead. It was also this festival that brought Rachael her first ever Grade 1 when she rode the massive 50/1 outsider Minella Indo to victory by 2 lengths to the 4/1 favourite Commander Of Fleet in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This victory made Rachael the first female to ride a Grade 1 winner over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival.
Just one month after her very successful Cheltenham Festival, on April 21st, Rachael had her first Grade 1 success in Ireland when she rode 6/4 favourite Honeysuckle to victory by 5 and 1/2 lengths at Fairyhouse in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.
Proving to be a woman of many talents, on June 17th 2020, Rachael guided Oriental Eagle to victory at Limerick in the Martin Malony Stakes for Emmet Mullins. This being Rachael’s first Listed winner on the flat.
Heading into 2021, Rachael took the Cheltenham Festival by storm, ending up being the first female to be leading jockey with six winners. The six winners including Honeysuckle in the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle, Bob Olinger in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Sir Gerhard in the Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Allaho in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase, Telmesomethinggirl in the Grade 2 Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Quilixios in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle. As well as a second place in the Grade 1 WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on board A Plus Tard (100/30).
Then onto the day that pushed me into finally producing this post, the Grand National. Rachael had the leg up on the 11/1 shot Minella Times for her regular trainer Henry De Bromhead carrying 10-3. Rachael went clear at the last and stayed on to win by 6 and 1/2 lengths to 100/1 shot Balko Des Flos in second. This victory made her the first female to ever win the Grand National and what a victory it was.
I think the Grand National 2021 will be one that is spoken about for weeks, months, even years because of what Rachael has achieved. Many years ago, we had women cutting their hair to try and get a ride in the Grand National because they looked like a male. But over the years things have changed dramatically with the likes of Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh, Lizzie Kelly, Bryony Frost and now Rachael Blackmore carving the way for females to become jump jockeys at the highest level and I love to see that!
Next, let’s sum all of those up and go through some of Rachael’s major wins in her career, starting with the UK and the Cheltenham Festival:
- Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle x 1 ( Minella Indo – 2019)
- Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1 (A Plus Tard – 2019)
- David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle x 1 (Honeysuckle – 2020)
- Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Bob Olinger – 2021)
- Champion Bumper x 1 (Sir Gerhard – 2021)
- Champion Hurdle x 1 (Honeysuckle – 2021)
- Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Telmesomethinggirl – 2021)
- Ryanair Chase x 1 (Allaho – 2021)
- Triumph Hurdle x 1 (Quilixios – 2021)
Also in the UK:
- Grand National x 1 (Minella Times – 2021)
Next, let’s look at some major wins in Ireland:
- Racing Post Novice Chase x 1 (Notebook – 2019)
- Paddy’s Reward Club Chase x 1 (A Plus Tard – 2019)
- Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final x 1 (Honeysuckle – 2019)
- Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle x 1 (Minella Indo – 2019)
- Arkle Novice Chase x 1 (Notebook – 2020)
- Hatton’s Grace Hurdle x 2 (Honeysuckle – 2019 & 2020)
- Irish Champion Hurdle x 2 (Honeysuckle – 2020 & 2021)
- Slaney Novice Hurdle x 1 (Bob Olinger – 2021)
What I want to look at now is some interesting facts and figures that I have managed to find. Please bare in mind that this post was wrote on the 10th of April 2021 so a few figures may be a few days behind if Rachael has anyway winners in between the day of writing and the day of posting which is the 14th of April. With that in mind, let’s get right into these.
First things first, the trainers that Rachael has ridden for. Now the first one may not come as a surprise, but they trainer Rachael has ridden the most for is Henry De Bromhead. She has ridden 921 times for him, being victorious in 173 including 15 Grade 1’s and 11 Grade 2’s as well as placing in 218 races. This means that Rachael has won 18.78% and placed in 23.67%. So overall Rachael has won or placed in 42.45% of the rides she has had for Henry. I also found that roughly, she has won $8,350,189 AUD, which at the time of writing this (10th April), converts to £4,643,673.71 for Henry alone.
The next trainer is John Hanlon, Rachael has ridden 390 times for him with 28 victories and 62 places. Meaning Rachael has won 7.18% and placed in 15.9% meaning the overall percentage of wins and places is 23.08%. Winning $518,168 AUD which is the equivalent to £288,161.52 in prize money for John.
Third is Miss D O’Shea who Rachael has ridden for 100 times, winning 14 and placing in 20. Meaning she has won 14%, placed in 20% with an overall win/place percentage of 34%. She has won a total of $299,385 AUD which converts to £166,492.79 in prize money.
We then have Ellmarie Holden who Rachael has ridden for 62 times, winning 13 times and placing 23 times. With a win percentage of 20.97%, a place percentage of 37.1% with an overall win/place percentage of 58.07%. In terms of prize money, Rachael has won $418,210 AUD for Ellmarie, which converts to £232,573.27.
The fifth trainer in the list is Willie Mullins. Rachael has ridden 71 times for Willie, including 12 victories and 15 places, which works out to 16.9% wins, 21.13% places with an over all win/place percentage of 38.02%. She has also won $874,981 AUD for Willie, which equals £486,590.93.
Other notable trainers Rachael has ridden for is Joseph O’Brien who she has ridden for 67 time, winning 11 (16.42%), placing in 17 (25.37%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 41.79%. Mouse Morris who Rachael has rode for 54 times, winning 6 (11.11%), placing in 12 (22.22%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 33.33%. Also Gordon Elliott, who she has rode for 46 times with 6 victories (13.04%) and 12 places (21.74%) so an overall win/place percentage of 34.78%. And finally a mention to Noel Meade, who Rachael has rode for 13 times, winning 4 (30.77%) and placing twice (15.38%) with an overall win/place percentage of 46.15%.
Now I’m going to focus on where those wins came. This list is in order of where the most victories have came and so on. When I interviewed Rachael back in January, she told me her favourite track was Leopardstown, however the figures show that Leopardstown is not even in the top 3 of the Irish tracks that Rachael has achieved great things at. In fact Leopardstown is 13th in the list with Rachael riding 157 times, winning 13 times (8.28%) placing in 30 (19.11%) meaning overall the win/place percentage is 27.39%.
So let’s look at the courses where Rachael has done the best so far in her career. (These are all based on most wins.) First up, let’s look at the Irish courses and the first one which is Punchestown, where Rachael has ridden 235 times, winning 37 times (15.75%) and placing 49 times (20.85%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 36.6%. Secondly is Fairyhouse where Rachael has rode 233 times, winning 25 (10.73%) and placing 46 times (19.74%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 30.47%. The third course on the list is Clonmel where Rachael has rode 131 times, winning 23 times (17.56%) and placing 30 times (22.9%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 40.46%.
Moving on to the UK courses now. First up is Cheltenham, Rachael has had 66 rides, winning 10 (15.15%) and placing in 7 (10.61%) meaning an overall percentage of 25.76%. Secondly, which surprised me actually is Huntingdon where Rachael has had 4 rides, winning 3 (75%) and placing in 1 (25%) meaning she has a win/place percentage of 100% here. Thirdly, another surprise to me is Cartmel, here Rachael has rode 11 times, winning twice (18.18%) and placing 3 times (27.27%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 45.45%. Finally I wanted to look at the fourth course, where Rachael famously broke the record of being the first female to win the Grand National and that is of course Aintree. Rachael has only had 13 rides here, winning twice (15.38%) and placing twice (15.38) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 30.76%.
The next thing I wanted to look at is the horses Rachael has had the most success on. The first horse I want to mention is Honeysuckle who Rachael has ridden 11 times and won 11 times meaning a 100% win record. Another with a 100% win record is Abbey Magic who Rachael has ridden 4 times and won 4 times on. Next is a mention to Bob Olinger, they have partnered together 4 times, winning 3 times (75%) and placing once (25%) meaning a win/place percentage of 100%. Another 100% win/place record is A Plus Tard who Rachael has ridden 10 times, winning 3 times (30%) and placing 7 times (70%). Another couple of noticeable mentions goes to Supreme Vinnie who Rachael has ridden 27 times, winning 7 times (25.93%) and placing 7 times (25.93%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 51.86%. A quick mention also to Minella Indo, they have partnered together 10 times, winning 5 times (50%) and placing 3 times (30%) giving an overall win/place percentage of 80% an finally a mention to Notebook who Rachael has ridden 15 times, winning 6 (40%) and placing in 5 (33.33%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 73.33%).
Overall, from the research I have done, you can see Rachael is a ridiculously talented jockey and at 31 years old, we potentially have many more years left of her riding at the highest level and she could go on to achieve more and more each year. I have met Rachael multiple times and was lucky enough to interview her earlier this year and each and every time she has been incredible, she is welcoming, she speaks to everyone and some of the stories I have seen on social media this week have shown how classy she is. Not only is she super talented, she’s also an incredible ambassador for the sport in every single way. I, for one, am so grateful I am alive at the same time as Rachael Blackmore and able to witness the greatness she has brought to this sport.
One of the 100’s of reasons I absolutely love racing is because women can compete with men on an even playing field at the highest level and be just as good. Racing is a male dominated sport, we all know that, but seeing so many women come through at the highest level is incredible to see and Rachael is one of those paving the way. I love watching Rachael and I hope we have many more years to come of being able to watch her.
I really hope you have all enjoyed reading this post, as much as I loved researching more into Rachael. I shall see you all in my next post!