Rachael Blackmore lifted the nation with her historic Grand National win last month aboard Minella Times — the champion from Tipperary joined Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show to speak about riding to victory in one of the toughest races in sport.
Her achievement impressed across the board — from people who hadn't been passionate about horseracing but who were delighted to see a woman making Grand National history to racing greats such as Ruby Walsh.
She acknowledges this inspirational role she now finds herself in but also deflects the praise away from herself and onto the racing community: "Look we saw it with the 20/20 campaign their slogan 'can’t see it, can’t be it'. It is extremely important. We are very lucky in racing, there’s equal pay, equal opportunities. You know it’s something that racing should be so proud of. As a jockey I feel male, female doesn’t matter anymore. If you’re good enough and you work hard, you’ll get the opportunities. That’s been the case for a long time before me in racing. It is something that the racing community should be very proud of."
The 31-year-old who lives in Leighlinbridge in Carlow, rode to Grand National victory in April but says it's hard to believe her achievement: "It hasn’t sunk in, to be honest. Every time someone says; 'well done on Aintree', it hits me every time — God, that actually, that actually happened.
Former Irish jockey, Ruby Walsh has hailed her superb achievement: "Some of the most talented horse people in the world have been female, but in a sport where two ambulances follow you around every day, it is the sheer strength of will she has to pick herself off the floor and go again that amazes me."
Blackmore grew up on a dairy farm in Killenaule, County Tipperary, and started riding at an early age.
"I grew up on a farm and rode ponies and horses when I was younger. Got into racing then when I was 18 or 19 and rode as an amateur until I was 25. And was kind of at a crossroads then when I was 25. I kind of eventually finished college had to change college numerously, repeat numerous exams etc but finally got finished at 25. The yard I was in at the time, Shark Hanlon, he just said he’d have more opportunities for me if I was to change my licences from amateur to professional. He gave me that opportunity. Everyone needs someone to kind of get behind them in life and give them the chance. And I’m very grateful."
She spoke about what drives her to succeed: "I just love… I suppose every sports person loves winning. You love riding horses, I love jumping horses. You think if you told me a few years ago, you’ll achieve x,y or z… I would have said, 'I’ll be so happy with that I’ll retire happy'. But I don’t want to do that. I want to keep going and you just have a love for riding horses, winning and it’s all just mashed up into one."
And Blackmore noted that while she is delighted with her win, she hadn't planned it as a lifelong goal: "I suppose because I never thought that being a jockey could be a career for me. I always wanted to ride and ride in races but I never thought it would be a career or something that would make me money."