If there was any remaining doubt about who the star of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival was at the halfway stage of the meeting, Rachael Blackmore ended it with a third-day double to take her tally to five winners for the week.
Incredibly, until the victory of Telmesomethinggirl in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, all her wins had come in Grade One company.
A rider at the very top of her game at home in Ireland for some time, the fact she is now also adorning the back pages in Britain has taken her fame to a new level.
Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle win on the brilliant Honeysuckle propelled the 31-year-old to new heights, but taking away any thought of gender, the rest of her wins have been noteworthy for different reasons, displaying her range of talents to the full.
Bob Olinger’s success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle showcased a jockey full of confidence, looming up alongside Harry Cobden on Bravemansgame on the home turn before kicking clear.
On Sir Gerhard in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper she showed what a good judge of pace she is, making all the running and holding enough in reserve to see off stablemate Kilcruit.
While Allaho also made all in Thursday’s Ryanair, it was a different ride altogether. Aggressive from the front, she needed to see off another Willie Mullins runner in Min. Blackmore was then in perfect synchronicity with her mount, putting in some enormous leaps as the giant horse finally confirmed the regard in which Mullins has always held him.
Allaho had gone close at the last two Festivals, but certainly responded to Blackmore’s magic touch.
Victory on Telmesomethinggirl was completely different again. Almost last early as the pace was red-hot, she scythed through the field like Arazi before bounding clear.
Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Honeysuckle, Bob Olinger and Telmesomethinggirl, said of Blackmore: “I’m delighted for her. She’s such a good rider, the ultimate professional and great to work with. She deserves everything she gets.”
Speaking after winning the Ryanair, Blackmore said: “It’s incredible! I’m very grateful to be getting these opportunities.
“When you are riding for two powerful stables it makes a jockey’s job a lot easier, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be in this position and getting these types of chances.
“How would I describe this week? Out of this world.”
A jockey’s life is never straightforward, though, and Blackmore suffered her fourth fall of the week on Plan Of Attack in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Cup. Thankfully, she was quickly on her feet.
In the lead up to the meeting bookmakers offer prices on the Prestbury Cup, a challenge between the English-based trainers and their Irish counterparts.
That contest is over (17-4 at the end of Thursday) – in fact some bookmakers paid out after day two, but three-quarters of the way through the meeting and Blackmore on her own has ridden more winners than the four trained in Britain.
To emphasise the Irish dominance six of the seven winners on Thursday were trained across the Irish Sea, with Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House preventing a clean sweep in the Marsh Novices’ Chase – in which the banker of the week for many, Envoi Allen, was a faller.
“I’m genuinely just so overwhelmed by these last few days. It’s all about the horses you’re getting on and I just feel so lucky to be riding for the people I’m riding for,” said Blackmore following her fifth win.
“I’m pinching myself, it’s crazy stuff. I was told I’d ridden more winners than Great Britain have had – it’s mad.
“Everyone is getting a great kick out of it at home and I’m very grateful to those who got the Festival on and got us Irish over here.
“I can’t comprehend that I’m the leading rider, it’s a bit surreal.”
Not surprisingly Blackmore’s Gold Cup mount A Plus Tard is now challenging for Gold Cup favouritism on Friday.