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Thursday 18 January 2018

Blackmore takes competing in a man's world in her stride

Katie O'Farrell clears the last on Clarcam in this year's Irish Grand National in Fairyhouse
Katie O'Farrell clears the last on Clarcam in this year's Irish Grand National in Fairyhouse

In the spring of 2015, Rachael Blackmore became only the second ever lady jockey to turn professional in the sport of Irish National Hunt racing.

She was following in the footsteps of Maria Cullen, who was the first Irish female professional jockey to ride a winner over fences at Kilbeggan, in June 1987.

Kilbeggan has also been good to Blackmore, who emerged as the leading rider at the track for the 20126/2017 season - with six wins to her credit.

The thought of competing in a world so clearly dominated by men has never crossed the mind of Blackmore, who says that being female has actually brought her more publicity than she ever imagined in the past two years.

Take Katie Walsh and her sister-in-law Nina Carberry - two of the toughest women in the business - who have not let their gender get in the way of success.

Another is Lisa O'Neill, who steered Wrath Of Titans to win the Kerry National last September and the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, on the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll.

While most are content to remain in the amateur ranks, Blackmore's transition to professional was more of a necessity.

Since 2015, two others have now followed suit, with Katie O'Farrell and Rochelle Murphy both currently racing as Conditionals.

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O'Farrell rode her first winner at Clonmel in September 2013 on Strain Of Fame, trained by her father, Seamus.

She rode four winners as an amateur before turning professional and she rode her first winner in the paid ranks on the Adrian Maguire-trained Oscars Boss in a Pro/Am bumper at Cork on March 14, 2016.

Britain's racing sensation Lizzie Kelly turned professional in 2014 and last March became the first female jockey to ride in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for 33 years.

Riding Tea For Two, she also made history in 2015 by becoming the first female rider to win a British Grade One, and the pair teamed up again in April of this year to win the Betway Bowl at Aintree, thus providing her with her biggest career win to date.

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