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Jockey Rachael Blackmore: ‘The top of the hill in Cheltenham, when you’re the first one to get there, is where I’m happiest. It’s just a feeling that’s hard to put into words’

The horseracing champion on being detained in Australia, her love of whales and race-day Nutella breakfasts

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Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Leon Farrell

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Leon Farrell

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Leon Farrell

Tipperary native Rachael Blackmore was the first female jockey to win the English Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. She has a degree in equine science from the University of Limerick.

What’s your earliest memory?

I’ve memories of being in a playpen (which really looked more like a dog run) outside our back door back home trying to escape out onto the exciting farm, and failing…

When and where were you happiest?

At the top of the hill in Cheltenham, when you’re the first one to get there — it’s an amazing place, and it’s just a feeling that’s hard to put into words.

What keeps you awake at night?

I love my sleep! Usually, if I’ve had a very bad day, or equally a very good day, that has the potential to keep me up at night. As a jockey, you’re always trying to keep yourself level, not letting the good days get you too high and the bad days too low, although that’s much easier said than done.

What’s your least, and your most, attractive trait?

I know plenty of people who would have an answer for this, but I am struggling to pick one.

What trait do you deplore most in others?

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I hate people who are cruel to others.

What’s the first thing you’d do if you were Taoiseach?

Step down.

What is your biggest insecurity?

I suppose it would be not being good enough at doing my job. As jockeys, we are guaranteed to lose more races than we win. That’s something you do learn to deal with (by lots of practice!) but it’s also easier when you’re doing your part well.

Who would you most like to go for a pint with?

Lewis Capaldi. I’d be asking him to sing a few songs, of course.

Which fictional character do you most identify with?

Fred Flintstone.

What is your most treasured possession?

I’ve plenty of possessions that I love but,at the end of the day, they’re just things. It’s the people in my life, my friends and family.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Vanilla ice-cream, homemade hot-chocolate sauce, fresh strawberries and a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t join a committee.

Do you believe in a god?

Yes, I do believe in God.

What’s your favourite word?

Honeysuckle.

What’s the last TV show you binge-watched?

Anatomy of a Scandal.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

You’re not very good at doing your own make up — get help!

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

We travel a lot in racing, so I’d love to be able to evaporate, like Harry Potter and friends.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I’ve never really had a bad job as such. There have been plenty of moments where I’ve done a bad job inside my own job, like making a wrong decision in a race, falling off, etc. I think part of being a jockey is not dwelling too much on these times and to try and move onto the next race.

Tell us something we might not know about Rachael Blackmore?

I would love to see whales in the wild, orcas preferably. Big Free Willy fan here.

What’s been your closest brush with the law?

I arrived into Australia once on the wrong visa. I got taken to some sort of centre to spend the night. I remember there being lots of barbed wire. When we arrived, everything got taken away from us. We were fed frozen meals that weren’t defrosted properly that evening. Needless to say, I was very glad to walk out of there the next day!

What sporting hero would you most like to meet?

Michael Jordan.

What are your race-day rituals?

No two days are the same racing. I always have breakfast — Nutella is usually a part of that. I’m not overly superstitious or anything, so I don’t have any strict things I must do before a race. I like to try and walk the track before I ride, if the time allows.

If you had not become a professional jockey, what other career would you have pursued?

Growing up, I’d always wanted to be a vet and work with animals. Unfortunately/fortunately, however, my Leaving Cert results didn’t exactly agree with that. Right now, I’m obviously delighted about this.

Rachael Blackmore is an Audi Naas performance ambassador and guested on the Audi podcast series ‘Driving Progress’. Hosted by Emma Dabiri, the episode is available across all podcast streaming platforms


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