The Inside Rail

It’s a funny game, the horses are the stars and we speak to the supporting actors in this crazy, captivating game we play. We actually never speak to the true stars, the pure heroes, the horses. Of course, you wish the horses could speak for themselves, right? Well, maybe…

Sometimes, a jockey can get close to describing the horse, the moment, the race, the feeling in its simple complexity, in its basic enormity. 

Rachael Blackmore guided the undefeated Honeysuckle to her 11th career victory in Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at the The Festival™ supporting WellChild. Blackmore has been aboard for each of those 11 hurdle wins for the Henry De Bromhead trainee. Honeysuckle and Blackmore are magic, a dancing duo of brilliance. The Champion Hurdle was the biggest win of their careers, Blackmore’s first win in the premier hurdle stakes. 

At home, watching from the couch like most of you, it’s different of course. Last year, I was a few floors above the track, directly on the turn when Blackmore and Honeysuckle turned for home, lowered like they controlled by a lever and powered home to win the Close Brothers’ Mares Hurdle. It was scintillating, a Quevega-esque move, right there in front of your eyes, you could see it happening. Boom. A hammer on an anvil. I’m sure it was the same yesterday when the 7-year-old bay phenom catapulted past stablemate Aspire Tower and veteran Silver Streak. Lowered, sure, like a jet plane. 

Here it is in Blackmore’s words, provided by the Jockey Club News.

“I am speechless, to be honest. She is just so incredible. I just can’t believe we’ve won a Champion Hurdle. Kenny Alexander, Peter Molony - they’re both at home with their families watching; it’s a pity they can’t be here today, but I tell you, when I was crossing the line I didn’t care.

“Honeysuckle was just incredible. She’s done everything I’ve wanted her to do throughout the race. When Goshen headed off and came back in, I was just slightly worried there, but she’s done everything I wanted her to do. I really just can’t believe it.

“Henry produces her every day in that kind of form for me to steer around, and it’s unbelievable. This is such a special race and I am just so thankful to be a part of her - it’s all about her. She’s unbeaten, and she’s improving. Her last run was her career best until today; she’s getting better all the time. It’s just phenomenal.

“To me, this was never even a dream. It was so far from what I ever thought could happen in my life - to be in Cheltenham, riding a winner of a Champion Hurdle. It’s just so far removed from anything I ever thought could be possible, so maybe there’s a lesson in that for everyone out there.

“You can’t do it without getting on the right horses, and I’ve been extremely lucky in that sense, getting linked up with a yard like Henry de Bromhead’s. You need to be riding those horses and that’s a massive part of any jockey’s career, being in the right place at the right time and getting linked up with the right yard.”

Blackmore also spoke about a school trip that changed her life.

“We went to see Istabraq on a school tour - I’m from Tipperary so it was local - I never envisaged when we went to see him back then that I’d be riding the winner of a Champion Hurdle. When every person becomes a jockey they dream about riding at Cheltenham and all these things, but riding a winner like this is unbelievable.

“There’s no deal about female jockeys anymore, I don’t think. If you want to be a jockey, you can be a jockey - drive on, you know. To young people out there, male or female, if you want to go and do something, do it, because for me standing here right now, it shows that literally anything can happen.”

Yeah, drive on, kids. Drive on. 

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