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Rachael Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore  Heading into the Punchestown Festival, which concludes the Irish National Hunt season, Rachael Blackmore trailed Paul Townend by just four winners in the Irish jump jockeys’ championship. Despite winning the Irish Champion Hurdle for the second year running on Honeysuckle, she failed to overhaul the reigning champion, but can still reflect on a remarkable season in 2020/21.

Blackmore, 31, is no stranger to ‘firsts’; in 2016/17, she became the first female jockey to win the Irish Conditional Jockeys’ Championship and, since becoming principal jockey to Co. Waterford trainer Henry De Bromhead in 2018, has risen to the top of her profession. She is already the most successful female jockey, of any description, in the history of British or Irish horse racing.

However, her more recent historic successes have thrust her firmly into the public eye. In March, 2021, Blackmore not only became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle, on the aforementioned Honeysuckle, but also the first to win the Ruby Walsh Trophy, awarded to the leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival. The following month, she rode Minella Times to victory in the Grand National, thereby becoming the first female jockey in the 182-year history of the Aintree showpiece to do so. Immediately afterwards, Blackmore said, ‘I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human.’

Love

Love  Foaled on April 13, 2017, Love is a regally-bred filly, by Galileo out of a Pivotal mare, who is owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. Susan Magnier and trained by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Love made her racecourse debut in a fillies maiden at Leopardstown in June, 2019 and went on to win three of her seven starts as a juvenile, including the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.

However, it was during her three-year-old campaign, in 2020, that Love came to the attention of the wider racing public. She reappeared in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, for which she was sent off 4/1 joint second-favourite behind Quadrilateral, who had beaten her in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile, over the same course and distance, the previous October. Love reversed that form, though, winning the 1,000 Guineas by 4¼ lengths and bettered that effort with an impressive 9-length win in the Oaks at Epsom the following month. She was almost as impressive when winning the Yorkshire Oaks by 5 lengths a month later and finished the season 3-3, all at Group 1 level.

With connections keen to avoid testing conditions, Love made her belated reappearance, as a four-year-old, in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, 2020. She once again justified favouritism, making all the running and keeping on gamely in the closing stages to win by three-quarters of a length. At the time of writing, Love is rated 126 by Timeform, making her the highest-rated older filly, and the joint-ninth highest-rated older horse of either sex, in Europe. In her career, so far, she has won seven of her eleven races and approximately £1.14 million in prize money.

Charles II: Father of the English Turf

Charles II: Father of the English Turf  Following his return from nine years’ exile and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, King Charles II breathed new life into horse racing in Britain, which had previously been banned by Oliver Cromwell, and the sport became an abiding passion. Charles II was instrumental in the development of Newmarket as the ‘Home of Horse Racing’ and, in 1666, inaugurated the Newmarket Town Plate, which is still contested annually, by amateur riders, over three-and-three-quarter miles on the Newmarket Round Course.

Indeed, the older of the two racecourses in Newmarket, the Rowley Mile, takes its name from ‘Old Rowley’, a red-blooded stallion owned by the King and a nickname after applied to the King, himself, who was a notorious philanderer. What remains of the original Palace of Newmarket, which dates from the time of Charles II, is now known as Palace House and, fittingly, is the home of the National Horse Racing Museum.

The ‘Father of the English Turf’, as Charles II became known, was also responsible for establishing the Twelve-Stone Plate, later known as the King’s Plate, and laying down official rules for horse racing, which were adopted first in Newmarket and later nationwide. The Twelve-Stone Plate was contested by 6-year-olds carrying, as the name suggests, 168lb, or 12st 0lb, and the winner was the first horse to win two 4-mile heats.