PAT HEALY: This week Pat Healy talks about the success of Grand National winning duo, jockey Rachael Blackmore and trainer Henry de Bromhead.
There is only one place to start and that is of course Rachael Blackmore’s win in the Grand National aboard Minella Times. It really is fantasy stuff for us in the racing industry to witness a female jockey winning the world’s most famous race. Having said that, I don’t think many were surprised by the result given how successful she has been recently. People are saying she had luck on her side and in the National you always need some luck, but it’s almost like it’s been written in the stars. To have six winners at Cheltenham and be Champion Jockey isn’t luck and has to be by design. She’s now riding with such confidence and know-how and when you are that good, I think it’s no coincidence that luck goes your way. She deserves all the accolades she’s receiving and it just shows that if you put in the hard work, the results do come.
It really was a moment that will live long in the memory and its significance is shown by the fact that the news hit the front pages all over the world in countries like Japan, America and Australia. You’d have to think it can only be good for the racing industry, especially after some of the negativity that has surrounded it recently.
Rachael’s success can only encourage young female riders to get involved in the game. That can only be advantageous to racing and hopefully young jockeys will follow in Rachael’s footsteps. She’s a perfect role model and is really paving the way for others to follow.
I photographed Rachael’s first winner 10 or so years ago and I can only say nice things about her as a person. She does everything with a smile on her face and has been an absolute pleasure to deal with. She’s always willing to stop for a chat and the success she’s had certainly hasn’t gone to her head. She’s as grounded and polite as she’s ever been. She’s a credit to her parents and conducts herself so professionally in a way that all young and aspiring jockeys should follow.
When she decided to turn professional, plenty weren’t sure if it was the right way to go and thought she might regret the decision. Many thought she didn’t have the ability required to mix it with the best and therefore she wouldn’t be able to make a living out of it. As we all know, she backed herself and has proved time-and-time again that she knew exactly what she was doing. She’s put in the hard work and graft and the results are now there for everyone to see.
In terms of what’s next for Rachael, she’ll obviously want to be Champion Jockey. She’s still very much in the running this year, but does need plenty to fall in her favour over the final few meetings of the season to do that. If Paul [Townend] is fit for Punchestown then we know he’s going to ride plenty of winners and with Rachael nine behind at the time of writing, she needs to be pretty much level with him to have a chance at the title. I’m certainly not going to say she can’t do it, but it’s going to be tough. Whether she does it this season or not, I have no doubts that she’ll be doing everything she can to win it because barring the Gold Cup, there isn’t an awful lot more she needs to do! That fact just shows what a meteoric rise she’s enjoyed and you’d have to think there’s a very strong chance we’ll see Rachael Blackmore crowned Champion Jockey sooner rather than later.
Henry de Bromhead
Rachael’s success has meant that Henry de Bromhead’s recent achievements have been overshadowed slightly, but we shouldn’t forget just what he’s done. If someone else was riding was riding Minella Times then Henry’s achievements might have been a bit more in the public view because his last couple of months have been staggering. He’s managed to train the 1-2 in both the Gold Cup as well as the Grand National, which, on the face of it, is an absolutely unbelievable achievement. I have no idea what the odds on that were, but it would surely be well in the 1000s? If that wasn’t impressive enough, Henry has the Champion Hurdle winner and the Champion Chase winner in his stable! Again, it really is fairy-tale stuff and if you go back through the greats like Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Tom Draper and Vincent O’Brien they’ve never achieved that sort of success, so what Henry has done is truly record-breaking.
I’m not the first and won’t be the last, but I’d just like to congratulate him on what has been a magnificent period and one that might never be achieved again.