Lorna Brooke, the amateur jockey who sustained spinal injuries in a fall at Taunton on April 8, has died in hospital. Brooke, 37, had been put in an induced coma after complications set in a week after being airlifted to hospital in Bristol following the fall from Orchestrated, tRead More »
Stardom, Rachael Blackmore once suggested, was a status best reserved for Beyonce, not her. Even after scripting a real-life National Velvet, as the first female jockey to win the world’s greatest steeplechase, she has resisted trumpeting herself as a trailblazer. But her admirers across an Irish racing community still absorbing her feat are not quite so coy. Take trainer Ted Walsh, who, as father to Katie, the first woman rider to be placed in the Grand National nine years ago, understands every detail of the fraught path that has brought us to this point. "I’m 71, and it’s one of the great achievements in sport I have lived to see," he reflects. "It’s gigantic." He remembers a period when women still could not ride racehorses against men, when there had yet even to be a licensed female trainer. For all that racing was once rife with chauvinism, the outspoken Walsh, whose son Ruby is the most decorated jockey in Cheltenham Festival history, is cut from very different cloth. Indeed, Blackmore’s achievement encourages him to double down on a bracingly progressive view of gender relations. "Women in general are stronger than men," he argues. "They’re better able to put up with disasters. They don’t lie as much as men either. We tell cock-and-bull stories to get ourselves out of situations. Women say 'Put up with it'." Blackmore has put up with her share of frustrations en route to becoming racing’s undisputed alpha female, not least finding her every victory framed in terms of her sex. Today, she can hold up her trophies as National winner and Cheltenham’s leading jockey as rebukes to any presumption that she would be limited by physiology. Mostly, she prefers simply to screen out the noise. While she insists she will throw a party to toast her Aintree triumph once Covid restrictions allow, she has been in Limerick this week, invited solely in her next quest to usurp Paul Townend as Ireland’s champion jump jockey. Theirs is a rivalry that reaches back to the very start of Blackmore’s story. She was just 13 when, on a sodden Cork day, she won her maiden pony race, beating Townend by a length. In grainy video footage of the moment, shot through a rain-spattered lens and showing a course lined with hay bales, she conducts her interview with breathless pride. The voice is a couple of octaves higher, but the pure joy of racing is unmistakeably hers.
Rachael Blackmore’s commercial potential will “sky-rocket” following a Grand National triumph that will elevate her into the select group of global sportswomen capable of earning more than £1 million a year, according to industry experts. As the first female Grand National winner, Blackmore has permanently etched her name into sports history, but the prospect of further years at the top and more groundbreaking achievements has already prompted a flurry of requests. The various “rich lists” in sport remain dominated by men, whether domestically or globally, with tennis players Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka the only two women in the top 60 of the Forbes list. “The commercial landscape is drastically different to the men but more and more [brands] are looking to align with the women’s sport boom,” said Luca Russo, the director of football at Forte Sports Management. Of Blackmore, he said: “I can imagine her commercial opportunities will sky-rocket from here. She has got that tag as the first. She will always have that tag and she will only go on to possibly break more barriers. It should be a no-brainer to align with her. She should be very attractive as an athlete. “Too much can, of course, become a distraction. It’s a fine balance but it comes down to the team to satisfy the needs of the brand and athlete but keep performance at the front. If that goes up, everything else goes up.” Russo would not comment on potential numbers but, allied to more traditional commercial partnerships, said that digital opportunities were particularly “booming” across social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Another industry expert said that deals totalling more than £1 million were certainly now feasible for the 31-year-old. “She could do every opportunity and easily earn that,” the expert said. “It would put her into an unusual category. There are very few women getting really close to that. But does she want to do everything?” Quiet revolutionary Rachael Blackmore has changed sporting landscape forever Blackmore does have two main sponsorship deals, with BetVictor and PC Insurances, and will clearly be in an extremely strong position when these come up for renewal. She is represented by Rebecca Evans, of Line Up Sports, which is also acutely aware that her primary focus remains her racing career. Racing insiders universally describe a modest, humble and private person who, like Jonny Wilkinson in rugby or the sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur, will be far more concerned with her sport than maximising every commercial opportunity. With jockeys generally receiving about eight per cent of the winnings from a race, Blackmore is likely to have received about £30,000 of the £375,000 first prize from Saturday’s Grand National. She is back in the saddle tomorrow and, having also been crowned leading rider at Cheltenham, there is one more “first” she will now have in her sights.
“I want it all quickly ‘cause I don’t want God to stop and think and wonder if I’m getting more than my share.”