Killenaule becomes horseracing stronghold in wake of Blackmore win
‘We left down all the cleavers and watched the race with customers,’ says local butcher
Rachael Blackmore: The Grand National saw a Tipperary double this year as not only was the winning jockey reared in the county, so too was the winning horse, Minella Times. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA
Up until Saturday evening, Killenaule was known as a hurling stronghold but from now on the Tipperary town will be known as the home of horseracing superstar Rachael Blackmore, who made history on Minella Times to became the first female jockey to win the Aintree Grand National.
The trailblazing jockey, who became the queen of Cheltenham last month, conquered Aintree with a stunning performance as her home village ground to a halt to watch one of their own create history on a horse named in honour of The Irish Times.
“It was absolutely heart-stopping,” said her mother Eimir who watched the race at home at Mortelstown Castle outside Killenaule with her husband Charles.
Eimir, who was in Aintree to watch her 31-year-old daughter ride in the Grand National challenge for the first time in 2018 when she fell and did not complete the course, said she was just so relieved to see her come home safely this time.
“Firstly we just wanted her to come home safe. To win it was just incredible. We never thought we would see the day. It was amazing,” she said.
When the jockey first started out, her mother texted her before every race wishing her safe home.
“ I had to stop because she was racing so often so we agreed I could do it only on the big days.I sent her a text first thing on Saturday morning – I think this might be a big day so ‘safe home’,” said Eimir. “We are very proud of Rachael. I am very proud of myself for having managed to watch it.”
Bought as a foal
The Grand National saw a Tipperary double this year as not only was the winning jockey reared in the county so too was the winning horse, Minella Times.
The horse was bought as a foal by the owner of the Minella Hotel in Clonmel John Nallen, who reared the horse for four years before selling it to JP McManus.
“I was very proud of Rachael and Minella Times. It’s fairytale stuff, ” said Nallen, who also reared the Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.
He said the Grand National winning horse is called after The Irish Times.
“I was sitting at reception late one night filling out forms for three horses. I looked around and saw The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and the Examiner on the desk and called the three horses after the papers.”
As the Grand National came to its dramatic closing stages on Saturday, business in the local butcher stop in Killenaule came to a standstill.
“It was crazy, we left down all the cleavers, it would have been dangerous to have them in your hand with all the excitement going on and we just watched the race here with the customers that were here,” said proprietor John O’Dwyer.
“The shop was hectic all day. The buzz about the race was unreal. There was a few customers here for the race and everything just stopped so we could watch it. Rachael has done her family, Killenaule, Tipperary and Ireland proud.”
Because of Covid-19, the butcher shop in the centre of the town became a focal point during Cheltenham, when Rachael became the first female jockey to win the top jockey prize and landed the Champion Hurdle, and it was the same for Aintree.
“The pubs are closed, the bookies are closed so there there is a great buzz in the shop,” said O’Dwyer.
Across the road,the doors of Gerry Kennedy’s pub are closed but he still managed to get in on some of the Grand National action. He organised a sweepstakes, with Mary O’Connor fortunate to come out of the draw with Blackmore’s ride.
“I did not back it because the bookies are closed and I don’t like doing it online so I was delighted to get Rachael and Minella Times in the sweep ,” said O’Connor as Kennedy handed over her €120 winnings.