Rachael Blackmore aiming to create Galway Hurdle history
JP McManus has a staggering nine of the 20 runners in Thursday's €300,000 feature
Rachael Blackmore was the first woman ever to win the conditional jockey’s title and she will be bidding for success in Ireland’s most lucrative hurdle race at Ballybrit. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
A woman has never ridden a winner of the €300,000 festival centrepiece but there’s already abundant evidence of how irrelevant precedent is to Blackmore.
The first woman ever to win the conditional jockey’s title, she tops the early stages of this season’s riders’ championship.
It’s tangible evidence of an already notable career in the toughest professional sport of all although it can be argued Blackmore’s biggest impact has been in the more intangible field of perception.
No one refers to the 29-year-old jockey’s gender anymore from a professional racing point of view. That that should have always been the case for female riders, and that Blackmore herself dislikes being viewed through such a prism, doesn’t dilute the pioneering impact of the accomplishment.
Even victory in the most valuable hurdle race in the country mightn’t top it, although profile-wise it could be close.
The attraction of the biggest prize on the summer jump racing calendar is emphasised by the depth of firepower being thrown at it by racing’s biggest guns.
JP McManus has a remarkable nine of the 20 runners including last year’s winner Tigris River who is one of five horses trained for the legendary owner by Joseph O’Brien.
McManus’s Blazer is one of half a dozen starters for champion trainer Willie Mullins who has engaged the talented 5lb claimer Katie O’Farrell for Voix Du Reve.
Victory for either woman will no doubt provoke lots of ‘Ladies Day’ headlines. However from a professional point of view a win for Blackmore in particular is likely to be greeted by her peers as a big-race success for just another rival.
If anything any ‘fairytale’ element to the big race could come from the game’s superpower operations being eclipsed for once.
Davids Charm is trained by veteran John Joe Walsh from his yard in the heart of traditional National Hunt country in Doneraile in north Cork.
Walsh has held a licence for 52 years and tasted success in various big steeplechase handicaps over the decades.
However his string is tiny compared to the firepower that Mullins or McManus can call on and a Galway Hurdle at a time when resources are concentrated among the few would be an undoubted ‘little guy’ victory.
Given the various boxes Davids Charm ticks in terms of course form, proven big handicap credentials on easy ground, and a general sense that his best is yet to come, it’s interesting to speculate on what price he might be if he was trained by Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott.
But Walsh is regarded within racing as a notably shrewd operator and in Davids Charm he could have a horse that winds up better than a handicapper.
Ruby Walsh has opted for Max Dynamite in the big race although Whiskey Sour could be best of the Mullins team.
Even if he misses out on that pot however Mullins could still exert a hold over the rest of the day’s action with a handful of outstanding looking chances beginning with Minella Beau in the Beginners Chase.