Rachael Blackmore will have a shot at Classic glory in Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby when she lines up in the Curragh's €750,000 highlight.
The groundbreaking jockey has been booked for the outsider King Of The Throne by trainer Emmet Mullins in what will be the biggest Irish Derby field since 1977.
A final field of 15 runners was declared for Ireland’s premier Classic on Thursday with Aidan O’Brien responsible for half a dozen of them as he pursues a 14th win in the race.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic means the Curragh Derby is the first of Europe’s major derbies to take place this year rather than its usual position in last.
The Epsom Derby and the French Derby are pushed back a month and will take place next weekend.
It makes for a novel Irish Derby scenario with a ‘domestic only’ field of both horses and jockeys based in Ireland.
Having conquered Cheltenham in her pioneering career riding over jumps, Blackmore now has a chance to translate those talents to the highest level on the Flat.
The 29-year-old jockey has had three winners on the level since racing’s resumption earlier this month, including a first black-type success in the Listed Martin Molony Stakes at Limerick on Oriental Eagle.
That horse is also trained by Mullins who has turned to Blackmore for the 66-1 outsider King Of The Throne this weekend.
“It’s pretty cool and very exciting. I never thought I’d ride in an Irish Derby to be honest.
“Emmet has been very good to me. They way things are at the moment has opened up a few opportunities for me on the Flat.
“At the weekend there are lots of runners and none of the English guys are coming over. So the coronavirus situation has probably helped me get going on the Flat,” Blackmore said on Thursday.
“I had an inkling last night about this but you don’t really know until it’s in black and white. So it’s exciting,” she added.
Blackmore has changed the face of jump racing in recent seasons, finishing runner-up to Paul Townend in the jockeys' championship last year.
She became the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over hurdles at the Cheltenham festival last year on board the 50-1 shot Minella Indo.
Blackmore brought her Cheltenham festival tally to three in March with a memorable victory on Honeysuckle in the Mares’ Hurdle.
The last woman to ride in the Irish Derby was Aidan O’Brien’s daughter, Ana, who finished eighth to Capri in 2017 on The Anvil.
The first woman to ride in the Irish Derby was Joanna Morgan who partnered Riot Helmet behind the winner Malacate in 1976.
King Of the Throne has yet to win in four starts but Blackmore said: “He’s an outsider but it’s an open race and Emmet doesn’t run them for fun. He’s a very good trainer and he wouldn’t bring him up on Saturday if he didn’t think he was going there with a chance.”
Asked if the Flat may become more of a focus in future, Blackmore, who can do 9st comfortably, replied: “I’m delighted to get an opportunity like this but I don’t like looking too long-term – I’m a short-term kind of person!”
The in-form jockey will have an unusual Classic warm-up with two rides over hurdles at Tipperary on Friday including Petit Mouchoir in the Grade Three feature there.
Séamus Heffernan has opted for last week’s Royal Ascot winner Santiago from the six-strong Ballydoyle team on Saturday.
The impressive Queen’s Vase winner will drop back to a mile and a half and is set to run just eight days after his success at Ascot.
Nevertheless bookmaker reaction was to make Santiago a general 3-1 favourite for what looks the most wide-open Irish Derby in years.
Pádraig Beggy, winner last year on the 33-1 shot Sovereign, will ride another outsider, Order Of Australia, while Wayne Lordan is on Arthur's Kingdom for Ballydoyle.
O’Brien’s son Joseph, twice a winner as a jockey, and trainer of the 2018 hero Latrobe, will saddle three including the filly New York Girl, supplemented into the Derby at a cost of €50,000. The last filly to win was Balanchine in 1994.
The in-form Jessica Harrington will try to become the first woman to train an Irish Derby winner with the maiden, Gold Maze.
Saturday’s big race is due off at 7.15pm on Saturday and Racing TV pictures of it will be broadcast for the first time on Fox Sports in the US and Japan’s Green Channel.