Rachael Blackmore wins Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for March

Jockey wins by a neck from a formidable field of worthy candidates

 Rachael Blackmore: recorded two wins, including a  Grade One, at  the Cheltenham festival in March. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Rachael Blackmore: recorded two wins, including a Grade One, at the Cheltenham festival in March. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for March: Rachael Blackmore (Horse racing)

Katie Taylor adding the WBO title to a collection that already includes the WBA and IBF belts after beating Rose Volante in Philadelphia.

Natalya Coyle opening her season by winning her second Pentathlon World Cup silver, this time in Cairo.

Lydia Boylan producing the best result of her career by winning silver in the points race at the Track Cycling World Championships in Poland. Amy Broadhurst winning her second successive European Under-22 boxing gold in Russia.

Ailish Considine on the Adelaide Crows team that won the AFLW Grand Final. Slaughtneil doing a camogie senior club championship three-in-a-row. Galway beating a four-in-a-row-seeking Kilkenny in the camogie National League final.

And that was only the half of it.

March 2019, then, had a decidedly 2018 feel to it, when our sportswomen were experiencing so much success we ended up having to skip over people who might have well have been contenders for the overall award any other year.

So, déjà vu. Indeed, come the end of March, one of the judging panel suggested the awards should be sponsored by a headache relief product.

In the end, though, there was a consensus on who we should plump for as our March winner, frustrating as it was to overlook the above names and more, the month Rachael Blackmore enjoyed was simply outstanding.

Last October the jockey picked up the first of her awards, the Tipperary woman having the season of her life, sitting back then, as she still is now on over 80 winners, second in the race to be Irish champion jockey behind Paul Townend.

She has continued to rack up the winners, her latest on Sunday at Fairyhouse, on board Henry de Bromhead’s 33-1 rated Dommage Pour Toi, just a day after finishing 10th on Valseur Lido out of the 40 runners in the Aintree Grand National.

If that was a memorable enough day, it was nothing to what Blackmore enjoyed at the Cheltenham Festival where she had two more de Bromhead-trained winners, including the first Grade One victory of her career, making her just the third woman to ride a double at the festival after Gee Armytage in 1987 and Nina Carberry in 2016.

Her first success came on board A Plus Tard’s in the Close Brothers Novice Chase, the favourite winning by 16 lengths.

“I’ve got the taste for it now,” she said after what was her maiden Cheltenham victory. And sure enough, she was in the winners’ enclosure again, this time after steering home 50-1 chance Minella Indo in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

“We’ve been so lucky to have her, she’s a brilliant rider,” said de Bromhead. “She just wins.”

It’s becoming a habit. And to those wins she can now add the award for the March Sportswoman of the Month.

Previous monthly winners (awards run from December 2018 to November 2019, inclusive):

December: Mona McSharry (Swimming). The Sligo swimmer ended her 2018 in some style at the Irish Short-Course Championships in Lisburn, collecting six titles in the space of just three days as well as breaking six national records. The highlight for McSharry was the breaking of Michelle Smith’s 23-year-old 100m freestyle record.

January: Phil Healy (Athletics). The 24-year-old Cork woman took our January award for the second year running after an impressive start to the season, once again winning the 400m at the Vienna International Indoor Meet, ahead of European and World medallists Lissane De Whitte and Eilidh Doyle, maintaining that form at the Millrose Games in New York where she finished a close second to the USA’s Jaide Stepter.

February: Ciara Mageean (Athletics). Another runner to have a sparkling start to 2019, Mageean opening the year by setting a new Irish indoor mile record in Boston, taking two seconds off her Irish Indoor 1,500m record before winning bronze in the 1500m at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

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