Best sporting moments of the year - No 4: Rachael Blackmore makes Gold Cup history

The first woman to ride the winner of National Hunt racing’s greatest prize did it the hard way

Racing – Gold Cup, Cheltenham, England, March 18th

When Rachael Blackmore and A Plus Tard cleared the third last from home in the Gold Cup, there was no direct route to victory. Minella Indo, the horse she’d opted not to ride, was galloping freely and impressively, leading the way with Robbie Power on board and a line of four horses lay between them.

Timing is everything. Patience. Trust. By the time Blackmore reached the final fence, the inbetweeners had been left trailing and it was just the two Henry de Bromhead-trained horses at it, stride-by-stride, neck-by-neck.

With one brilliant leap, though, Blackmore and A Plus Tard moved to the front and, with each stride homeward bound, the deafening roars from those packed in the grandstands providing the acoustic accompaniment, horse and jockey created history.


When the finishing post was crossed, Blackmore – the first woman to ride the winner of National Hunt racing’s greatest prize – and A Plus Tard were 15 lengths clear of their stable companions. It was the biggest winning margin since Master Oats in 1995.

Seventy thousand racing fans let their raucous roars of approval provide the background noise to the moment in history, with Blackmore – out of the saddle and standing aloft on the stirrups with arms raised – and A Plus Tard making a return to the parade ring.

“It is the closest thing to feeling like a rock star you will ever feel without being able to sing,” said Blackmore of the wildly giddy reception from the crowd.

A year after playing second fiddle, but one where there were no crowds due to Covid, Blackmore’s return – as a history-maker – was all the sweeter: “I suppose I didn’t want to do the same thing as last year, as it didn’t work. The wall of horses in front of me made sure I didn’t get there too soon. I tried to hold on to him a bit more this year and, look, it worked.

“I knew after the second last that I had more horse under me than I did last year. I didn’t think I would be 15 lengths clear though!”

On receiving the famed cup, Blackmore kissed it, the engraved names of all those who had preceded her visible as she held it in her hands. She had joined them, in a moment of sporting history.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times