Can Rachael Blackmore return to the summit at the Cheltenham Festival?

Whether it be her consecutive triumphs in the Champion Hurdle onboard Honeysuckle, hattrick with the great mare in the Irish Champion Hurdle, her Grand National victory atop Minella Times, or Cheltenham Gold Cup victory in 2022 – jockey Rachael Blackmore has achieved almost everything there is to in jumps racing.

That’s without mentioning the impact she has made on the sport away from the track – as she has broken the proverbial glass ceiling with a number of her accomplishments marking the first time that it had been achieved by a female.    

One such feat which displayed why she is considered a generational talent by many fans and pundits alike was her being named Leading Jockey at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021 – once again becoming the first woman to do so. 

With six winners at the meeting, of which came in the aforementioned Champion Hurdle, Champion Bumper, Ryanair Chase, Novices’ Hurdle, Triumph Hurdle and Novices’ Handicap Chase – Blackmore defied the pre-festival odds to take home her maiden Leading Jockey award – having secured three more victories than joint-second place-getters Paul Townend and Jack Kennedy.

While Blackmore will have the opportunity to add another Ruby Walsh trophy to her mantlepiece in 2023 – it appears as though her campaign will be more of an uphill battle than in year’s past as there aren’t many thoroughbreds in Henry de Bromhead’s stable tipped for success at Prestbury Park this time around.

Apart from multiple-time Cheltenham Festival winner Honeysuckle, whose garnered a short price in the ante-post odds for the both the Mares’ Hurdle and Champion Hurdle – the remainder of the 50-year-old’s entries are considered outsiders at the time of writing.

For those betting on Cheltenham 2023, notable names such as Inthepocket, Telmesomethinggirl, Amirite, Spirit Of Legend and Bob Olinger are 12/1 or wider in the betting lines to reign supreme in their respective fixtures – in large part courtesy of an incredibly strong crop of entries put forward by the Cheltenham Festival’s most successful trainer in history – Willie Mullins.

Additionally, De Bromhead’s form has been less than stellar, winning just 14% of his races in 464 runs (at the time of writing) since May of last year. That’s a far cry from the De Bromhead we have come to expect, and potentially signals what is becoming a growing concern for the Knockeen-based trainer, whose winning percentage has dropped year on year since 2018/19 – with the exception of this season which remains the same as 2021/22.

That has impacted Blackmore’s odds to win the Leading Jockey award as a result, with the Tipperary native the fourth favourite at 10/1 to secure her second Ruby Walsh trophy – behind that of Townend, Nico de Boinville and Davy Russell. 

Write her off at your peril however, as although De Bromhead doesn’t appear likely to make much noise when looking at recent form, Blackmore’s experience, talent and poise on the biggest stage could arguably be the Irish trainer’s greatest asset across the meet’s four days. Therefore, if you intend to Place a bet on Cheltenham top jockey markets, don’t be surprised if Blackmore is there or thereabouts.

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