It is hard to really comprehend just how significant the past month has been for Rachael Blackmore.
Four weeks ago she was feted within horse racing as being a rider of rare talent. She had appeared for the last two years on our 50 Women of Influence in Irish Sport list. This morning though she woke up as a genuine international sporting superstar.
The Aintree Grand National is the one race of the year that everybody knows about, that an estimated 600 million people around the world will have watched on Saturday and the trophy for which is now sitting on her mantlepiece.
Horse racing is one of the very few sporting arenas in which men and women compete against each other on level terms. When Red Rum won his third race back in 1977, Charlotte brew became the first woman to ride in the race. Katie Walsh rode Seabass into third in 2012 and was highlighted in SportsPro magazine the following year as one of the 50 most marketable athletes in the world.
So where does that place Rachael Blackmore?
She was congratulated by the President and the Taoiseach, by celebrities around the world including Ringo Starr, and by sports fans of every flavour.
In terms of the awareness of her achievement on a global scale, this is on a different scale even to Katie Taylor’s and propels her to being a virtual shoo-in for every major award that will recognise sporting achievement this year, not only in Ireland but further afield as well.
In her immediate post-race interview she said that she felt neither a male nor a female athlete, and she is right in a sporting context. The reality is though that if she was a Richard rather than a Rachael, we would not be celebrating a first Grand National Win, a first Cheltenham Championship Race Winner, a first Cheltenham Top Jockey prize and so much more in quite the same manner.
The life of a jockey is relentless and she will be back in the saddle this week in pursuit of the Champion Jockey title in Ireland.
“It was a great day for racing in general,” said Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh. “One of those days that lifted your heart.”
In sporting terms, she is riding the best horses, for the best trainers and owners and is at the very top of her game. Ireland is currently way ahead in terms of national Hunt Racing so there is no immediate attraction to travelling elsewhere to burnish her reputation. Irish trained horses won 23 of the 28 races at the Cheltenham Festival and filled ten of the first eleven places in Saturday’s big race.
Her commercial interests are looked after by David McHugh and Rebecca Evans at Line Up Sports and there phones have been hopping over the weekend. She currently has commercial partnerships with Phelan Caswell Insurance and betting company Bet Victor.
Sporting dominance, a winning personality and that stardust of being a successful woman in what has been traditionally perceived as a man’s world will put her on the radar of brands and programmes far from Ireland’s shore. She was headline news everywhere from the BBC to Al Jazeera.
Jump racing does not have the same lucrative prizes as it does on the flat. Blackmore’s win on Saturday, where she gets a percentage of the prize money won, will earn here about €30,000. David Egan on the other hand, became an overnight millionaire when he won last month’s Saudi Cup where the prize money was $20 million.
But the commercial rewards for Blackmore will be higher. At the age of 31, she can look forward to a number of years at the top, though it is a dangerous sport and nothing should ever be taken for granted.
The value of any deal depends on the point of agreement between both sides. Saturday but Blackmore and her team in a dominant position and it would be a surprise not to see her appearing in a variety of deals over the coming months.
Sport for Business Partners