Rachael Blackmore suffered a fractured ankle and hip injury
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Grand National heroine Rachael Blackmore faces a long spell on the sidelines after it was confirmed she has fractured an ankle and sustained an unspecified hip injury following a horror fall at Killarney on Friday.
Blackmore, 32, who had a narrow lead in this season’s Irish jump jockeys’ championship with 22 winners, was treated for half an hour on the landing side of the fifth hurdle after her mount, the grey Merry Poppins, appeared to step at the obstacle, clip the top and fall before rolling on her.
The following race was delayed before she was taken to Tralee Hospital where, on Friday night, she underwent an operation on her hip.
The first six months of 2021 have seen Blackmore smash glass ceiling after glass ceiling for women jump jockeys. She won the Irish and English Champion Hurdles on Honeysuckle, she was leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival with six winners and, capping everything, she became the first woman to win the Grand National on Minella Times.
Even at Killarney she had ridden a double before disaster struck halfway in the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle.
In a statement, Jennifer Pugh, the Irish Horseracing Boards’s senior medical officer, said: “Rachael Blackmore sustained a fractured ankle and hip injury following her fall on Friday evening. She has had surgery overnight and is in good spirits.”
Merry Poppins fell at the fifth hurdle
Credit: RACING TV
The jockey, who has had minor fractures in the past but nothing in this league, now faces at least three months out of action. When Jamie Spencer fractured his hip riding at Newmarket in April last year – which required an operation – it was 13 weeks before he was back racing and he did not have a fractured ankle to contend with.
That would take her to mid-October but neither Honeysuckle nor Minella Times are likely to be out before November when the jump season proper resumes and the principal big meeting she will miss is the Galway Festival which starts a week on Tuesday.
At The Curragh on Saturday, Snowfall, the runaway winner of the Cazoo Oaks, did a similar demolition job to her rivals in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks when she came home in the fashion of a 2-7 shot, beating her stable companion Divinely by eight-and-a-half lengths.
The further she went the better she went and, after hitting the front two out, she powered away from her rivals under Ryan Moore to become the 15th filly to complete the Oaks double. It was about half the winning margin of her Epsom success but it was nevertheless highly impressive.
“She’s a very smart filly,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien afterwards. “She has a lot of quality. We purposely let her down from Epsom where it was soft ground and the plan was here and on to York [Yorkshire Oaks], then she’d be ready for the autumn [and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe]. She’s done very well physically and finishes out her races very well.”
Speaking about the remarkable turnaround from last season when she ran seven times and had only a Curragh maiden to show for it, O’Brien explained that they had been concentrating on switching her off – which is clearly paying huge dividends as a three-year-old as she is unbeaten in three starts.
“We always thought she had a lot of natural ability but we had to get her to switch off,” he said. “A few things went against her and because she’d been busy, it took its toll at the end of the season.”
Meanwhile, Richard Hannon and Sean Levey completed a magnificent nine days which started with Snow Lantern’s Falmouth Stakes win at Newmarket last week when Gubbass, a 4-1 shot, beat stablemate Symphony Perfect in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury 40 minutes after last year’s Super Sprint winner Happy Romance won the Hackwood Stakes.
It was the 30th Super Sprint, in which horses are allotted a weight according to their cost as a yearling, and the 11th time a Hannon two-year-old has won it with Richard Hannon Snr landing it seven times and his son catching up rapidly; Gubbass was his fourth.
“It’s great for Sean,” said the trainer. “He’s had a great couple of weeks. He’s in every day, he works very hard. There are a lot of bad days, when you get a good one you need to enjoy them.”