Rachael Blackmore on her four runners at the Dublin Racing Festival

by Aaron Dunne
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I’ve picked up a lovely ride for Jessica Harrington on Jetara in the opening Grade 1 novice hurdle, on what promises to be a fantastic weekend of racing at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Jetara goes into the race in great form, she has won her last three, and she looked very good last time in winning a Grade 3 mares’ hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. She is a really well-bred mare, her dam is a sister to Jezki.

She is stepping up slightly in trip here, and Jezki is obviously a Champion Hurdle winner, but Jezki also won a Grade 1 race over three miles, and his half-brother Jett won a Grade 3 chase over three miles. There is lots of stamina in Jetara’s pedigree too, and she races over two and a half miles as if she will be well able for this longer trip.

She is taking on the geldings here for just the second time in her career, and this is obviously a high-class race. Loughglynn is a Grade 2 winner and Predators Gold was runner-up in a Grade 1 last time. But Jetara is a high-class mare herself, and the 7lb that she receives from the geldings will obviously be a big help.

25 January 2024; Jockey Rachael Blackmore and Ain’t That A Shame after winning the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Steeplechase at Gowran Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

13:50 – Highwind

I ride Highwind for Willie Mullins in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, and he goes there with his chance in another hugely competitive race.

He won over nine and a half furlongs on the all-weather on the flat in France, and he won his maiden hurdle on his first run for Willie at Punchestown just over two weeks ago. I rode against him in that race, and I thought that he did well to win. He made one or two mistakes on the way around, and he got in tight to the last when he was clear, and nodded on landing. He lost lots of momentum there, but he just got going again, and he won going away.

This is a high-class juveniles’ race, as you would expect for a Grade 1. Storm Heart won his maiden hurdle by over 20 lengths, and Kala Conti won the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, a race in which Kargese finished second, while Majborough is obviously well regarded, having his first run for Willie after winning over hurdles in France in April.

But Highwind should improve for his Punchestown run, his first run over hurdles and his first since last April, and I hope that he can go well.

15:00 – Music Of Tara

We were delighted with the performance that Music Of Tara put up in winning a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

That was her first win, she stayed on well to win nicely, and I hope that she can go on from that now with that win under her belt.

The handicapper raised her by 7lb to a mark of 122, but I hope that she can improve now to cover that rise. She is stepping up her trip here, from two and a half miles to three miles, but I don’t think that that will be an issue for her. She can race behind the bridle sometimes, and there is lots of stamina in her pedigree, her dam won a listed mares’ hurdle over three miles, so there is a chance that the step up to three miles could be a positive for her.

She has been in great form at home since Christmas, and we hope that she can run another big race.

16:10 – The Folkes Tiara

The Folkes Tiara won at Leopardstown over Christmas too and, like Music Of Tara over hurdles, he was recording his first win over fences there.

Drying conditions would be a positive for him, he likes nicer ground, and I’d love to see the word yielding creep into the going description by Saturday. He does like it around Leopardstown, his two runs there have both been good, and his only win over fences was gained over this course and distance.

He is 6lb higher than he was at Christmas, but we couldn’t be happier with him at home, and he could go well again.

Back in November, Betfair and Rachael Blackmore launched a one-of-a-kind initiative, Rachael Blackmore’s Serial Winners fund, with an initial £100,000 donation.

Throughout the season, £5,000 is added to the fund by Betfair every time Blackmore rides a winner up to Grand National Day, and since the launch, a further £55,000 has been donated, taking the total so far up to £155,000.

Over the last five years Rachael Blackmore has ridden an average of 30 winners during this period; it’s anticipated the pot could increase up to £250,000 come Grand National Day. 

Proceeds will be shared evenly between two charities that make a major difference to the lives of jockeys in both the UK and Ireland, the ‘Injured Jockeys Fund’ and ‘Irish Injured Jockeys’.

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