Rachael Blackmore, the first woman to become champion conditional jockey in Ireland in 2016/17, is now battling it out with Paul Townend and Davy Russell in the title race, currently sitting in second place in the table.
The 29-year-old, from Killenaule in County Tipperary, has ridden big-race winners for Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott and caused one of the surprises of the season when guiding Bedrock to victory over odds-on favourite Samcro in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle at Down Royal in November.
I’d say I was always going to become a vet, but only in my dreams because I was never going to have the academics to back it up.
I finished my equine studies in the University of Limerick and did a business diploma in Dublin. I loved my time at college but I didn’t achieve anything close to the required marks in the exams. I am not complaining now, though!
We always had ponies and hunters at home on the farm in County Tipperary.
I have grown up around ponies and horses that have given me so many good days. Naturally enough you become attached and have a soft spot for horses that provide you with the goods on a big day. The lads riding out and caring for these horses on a day-to- day basis are the ones who really know them.
I’ve been riding as an amateur since I was 18 or 19.
It was more of a gradual progression to become a jump jockey – it wasn’t a case of dropping everything to become a jump jockey. My parents have always been behind us whatever role we pursued.
There are times when I feel the more progress you are making, the more pressure you are under.
You are trying to maintain the level you have reached and you are getting better rides on better horses. I am obviously really enjoying it all.
I don’t get overly nervous. I think everyone has a touch of nerves going out to ride but it doesn’t affect me massively.
For me, it’s all about getting on the best horse in the race.
I don’t really know what the secret is. I watch videos of myself, more so when things have gone wrong in a race.
You look back that evening filled with frustration and try to see what you can learn from particular incidents in races.
Garry [Cribbin, agent] is a massive asset to have on my side.
He is very professional and an extremely good agent, the ideal person to be working with. We wouldn’t necessarily speak every day; obviously we’d talk if there’s a problem or an issue.
If he picks up on something that might be beneficial during the day, he would contact me. He also looks after a lot of other jockeys.
Criticism on social media is an ever- prevalent issue, though it doesn’t bother me, to be honest.
I am 29 now and I don’t take much notice of it, though it might have been a different story when I was 18 or 19, receiving some of the messages being sent out these days.
Unfortunately, it’s an ever-growing issue in the wider world. The anonymity that someone can portray themselves under is dangerous.
Apart from that, I use social media and of course it can be very useful, informative and entertaining.
I don’t think you can ever be fit enough for race-riding.
I go to a personal fitness trainer in Carlow when time allows, and I also see Wayne Middleton, who is a fitness trainer for any jockeys that need him. He is based at RACE at the jockeys’ school on the Curragh. It is a great service that is provided for us.
My diet is pretty normal and my weight is very good. I don’t have to watch what I eat and that’s a big plus.
The dedication of some jockeys when it comes to their diet is something I admire.
Post-race interviews are no problem.
We’re usually being interviewed after a winner so I am generally pretty happy to talk in front of the cameras.
Away from racing, dinner with friends is what I enjoy most.
And of course going to Dublin airport at the end of June with my holiday bag packed!
I feel privileged to be able to do a job that really doesn’t seem like a job to me.
I love it and never get caught up wondering what else I might be doing; I’ll have plenty of time for that in a few years.
Where would I like to be in five years’ time? Wherever I am, I’d like to be happy.