"I've barely drawn breath after the last four days," says an exhilarated Rachael Blackmore, speaking at Thurles racecourse less than 24 hours after becoming the first woman to be crowned leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival.
If Cheltenham was the champagne of the season for racing, today at Thurles was the bread and butter but it’s such meetings that keep the industry, and all involved in it, going from day to day.
And it was fitting that on the racecourse where the 31-year-old had her first winner, for trainer "Shark" Hanlon many years ago, she was back in the winner’s enclosure this evening after Myth Buster gave her a victory in the Horse and Jockey Beginners’ Chase. And fitting that Myth Buster was trained by Henry De Bromhead, for whom she rode four of those six winners during the week.
"Henry De Bromhead’s horses were just in fantastic form, so that was a massive help," she told RTÉ of her stellar week in the Cotswolds.
"He brought his team over there absolutely firing and I was very lucky to pick up two for Willie Mullins as well, so when you’re riding for that calibre of trainer it makes your job a lot easier."
Success in the Gold Cup may have eluded her yesterday, finishing a narrow second on A Plus Tard to stablemate Minella Indo, but she still made history on several levels during the week. The first woman jockey to ride a Champion Hurdle winner, on the mare Honeysuckle, and the first woman to ride more than two winners at the festival. She ended up with six - only Ruby Walsh, with seven, has ridden more winners in the big four-day event.
Asked what her expectations had been at the beginning of the week, she said: "Any jockey heading over to Cheltenham, they’re just hoping. With the book of rides I had, I was just hoping that one of them would get their head in front. I could never have envisaged what materialised."
Five of her winners were in Grade One events, but as she put it today: "Every race at the festival has a Grade One feel, it’s so hard to get winners over there. And it was a great week for all the Irish, Jack Kennedy came home with the Gold Cup and I came home with the Champion Hurdle, so it was unbelievable.
"And Henry de Bromhead trained the winners of the big three races over there with Put The Kettle On winning the Champion Chase as well so it was a phenomenal week."
She and Jack Kennedy were applauded into the parade ring today by their jockey colleagues as well as staff and volunteers at the racecourse, where owner Riona Maher said it was "fantastic" for Thurles to welcome her home, particularly as it was where she had her very first winner.
For the top Cheltenham jockey herself - "that sort of accolade hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest, the whole thing is crazy" - it’s now quarantine for five days, with Covid testing before and after, before she can see all her family and friends.
"A massive effort has gone in to getting all of us Irish jockeys and Irish runners over there and Jennifer Pugh [senior medical officer with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board] and her team have put in an enormous amount of work into getting us all over and back, so massive thanks to them."
With no members of the public allowed in, it was a festival with a difference. "Definitely. Cheltenham is such a special place but I think it’s so special because of the people and unfortunately the people couldn’t be there this year, but hopefully next year we’ll see everyone back."
As for further ambitions: "I’ve barely drawn breath after the last four days, to be honest."
And it’s onwards to the next meeting. "Straight back into it. Thurles today, Downpatrick tomorrow, you’d be walking on clouds to be honest."