In November, Betfair launched its one-of-a-kind charity initiative, the ‘Rachael Blackmore - Serial Winners Fund’, to benefit both the Injured Jockeys Fund and Irish Injured Jockeys. The fund currently stands at £155,000 and is expected to reach £250,000 by Grand National Day, Saturday, April 13th, when the fund will draw to a close. This weekly column seeks to shed some light on how jockeys have, and will continue to benefit from, the work the IIJ and the IJF do, and some of the services this contribution will.

Tell us about an experience where mental strength played a crucial role in overcoming a challenging situation in your career to date.

In this game there are more bad days than good ones and, for me, my mental strength improved with experience. One day that comes to mind was at Fairyhouse where I had two good chances in two Grade 1s, and finished second on both. As I was a bit younger, it was much harder to take, but the experience taught me a lot about the game that day. It taught me to move on from disappointments and, more importantly, to cherish the good days.

How do you maintain focus and stay resilient amid all the highs and lows?

I try to leave all my disappointments at the course, to prevent it from dragging on all day. Again, this ability comes with experience. I like to remember that we do it because we love it - but at the end of the day, there are more important things going on in the world than getting beaten on a few horses.

What techniques do you use to manage stress and pressure before and during a race?

The better the race, the more pressure there is, and no matter the race I go out, do my best and try to enjoy it. As soon as I get on the horse it’s business as normal. Once my homework and preparation is done I don’t get too stressed.

How has the ability to bounce back from disappointments contributed to your overall success as a jockey?

As you get bigger winners it makes you hungrier. When you ride winners you grow confidence and can be in the spotlight for 10 to 15 minutes, but you can come down off it just as quickly right after. I think when you have four or five rides a day, you have to accept that they won’t all win. In my mind I like to treat horse racing as a sport and a hobby in order to make it easier to cope with the disappointment and to maintain a positive mindset.

Are there specific mental exercises or routines you practice to enhance your mental strength?

None in particular. I like to treat everyday as it comes. In my opinion it helps to have the same routine on a raceday. Mine usually consist of riding out as normal in the morning and heading to the racecourse afterwards. I like to keep myself busy before races, as it helps to keep the mind occupied. I find, when sitting around idle, you start overthinking things, especially when on a bad run of form.

Can you recall a race where maintaining a positive mindset was vital?

In my first Grade 1 in the 2020 Savills Chase on A Plus Tard. After the second last I looked ahead and thought I might have given Kemboy and Melon ahead a bit too much room. I knew that if I flew the last that I may have been able to get up. However we didn’t have a perfect jump at the last, but we stuck to it, stayed positive and managed to get up in the dying strides.

How do you handle the weight of expectations, both from yourself and others?

I am a jockey because I want to do it, and I don’t do it for anyone else. My family don’t expect me to ride winners everyday and they are happy when I come home safely, no matter what. I expect plenty of myself and I’d criticise myself if I made a mistake, but it mainly comes down to the quality of the horse you’re on. In terms of the media, it makes no difference to me - it’s always nice to see nice posts, but I wouldn’t be losing a lot of sleep over something I don’t want to see.

Are you a naturally confident person or is that something you have to work hard at?

I’d be quite outgoing in certain things. I don’t mind working with the media, I find it very natural to talk about racing. I would say I am confident in my own ability, but in this game you have to be confident when given the right horses to make the right decisions and to get the job done.

What do you do to switch off?

I always like to keep myself busy, when I am away from racing, I love playing pool and snooker. During the summer holidays, I’d always be on a plane as I find it great to get away from it all during the break as it can be a long winter with early mornings. I just love the sun, swimming and water so I try to get down to the sun whenever I can.

What message would you give to someone who is struggling to cope with pressure or disappointment in their professional life?

The one piece of advice I’d give is no matter how bad things seem to you there is always someone in a worse position. Work is only work at the end of the day. If you look around hard enough, you will always find someone in a more unfortunate position who would only love to be in the position that you are in.

Have you ever availed of support from the Injured Jockeys Fund or Irish Injured Jockeys?

They’re brilliant, fantastic to have them around. They are such an important part of the game and the show wouldn’t go on without them. When you have a bad fall they are always there, and it’s safe to say that all of us have been looked after them at some stage in our careers.