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 £205,000 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 support.

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

I had my first ride in Cheltenham at the November meeting in 2022. I was well fancied, but unfortunately my saddle slipped and I got unseated at the first.

I was annoyed at myself for a few hours after the race but reminded myself that it’s not going to be the last time something like that will happen in this game. I had to ride the following day so I knew I had to completely forget about it and concentrate on my next ride.

I also struggle with my weight. As a tall jockey, it takes a lot of discipline to keep your mind off food when you’re watching your weight. Maintaining this discipline and putting in the hard work makes riding much easier.

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

I try not to let myself get too high. Racing will always bring you back down to where you were. In racing there are more lows than highs. Most jockeys’ strike rates are below 20%. I try not to let myself look back at what happened a week ago or even yesterday, I just keep moving forward.

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

Before a race, I’d look at the form of all the other horses and I’d have a look at the form of my horse as well. Riding in the bumpers as an amateur, a lot of horses have little form to go off, so all you can do is ride your own horse. I like to go for a swim and to the sauna the night before a race as well.

On the way to the track I like to listen to music to help calm me down, I listen to a bit of everything really. Once I arrive at the track I like to stretch and I try to walk the track. This helps to decrease stress levels. Once I am on the horse I’d only be thinking about myself and the horse and the race at hand.

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

On disappointing days, I’d feel bad on the way home, especially when a horse may not have run the way I had hoped or thought it would. Thankfully my Mam is always there when I get home with the dinner on, telling me tomorrow is a new day.

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

I like to stay in a routine and I stretch as often as I can. I wouldn’t be too focused on the gym but I do like to do a bit of skipping while listening to music. I like to go into the sauna for about 10 to 15 minutes and then jump straight into the plunge pool.

I do my best to stay relaxed in a plunge pool for as long as I can as the cold water is good for the muscles. The sauna and plunge pool combination is very good for the mind, it is kind of similar to racing as it helps you stay calm under pressure.

Can you recall a race where maintaining a positive mindset was pivotal to winning?

When I won aboard Annamix at Fairyhouse in the hunter chase last April. Patrick Mullins and Barry O’Neill were favourites and were out in front for most of the race. I took my time and let my horse take his position.

At one stage I was about 20 lengths behind the fourth horse in a five-horse field. I just stayed going and let my horse jump away. I didn’t panic and managed to pass the two boys after the last to get up and win by four and a half lengths.

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

I try not to read into that side of stuff, but being a Mullins means that there is always an expectation that you are supposed to win in racing. I just try to stay working hard and trust that the opportunities will come. I have good support from my family, who tell me when I have done something wrong and on occasion, when I have done something right.

I like to look at the people who have done very well in the sport and listen to them. I don’t care about the uninformed outside world’s expectations as I am only going to be what I am going to be.

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

I’d like to see myself as confident when I am out and about. I always try to talk to as many people as I can and try to learn new things. When I go into Willie’s about two or three times a week, I’m always asking questions and trying to learn as much as I can. Racing is all about confidence. If you’re confident when you’re not riding you’ll be confident when you are riding, the horse can read your body language and knows exactly how you are feeling.

What do you do to switch off?

I like to watch documentaries or films and hang out with the lads who aren’t overly into racing. Sometimes you want nothing to do with racing, you want to chat to the lads from school, play pool or go to the cinema.

Mam isn’t as into racing as the rest of the family so she’s great to talk to about things that are not associated with racing.

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

Don’t look back at the bad days, it’s over and done with now. You can’t change it, just keep moving forward. Don’t let people bring you down, surround yourself with good people who will give you good advice and help boost your confidence.

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

No, luckily I haven’t. I’ve had two bad falls and thankfully Jennifer Pugh was very good to me. All of the doctors on course are very good, and will make sure you’re 100% before you go out and ride again.