We caught up with PCI Brand Ambassadors Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore.
Phelan Caswell Insurances have had a strong presence in the horse racing industry for over 20 years providing superior equine insurance cover, sponsoring the Irish Champion Hurdle for 10 years and are now proud ambassadorial sponsors of Ireland’s horse racing champions Rachael Blackmore and Paul Townend.
Following their many successes so far this year we caught up with Rachael and Paul to learn more about them, how they got into racing, their personal successes and how the unpredictable global pandemic has affected this racing season for each of them.
Hi Rachael and Paul. Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us. You’re both having a successful season so far it would be great to know more about both of you. We’d like to know how you both got started in the racing industry.
Rachael: I grew up on a farm and was always surrounded by horses and ponies. I started riding out racehorses for a neighbour Aidan Kennedy in transition year of school and from there I went on to get my amateur licence.
Paul: I was born into the industry with both sides of my family involved in racing. My father trains a few horses at home and I took a very keen interest in racing from a young age.
So, you both entered the world of horseracing from a young age. Can you tell us what a typical working week is like for you?
Rachael: From Monday to Saturday I ride out until lunchtime and then we generally race about 4 times a week. Some weeks are busier than others depending on what’s happening.
Paul: Our work week varies every week depending on the amount of racing on. I ride out in Willie Mullins stable 3-5 mornings a week, depending on how busy we are and if there are big festivals coming up. Generally we are racing 3 or 4 days a week. Then my “homework” consists of looking up entries for forthcoming races and researching previous form for my rides the following day.
You both put a lot of work in and it’s paying off. Do you have a favourite racecourse? If so, why?
Rachael: I love riding in Leopardstown it’s a fantastic racecourse and I’ve been very lucky to have some great days there including winning the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle in 2020.
Paul: I’m not sure that I have one standout favourite racecourse. We are lucky in Ireland to have some of the best racecourses in the world right on our doorstep. It’s always nice to be riding at the premier courses on the big day.
We have to agree with you there – Ireland does have a number of fantastic racecourses. The country is also known for producing some of the best racehorses. Which was your favourite horse to ride?
Rachael: I’ve been so lucky to have ridden some incredible horses but it’s hard not to say Honeysuckle as she has always kept her head in front!
Paul: I can imagine this is like picking your favourite child! Al Boum Photo & Hurricane Fly are amazing horses that I’ve had the privilege of riding.
2021 has been a great year so far for both of you. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment to date?
Rachael: Being leading rider at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival is my greatest achievement to date.
Paul: Winning two Magners Cheltenham Gold Cups has to be right up there along with three champion jockeys titles (fingers crossed for 4 in a month’s time). But, just living out my childhood dream of becoming a jockey is probably my greatest personal achievement.
Coronavirus is still with us unfortunately. How has the global pandemic impacted this season compared to others?
Rachael: Unfortunately, Coronavirus has managed to impact absolutely every walk of life at this stage. I think we have been very lucky compared to other industries as we were able to get racing back going quite quickly after the first lockdown.
There are strict protocols which all trainers, jockeys and stable staff must adhere to in order to attend a race meeting but things seem to be running smoothly and hopefully we are coming closer to the end of it now. It will be wonderful to have all the great racing fans back at the track.
Paul: Obviously the lack of crowds at the biggest meetings is very noticeable if you have had the privilege of winning! You miss the reception as you come back to the winners enclosure. From a riding point of view nothing has changed. We don’t notice a crowd once we get on the horses back and pull down our goggles. We are fully focused on the job at hand at that stage.
The new protocols for us on race day became the norm very quickly. We had to adjust to them and just get on with our job. Due to the delayed start to the season and the reshuffling of meetings it has been a very hectic season.
Lastly, there are many superstitions around horse racing. Do either of you consider yourself superstitious?
Paul: Very superstitious now that I think of it. From saluting magpies to blessing myself at a church or a graveyard I’m guilty of them all!
We want to congratulate Rachael & Paul on a hugely successful season, and we are all incredibly proud of their achievements. You can find more about Phelan Caswell’s Equine Insurance offering here, and get in touch with our experienced team to arrange a competitive quote.
Here at PCI – We only back winners!!