History-maker Rachael Blackmore becomes the first woman to win the Grand National

2 months ago 26

The 173rd running of the Grand National was run in front of deserted, almost silent Aintree grandstands save for a few hopeful owners, grooms and staff. But what Rachael Blackmore achieved on Saturday will be shouted loud around the sporting world.

The famous old race has thrown up some amazing and romantic results, but Blackmore wrote one of the most remarkable chapters since it was first run in 1839 when she became the first female jockey to win the race on 11-1 shot Minella Times.

It was only in 1977 that amateur rider Charlotte Brew became the first female jockey to take part in the National on Barony Fort. And only in 1982 that a woman jockey, Geraldine Rees, finished the race for the first tine.

Going into Saturday’s race 17 different female jockeys had ridden 31 starters in the marathon steeplechase with the third-place finish of Katie Walsh on Seabass in 2012 the best result.

Asked if she could believe what she had achieved seconds after crossing the line, Blackmore said: ‘I don’t feel male or female — I don’t even feel human!’

Female jockey Rachael Blackmore made history by winning the Grand National on Saturday with a thrilling finish

Jockey Blackmore celebrates her Grand National glory alongside trainer Henry De Bromhead by holding the trophy aloft

Blackmore, seen here attending the RTE studios for 'The Late Late Show' in Dublin in March 2019, becomes the first female to win the Grand National and claim the most prestigious title in horse racing

Prior to the huge victory Blackmore had walked the Aintree track with her partner, fellow jockey Brian Hayes (right)

Blackmore seen with fellow jockey Patrick Mullins at Aintree in 2019, two years before she would go on to win the sport's biggest race and make history in the process

WHO IS RACHAEL BLACKMORE?

Ask anybody with knowledge of the racing world about Blackmore and they will reliably inform you she likes to let her riding do the talking and while comfortable in front of the camera usually gives the impression she would prefer to be elsewhere. 

But the 2021 Grand National was about one woman who has made a remarkable career journey and now finding a quiet corner away from the spotlight might be difficult for a few days.

The daughter of a dairy farmer and a teacher, Blackmore is not from a racing family. Her younger sister is a lawyer and her older brother a graphic designer.

Initially, Blackmore wanted to be a vet before ending up studying equine science in Limerick. Back then she wanted to be an amateur jockey not believing it was feasible to turn professional.

She didn’t do that until she was 25 and even then it was a move done in hope of turning a trickle of rides into a respectable flow.

A chance link up with Minella Time’s trainer Henry de Bromhead that was suggested by Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to his brother Ryanair boss, Michael was a turning point.

Momentum has arrived in surges throughout Blackmore’s career, and she receives plentiful support from her partner and fellow jockey Brian Hayes.

She is currently 10 winners behind injured reigning champion Paul Townend in the Irish Jockeys’ championship. 

The bare facts of the result are that Blackmore and Minella Times beat their Henry de Bromhead-trained 100-1 stablemate Balko Des Flos six-and-half lengths, with Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now beaten eight-and-a-quarter lengths in third, and Willie Mullins-trained Burrows Saint beaten just over 27 lengths in fourth.

The Irish whitewash was even more crushing than that. Blaklion, the Dan Skelton-trained sixth, was the only British-trained horse in the first 11 finishers.

For De Bromhead, it was an extension of a remarkable few weeks after he trained the 1-2 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Minella Indo and A Plus Tard, and also won the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Put The Kettle on and Champion Hurdle with Blackmore-ridden Honeysuckle.

But it is Blackmore, who was having only her third ride in the race, who will steal all the headlines. She rode six winners at last month’s Cheltenham Festival to become the first female rider to be the meeting’s leading jockey.

But the Grand National victory takes the profile of the 31-year-old from Tipperary into a different stratosphere.

Going into the race, Blackmore had admitted that like any pony-mad youngster she had dreamed of riding in the National.

Afterwards she said: ‘This is the Aintree Grand National. I’m completely blown away. Minella Times was unbelievable, he jumped fantastic, I don’t think he missed a beat anywhere.

‘This is a massive deal for me personally, not the fact I’m a female. The thing that hit me when I crossed the line was that I’d won the National, not that I’m the first female to win the National. I’m just delighted.’

Virtually everything that Blackmore has touched recently has turned to gold.

Even though the Grand National has the reputation as the most unpredictable race in the world, there almost seemed an inevitability that she would crack it.

Minella Times, owned by JP McManus, was always with the leaders racing towards the inside. He was in fifth going out on the second circuit and crossing the Melling Road between the third-last and second-last fences, it was clear the Blackmore dream could become a reality.

Long-time clear leader Jett had come back to the pack and the only horse who looked to be going as well as Blackmore on Minella Times was Patrick Mullins on 2019 Irish National winner Burrows Saint. But his stamina had given way by the last fence and when Minella Times jumped the final obstacle better than Balko Des Flos, victory was all but sealed even though Blackmore took nothing for granted.

‘When I hit the rail (at the Elbow on the run-in) and I heard I was four lengths in front, I knew he was going to gallop to the line,’ she said. ‘But we all know what can happen on the run-in here. When I crossed the line, I don’t know how I felt — it’s incredible.’

Despite his personal success, De Bromhead heaped a lot of credit on his jockey. The trainer said: ‘It’s all down to Rachael obviously, she was brilliant on him.

Blackmore comes from humble beginnings in County Tipperary and was introduced to racing from a young age. Pictured in the weighing room during Ladies Day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival 2019

Blackmore was the winner of the National Hunt Award and collected her award in December 2019

Initially, Blackmore wanted to be a vet before ending up studying equine science in Limerick after deciding that it was not feasible to turn professional as a jockey - which she would later do so at the age of 25

THE NATIONAL RESULT

1 Minella Times (R Blackmore) 11-1

2 Balko Des Flos (A Coleman) 100-1

3 Any Second Now (M P Walsh) 15-2

4 Burrows Saint (P W Mullins) 9-1 

‘It was a super ride, she hardly left the rail. Aren’t we so lucky to have her, they broke the mould after her. She’s brilliant.’

Favourite Cloth Cap raced with the leaders until an error four from home saw him quickly fold with jockey Tom Scudamore, who told the stewards his mount had had a breathing issue, pulling him up shortly after. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill said: ‘Tom said he was grand, then he gurgled. He did the right thing pulling him up.’ There was one equine fatality, The Long Mile, who fractured a hind leg and was later put down.

The race was not as memorable for Britain’s leading female jockey Bryony Frost, who was taken to hospital after a heavy fall at the 20th fence on Yala Enki.

The other female jockey to ride in the race, Tabitha Worsley, finished 14th on Sub Lieutenant.

Blackmore likes to let her riding do the talking and while comfortable in front of the camera usually gives the impression she would prefer to be elsewhere.

Finding a quiet corner away from the spotlight might prove difficult for a few days.

Blackmore led home a one-two for trainer Henry de Bromhead in the iconic race at Aintree

 Minella Times, priced at 11-1, never looked threatened in the charge to the finish to take victory in convincing fashion

The 31-year-old Irish jockey timed her run to perfection to claim a historic victory on the biggest stage in horse racing

Blackmore holds the Grand National Handicap Chase trophy after winning on Minella Times

But the 2021 Randox Grand National was about one woman who has made a remarkable career journey.

The daughter of a dairy farmer and a teacher, Blackmore is not from a racing family. Her younger sister is a lawyer and her older brother a graphic designer.

Initially, Blackmore wanted to be a vet before ending up studying equine science in Limerick. Back then she wanted to be an amateur jockey not believing it was feasible to turn professional.

She did not do that until she was 25 and even then it was a move done in hope of turning a trickle of rides into a respectable flow. A chance link-up with De Bromhead Michael was a turning point.

Momentum has surges in Blackmore’s career.

She is 10 winners behind injured reigning champion Paul Townend in the Irish Jockeys’ championship. The way she is going at the moment, you wouldn’t rule out her winning that too.

Relive all the action from the Grand National with Sportsmail's KISHAN VAGHELA here. 

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