History in the Grand National, one of the toughest horse races in the world to win as a female rider finally wins it
The thirty-one-year-old from County Tipperary in Ireland won aboard the Henry De Bromhead-trained Minella Times (11/1) for owner JP McManus as they lead home an Irish-trained 1-2-3-4-5 in the iconic 4 miles 2 furlong 40-runner race.
Blackmore, on just her third ride in the Grand National, had a previous best finish of 10th in 2019 with Valseur Lido.
The Killenaule, County Tipperary woman, who won the race by six and a half lengths, said of Minella Times and their success:
“This is the Aintree Grand National, I’m completely blown away. It’s unbelievable. It’s just incredible. I just got such an unbelievable passage through the race. Minella Times just jumped fantastic and brought me from fence to fence.
“I just travelled and jumped everywhere. I wish I could give you a better run down of what happened. I got a beautiful passage everywhere. He travelled really well and jumped really well. I thought jumping two out I was trying to hold on to a bit as it is a long way home.”
After partnering the eight year old gelded son of Oscar to an historic six and a half-length victory, the winning jockey said:
“I am so lucky to be riding these horses for Henry (De Bromhead, trainer). This is so massive. Minella Times jumped fantastically and didn’t miss a beat anywhere. I couldn’t believe it, jumping the second-last – I don’t know, it’s just incredible. When I hit the rail and I heard I was four lengths in front, I knew he was going to gallop to the line, 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.”
She went on to say:
“That is what you need in a race like this; you need so much luck to get around with no one else interfering first of all. You need so much to go right and things went right for me today. I feel so incredibly lucky. It is unbelievable I’m just so thrilled.
“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.”
The winning trainer Henry De Bromhead, who won each of the four major championship races at March’s Cheltenham Festival, including a 1-2 in the Gold Cup, while also being named top handler at the Festival, also had the runner-up in Balko Des Flos (100/1) in today’s Randox Grand National.
De Bromhead was ebullient in his praise of Blackmore and her contribution to his stable, stating:
“It’s all down to Rachael obviously, she was brilliant on him today. I’m just delighted – amazing, super ride, she hardly left the rail. She was just brilliant on him.”
The County Waterford handler continued:
“It feels amazing, it really does – it’s incredible. It’s the stuff you dream of. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid. It’s amazing, I’m just so lucky. She’s (Rachael) brilliant, isn’t she? Aren’t we so lucky to have her, they broke the mould after her. She’s brilliant. She’s tough out and brilliant – what can you say? You can see that when she joined us we have gone from strength to strength with her. She’s a fantastic rider, a great team player and just a lovely person to work with. She’s breaking through all the records.”
Former 20-time British champion jockey, Irish-born Tony McCoy, a winning rider in the Aintree Grand National on Don’t Push It in 2010, paid tribute to Rachael Blackmore after the race, saying:
“She’s got it all and she’s proved it on the biggest stage. Everyone in the world can now see it.”
The previous highest placed finish by a female rider had been Katie Walsh’s third place on Seabass, trained by her father, Ted, in 2012.
Ted Walsh’s representative in today’s race, And Second Now (15/2), in the colours of the winning owner JP McManus finished third, with Burrows Saint (9/1) fourth, and Farclas (16/1) next. The first British-trained runner home in a race dominated by Irish-trained horses, and the only one in the first 11 finishers, was Dan Skelton’s Blaklion in sixth position.
It has been an incredible season for Rachael Blackmore. In February she rode the mare Honeysuckle to win the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Last month at the Cheltenham Festival she became the first lady rider to win the Champion Hurdle when partnering Honeysuckle to victory. Over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival 2021 Blackmore rode six winners and in the process became the first female rider to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.
She is currently just 10 winners behind the reigning Irish champion jockey Paul Townend for the 2020-21 champion jump jockeys’ title which ends at the beginning of May. With Townend currently injured and Blackmore in this kind of form, don’t bet against her topping off the season by becoming the champion jockey in Ireland as well.
Photo: Rachael Blackmore, (Breandán Ó hUallacháin)