Women have been breaking down the barriers of traditional men’s sport for many years now and horse racing has already given us a number of ‘firsts’. Back in April of 2021, Rachael Blackmore recorded what may be the most significant landmark yet when she became the first female jockey to win the Grand National.
Blackmore has written her name into the history of this gruelling race but her success in the event shouldn’t have come as a shock.
Sign Of The Times
Rachael Blackmore led her mount, Minella Times, into the winners’ enclosure as an 11/1 shot. With the favourites starting at around 7/1 for the National, that wasn’t an outrageous set of odds in a race where 100/1 winners have been known.
Only 19 female jockeys had previously competed in the Grand National with Katie Walsh’s third place in 2012 being the previous best. It was a notable feat for Blackmore, but it wasn’t the first time that she had tasted success on this very horse.
2021’s Grand National was Minella Times’ 18th race in total and Rachael Blackmore has piloted the horse in five of those outings. Overall, the record stands at four wins, with six-second places and one third-place finish.
Blackmore’s record from her five races with Minella Times features three wins and two-second place finishes. She’s not been outside of the top two in all five outings on this horse and that’s a seriously impressive return.
Punters should certainly have taken the duo as genuine contenders ahead of the National and many who did their research will have enjoyed some significant profits.
A National Treasure
First run in 1839, the Grand National is firmly regarded as one of the most important occasions on the British sporting calendar. Tradition plays a big part in horse racing and the schedules just wouldn’t be the same without this famous Aintree race.
It is widely considered to be the biggest test of any horse and jockey. The National is raced over four miles and 2.5 furlongs of the Aintree course and there are no fewer than 30 fences to negotiate along the way.
As a supreme test of endurance and a major sporting spectacle, the Grand National is rightly confirmed to be one of the most valuable jump races in Europe. The prize fund first exceeded £1 million in 2017 and it continues to build.
As the first woman jockey to win the National, Rachael Blackmore is now in the race’s Hall of Fame. It’s an impressive list too with jockeys such as Bob Champion and the unforgettable three-time winner Red Rum.
Uniting The Punters
The Grand National marks one of the biggest, if not the biggest day for betting shops and online sportsbooks. Many gambling operators like 888 offer various welcome bonuses for new punters to use on major events such as the National. Regular bettors are joined by punters who may only place one wager a year. As a result, millions of pounds are staked on this single event.
Other major races and meetings such as the Derby and Royal Ascot will also attract interest, but nothing compares to the buzz that surrounds the National. As recently as 2009, a 100/1 winner came home in the shape of Mon Mome and the unpredictability and potential for high returns adds to the interest in this race.
Breaking New Ground
Rachael Blackmore’s historic feat is likely to lead to more women taking up horse racing. We’ve seen this in other sports such as cricket while Fallon Sherrock’s success against the men has led to a higher take up in terms of female darts players.
Those that don’t choose to take up the sport can still enjoy a higher ratio of females taking part. At big meetings, most notably Royal Ascot, the race is a major social occasion. Many of those meetings have a Ladies Day which offers a perfect excuse to dress up, enjoy a drink or two and take in an afternoon at the races.
The sight of women performing well in an arena that has traditionally been dominated by men will surely boost that interest. Success breeds success and Blackmore’s win in the toughest jump race on earth is surely just the first.
She’s recorded a major breakthrough but what does the future hold for Rachael Blackmore? She was 32 when she won the Grand National on Minella Times and had already recorded some notable achievements by this point. The Irish jockey has previously won nine times at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival and one of her next goals will be to take that tally into double figures.
From the Cheltenham Festival in March, there’s no reason to believe that Blackmore will not compete in the Grand National which takes place in the following month. Potentially, she may even saddle up with Minella Times once again.
The horse won the National as an eight-year-old in 2021 and age is no barrier in a race as testing as this. In fact, experience can often be key to success on that tough Aintree course.
Whatever happens, the future for Rachael Blackmore looks to be a bright one. In turn, she has made a major breakthrough for women jockeys which can only benefit the Grand National and the sport of horse racing as a whole. In her wake, many more female riders will surely follow and begin to set their own records.