The Cheltenham Festival is over and all eyes in the UK now turn to the next big horse racing event, the Grand National at Aintree, Liverpool. And the question on everybody’s lips is: Which horse will Rachael Blackmore ride?
The Irish jockey has risen to the top in a sport previously dominated by men. So much so that many punters looking at the big races are inclined to back whichever horse she is riding. This was the case at Cheltenham, where she rode to victory in the Gold Cup on A Plus Tard, becoming the first female to win the race in history. She also retained her Champion Hurdle crown on Honeysuckle. In the online odds for horse racing, Blackmore’s mounts are always well backed and often priced as favorites.
🏆It’s Rachael Blackmore’s Gold Cup!🏆 pic.twitter.com/4178SNOojp
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 18, 2022
The 32-year-old rode Minella Times to victory at last year’s Grand National, in another first for female jockeys. Just weeks earlier, she was crowned Cheltenham champion jockey with six wins. These achievements drew global attention and elevated Blackmore to superstar status.
Blackmore has yet to confirm which horse she will ride at Aintree, but it is widely believed she will renew her partnership from last year. So, it was no surprise that following her Gold Cup win, Minella Times was backed from as long as +5000 into +1400 to win the showpiece race. Many people who don’t normally bet but who enjoy an annual wager on the Grand National will be drawn to backing Blackmore.
Her story has resonated with many in an era when women have been fighting for equality in sports. Despite its male-dominated past, horse racing provides one of the few sporting environments where women can compete directly with men. Riders such as Blackmore, Hayley Turner, Hollie Doyle, Nina Carberry, and Katie Walsh have taken full advantage to excel in flat and national hunt racing.
Things have moved a long way since 1977 when Ginger McCain, who trained Red Rum to three Grand National wins, stated that women should not be ride in the race “under any circumstances.” In the same year, 21-year-old Charlotte Brew defied that resistance by riding 200-1 outsider Barony Fort.
Her horse refused at the fourth last fence, but the result didn’t matter. A barrier had been broken, a myth had been dispelled, and women jockeys became a regular sight on the horse racing scene. Blackmore’s victory last year was the culmination of over 40 years of defiance.
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 10, 2021
The price for Minella Times to win the Grand National is likely to shorten significantly if Blackmore is confirmed as the jockey, with the pair almost certain to start as favorites. Winning the race two years running would be a massive achievement, but is not unheard of.
Davy Russell won back-to-back races on Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019, and Leighton Aspell won consecutive races on different mounts in 2014 and 2015. Prior to that, the last back-to-back winner was Brian Fletcher on Red Rum in 1973 and 1974. But given her recent exploits, you wouldn’t put it past Rachael Blackmore to write another page in the history books.