Could We See A Female Jockey Win The Grand National?
In the history of the National, a female jockey has never won.
Phenomenal. This is the word that Rachael Blackmore used to sum up her Cheltenham Festival. And she’s not the wrong.
The 31-year-old rode six winners, becoming the first female jockey to land the leading jockey accolade at the meeting. Not only that, but she became the first woman to win the Champion Hurdle, and also finished second in the Gold Cup to Minella Indo, by one-and-a-quarter lengths – as trainer, Henry de Bromhead landed a one-two in the blue riband event.
Attention now turns to the next big race in the National Hunt calendar – the Grand National at Aintree. While Cloth Cap dominates the market when it comes to the Grand National odds 2021, another big talking point surrounds which horse Blackmore will ride, and whether or not she can continue that excellent form.
It won’t be Blackmore’s first outing at Aintree, as she was entered into the last two runnings – in 2018 and 2019. In her debut, Alpha Des Obeaux was a 33/1 outsider for trainer, Mouse Morris. Unfortunately, the gelding fell at the fifteenth fence, and later that year, he was transferred to the yard of Gordon Elliott. In the 2019 National, Blackmore, riding Valseur Lido, finished the race – coming in tenth, 33 lengths behind the two-time winner, Tiger Roll.
And in the history of the National, a female jockey has never won, with the best finish third-place for Katie Walsh in 2012. The 8/1 joint-favourite Seabass finished 5 lengths behind winner, Neptune Collonges. Women have only been allowed to enter the Grand National since 1977, after the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was passed – and to date, there have been 16 different female jockeys who have raced. Walsh and Nina Carberry have both raced in six Nationals, which is a joint-record.
But, back to Blackmore. Not only did those six wins at Cheltenham land her the leading jockey, but it was only one behind Ruby Walsh, who rode seven winners on two occasions: 2009 and 2016. On her achievements, Blackmore said:
"It's phenomenal. It's been brilliant. Henry de Bromhead is an incredible trainer. I'm just part of that team and getting on those horses."
Brilliant Blackmore’s Cheltenham sweep
- Champion Hurdle: Honeysuckle 11/10F (by six-and-a-half lengths)
- Novices’ Hurdle: Bob Olinger 6/4F (by seven-and-a-half lengths)
- Champion Bumper: Sir Gerhard 85/40 (by half a length)
- Ryanair Chase: Allaho 3/1F (by 12 lengths)
- Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle: Telmesomethinggirl 5/1 (by five-and-a-half lengths)
- Triumph Hurdle: Quilixios 2/1 (by three-and-a-quarter lengths)
And with four of those winners belonging to de Bromhead, it’s likely she will ride another from his yard at Aintree on April 10th. Although it’s not been confirmed, with another round of scratchings before the deadline, the entries she will have the pick of the bunch from, include: Minella Times, Chris’s Dream, Balko des Flos and Plan of Attack.
Odds on Minella Times were slashed dramatically after Blackmore’s showing at Cheltenham, and the jockey who hails from County Tipperary has been in the saddle for his previous three races – with one victory, and two second-place finishes under her belt. It was a tight finish in February’s Handicap Chase at Leopardstown, with Minella Times coming up short by half a length. Although questions are being asked over his stamina – he is yet to race over four miles – he is de Bromhead’s best chance of success over the Aintree fences.
But that is the beauty of the Grand National. It’s unpredictable and anything can happen, such is the demand of the course. Given her current form, if there is to ever be a female jockey winner, there’s no better time than 2021, nor a better rider than Blackmore.