They call it the greatest steeplechase in the world, and it’s certainly the one that all horse owners, trainers and jockeys want to win. At $1,400,000 it might not quite have the prize fund of the Kentucky Derby, but a win in the race ensures that the winning horse and his jockey are certain to go down in the history books of racing.
For anyone unfamiliar with the race, it’s one of the last events in the UK’s steeplechasing season held in the Spring just before flat racing takes over for the Summer. Run over 4 miles 514 yards and including 30 jumps, the Grand National is the ultimate test of a horse’s stamina and a jockey’s skills.
Even though every running of the race is a momentous event, there have been some years when it has been even more special. For example, in the period between 1973 and 1977 a horse called Red Rum won three times and came second twice, securing his place as the race’s most successful runner ever.
But, arguably, these achievements have been eclipsed in 2021 when the race was won for the first time even by a woman jockey called Rachael Blackmore riding Minella Times. This is especially remarkable as Red Rum’s trainer, Ginger McCain, once famously made the pronouncement that no woman could ever win the Grand National as it would be too great a physical challenge.While women jockeys have been making a mockery of McCain’s decidedly archaic view of gender equality for some years, Blackmore is the first to have proved the point quite so decisively.
The modest 31-year-old from Ireland had been involved with horses all her life, even graduating with a degree in Equine Sciences from college. For many years she had struggled to get rides on good horses, until she was taken on by the trainer Henry De Bromhead. It’s his faith in Blackmore that led to her having the pick of his horses to ride and which led to her also being the most successful jockey at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, notching up no fewer than six wins, one short of the all-time record of seven held by Ruby Walsh.
This has very much brought Rachael into the wider public eye for the first time. Her gender has also meant that she already has the sort of high profile that it has taken many male jockeys far longer to achieve. So perhaps we will start to see her name cropping up in other areas like in online slots games. For example, Space Casino currently features one called Scudamore’s Super Stakes, named after the ex-champion jockey Peter Scudamore and there are also several games featuring the legendary Frankie Dettori. So perhaps Blackmore’s Brilliant Bets, or similar, could be on the way.
Even if it isn’t, we can be sure that the future is looking very bright for the woman herself with many predicting countless more wins over the coming years to truly secure Rachael’s position as one of racing’s all-time greats.