Rachael Blackmore wins Grand National on Minella Times

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport at Aintree
Rachael Blackmore on Minella Times
Blackmore's Grand National win comes three weeks after she was the first woman to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival

Rachael Blackmore made sporting history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National with victory on Minella Times at Aintree.

The Irish rider scored a thrilling triumph aboard the 11-1 chance, trained by Henry de Bromhead who also saddled runner-up Balko Des Flos.

"I don't feel male or female right now. I don't even feel human," 31-year-old Blackmore told ITV.

Any Second Now was third, with Burrows Saint fourth.

The 173rd running of the world's most famous steeplechase provided a story for the ages as Blackmore won in the colours of owner JP McManus.

Blackmore had already achieved a landmark success at last month's Cheltenham Festival when becoming the first woman to be the meeting's leading jockey.

She demonstrated perfect poise and timing to guide Minella Times expertly round the 30 fences over more than four and a quarter miles for victory by six and a half lengths.

The closest a female jockey had previously come to winning the race was Katie Walsh on Seabass in 2012 when she finished third.

"I cannot believe it," Blackmore said. "He was a sensational spin. It is unbelievable."

There were no spectators at the Merseyside track because of Covid-19 protocols, but the historic moment was not lost on the jockeys, trainers and owners in attendance who cheered the pair back into the winner's enclosure.

The 1-2 for De Bromhead sealed his own remarkable story, having won the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

One of the 40 runners, The Long Mile, was euthanised after suffering an injury while running on the flat between fences. It was the second equine fatality from a total of 316 runners in eight editions of the race since safety changes were introduced in 2013.

Jockey Bryony Frost was taken to hospital after being unseated from her mount Yala Enki.

Rachael Blackmore says winning Grand National is 'beyond belief'

How the race unfolded

Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who has won six times in other races over the National fences, led the way with an enterprising ride on outsider Jett.

The favourite, Cloth Cap, followed on the inside and travelled well for a long way before fading as McManus runners Any Second Now and Minella Times entered the picture.

Mark Walsh did well to stay on Any Second Now after nearly being brought down on the first circuit and the challenges of Burrows Saint and Discorama waned as Balko Des Flos and Minella Times pushed ahead.

As Blackmore and Minella Times safely jumped the last, it became clear a piece of racing folklore was being created and the pair passed the winning line clear of their rivals.

Forty-four years after Charlotte Brew was the first woman to ride in the race on 200-1 outsider Barony Fort, who refused at the 27th fence, Blackmore had bettered Walsh's third-placed finish with an historic victory.

"It is huge. It's the first woman to win the National. It's history, but I suppose this has been coming over time," said Walsh.

"There's been more women riding in the National over the last couple of years."

Reaction to a landmark triumph

John Hunt, BBC Radio 5 live commentator

In the late 1970s and 1980s, female riders in this race were a bit of a novelty and a lot of people were actively against female participation in this race.

It has been a long time but we can finally put that to bed. Rachael Blackmore is a flagbearer for the sport and I'm absolutely delighted to be one of the few to have witnessed it - a very special Grand National moment.

Rachel Blackmore on Minella Times
Blackmore pulled clear of her rivals after the second-last

Blackmore's rise to the top

It was less than a month ago that Blackmore was setting new benchmarks at Cheltenham.

She claimed six victories in all, including the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, and was a narrow runner-up in the Gold Cup with A Plus Tard.

Racing followers were already aware of her talents - composed, determined, tactically astute and strong in a finish.

The daughter of a dairy farmer and a school teacher from Killenaule, County Tipperary, she is a modest trailblazer.

Starting out riding ponies as a child, Blackmore went on to gain a degree in equine science and combined her studies with competing as an amateur jockey.

She was just the second woman to hold a professional licence in Irish jump racing when switching from the amateur ranks in March 2015.

Hard graft has mixed with innate talent, and she was runner-up to Paul Townend in the Irish jockeys' championship last year.

Teaming up with De Bromhead, who is based in Knockeen, County Waterford, has given her plenty of major rides and ultimately this biggest win of all.

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