AINTREE: Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National on Saturday, coming home clear on Minella Times. The 31-year-old added National glory to her history-making exploits at Cheltenham last month with an inch-perfect ride. For trainer Henry de Bromhead it also completed an incredible run, having become the first trainer to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Blackmore went into the lead two from home but was under pressure from Balko des Flos. However, Minella Times was not stopping and passed the winning post with Blackmore standing up in the saddle and yelling. “I don’t feel I am either a female, a male or even a human at the moment,” said Blackmore. “It is unbelievable. I don’t know what Henry does with the horses. He gave me such a spin out there.”
De Bromhead, a self-confessed pessimist, also emulated his one-two in the Gold Cup with a one-two in the National as Balka des Flos finished second. “It feels amazing, it is something you dream of,” he said. “Rachael was brilliant, she kept him on the inside the whole way round. She is special.” The Irish repeated their dominance of Cheltenham as the first five were all trained in Ireland. Any Second Now, carrying the same colors of winning owner JP McManus, was third, having been badly hampered by Double Shuffle when he fell on the first circuit.
Favourite backers had hopes for a while with Cloth Cap prominent, but a mistake at the 26th fence saw him pulled up before the next. Other fancied runners such as Mister Malarky and Anibale Fly never got into the race and were pulled up a long way from home. Two others, the top weight Bristol de Mai and Potters Corner — co-owned by Welsh rugby great Jonathan Davies — called it a day before Bechers Brook on the second circuit. The field had been led a merry dance by outsider Jett and many had called it a day by the time they turned for home and the final two fences.
McManus also saw the downside of the sport as one of his seven runners The Long Mile had to be put down. While Blackmore was being feted and planting a kiss on the trophy, top British female jockey Bryony Frost was going to hospital to undergo tests. Blackmore’s feat was summed up by flat racing rider Hayley Turner. “For all the girls who watched National Velvet (film in which Elizabeth Taylor won the race) Thank you @rachaelblackmor we’re so lucky to have you!” – AFP