Rachael Blackmore became the first woman to ever win the Grand National. In the competitions one hundred and seventy three year history, the sport has been considered a privileged, boys club, that few female jockeys have had the opportunity to participate in, let alone win.
Rachael Blackmore rode Minella Times at Aintree, beating off fierce opposition and breaking the glass ceiling of the sport in the process. The National has been a British sports staple since its creation in 1839, and is the most popular and lucrative betting day in the British sporting calendar. Blackmore odd’s were placed at 11 to 1 giving her a strong chance of winning the race. It was her 2nd time participating in the event, but her first time completing the race after falling at the fifteenth fence in 2018. On the day, she demonstrated perfect performance and timing, guiding Minella Times expertly round the 30 fences.
“This is so massive. I had such a beautiful passage around. Minella Times jumped fantastically and didn’t miss a beat anywhere. I couldn’t believe it, jumping the second-last – I don’t know, it’s just incredible”.
The 31 year old from Tipperary has now been heralded as the leading woman in the sport, she herself was elated at the result stating, “I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human”. Later she went on to express how proud she was in what that moment meant for gender equality in sport more widely. Blackmore has been a leading figure in the sport as of late, she had already achieved a monumental success at last month’s Cheltenham Festival when becoming the first woman to be the meeting’s leading jockey. And she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon,
The closest a female jockey had previously come to winning the race was Katie Walsh on Seabass in 2012 when she finished third.
There were no spectators at the Merseyside track because of Covid-19 protocols, but the historic moment was not lost due to the online presence of the race, making up for the lack of spectators.
This particular result has garnered so much attention as despite being one of the most watched annual sporting events in Britain, as it is incredibly rare to see a woman winning a mixed gender sport and entering the history books in the process. Sadly in 2021, it is still newsworthy for gender equality to be a leading take away from any mass sporting event.
The win for Rachael Blackmore is no less impressive, because for a sport which is already quite exclusive due to the need for sponsorship, the hefty cost and quite simply the inaccessibility to train, Blackmore overcame the obstacles and is set to continue this streak. The daughter of a dairy farmer and a school teacher, Rachael has worked hard for her achievements. She was just the second woman to hold a professional jockey’s licence in Irish jump racing when switching from the amateur ranks in March 2015. But it was once she teamed up with Henry De Bromhead, a world renowned trainer in his own right, that she has had the funds and the opportunity to compete in numerous major rides within the sport, which ultimately led her to her biggest win of all.
Blackmore’s win follows a trend of moving in the right direction, wherein the courage of female athletes in mixed sporting events as well as female sport more widely is gaining the representation it rightly deserves. Although this particular event is covered a lot in the media, it is still a sport which is not in the limelight as much. Similar occurrences have been seen with Fallon Sherrock, who in 2019 was the first woman to beat a male opponent during the world championships. As well as the highly successful and watched 2019 Women’s World Cup, where millions tuned in, more than ever than before for the tournament. Blackmore is continuing this progressive trend, of greater representation, media coverage, sponsorship and attention for female athletes.
Overall, the events of the Grand National are groundbreaking due to this progressive win. One which not only highlights the individual success which Rachael Blackmore herself has achieved. But also, hopefully, it is yet another sport where the fight for gender equality is winning.