First female Grand National winner Rachael Blackmore is backed to dominate the sport by fellow Aintree trailblazer Jenny Pitman
- Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National
- Jenny Pitman, the first female trainer to win the National, has lauded Blackmore
- Charlotte Budd, the first female jockey to ride in the race, is also a huge admirer
- Sir Anthony McCoy has called Blackmore the toughest female star he has seen
Rachael Blackmore was saluted by racing figures past and present as her gigantic achievement in becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National sank in.
The unassuming 31-year-old from County Tipperary had plenty of time to reflect on her historic victory on 11-1 shot Minella Times as she took the ferry back to Ireland.
But it is a fair bet Blackmore’s feet never left the ground… or deck.
Great names from the world of racing have lauded Grand National winner Rachael Blackmore
The 31-year-old County Tipperary jockey rode to a historic triumph on 11-1 shot Minella Times
In the seconds after crossing the finish line, Blackmore, who was top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival with six wins, seemed close to being overwhelmed by what she had achieved, saying: ‘I don’t feel male or female — I don’t feel human!’
But such moments are rare with Blackmore, who was a latecomer to the upper echelons of the jump jockey ranks but now looks born to be a champion.
Jenny Pitman, the first female trainer to win the best-known steeplechase in the world with Corbiere in 1983, believes Blackmore is a special talent.
Asked if she would have been happy to have Blackmore as jockey, she said: ‘I wouldn’t even think twice about it — she is so astute and aware.
She’s the toughest female jockey I’ve seen
Sir Anthony McCoy reckons it is Rachael Blackmore’s mental strength which has been key in propelling her to the top of the jump jockey ranks.
Blackmore’s ground-breaking victory on Minella Times in the Randox Grand National meant the result of racing’s biggest steeplechase attracted global attention last seen when 20-time champion McCoy achieved his Grand National win on Don’t Push It in 2010.
McCoy said: ‘Rachael is tactically so aware but also physically and mentally very tough. The toughest I have ever seen in a female jump jockey.
‘(Trainer) Henry De Bromhead said that he did not offer her a job, she rode her way into it.
‘She put him in a position where he couldn’t not use her. That’s credit to her.
‘She has a good mind. Whether you are an athlete or a horse a good mind is everything. You have to have the mindset that is a little different.
‘She is very level-headed. Being like that is one of the most important things.
‘It is an old saying that you should never let praise or criticism get to you — it is a weakness.
‘You have to be above it. That is such a big thing in today’s world with social media.
‘Frankie Dettori is the biggest name in this sport and he will always be because he is brilliant in and out of the saddle.
‘Rachael is more in the Ryan Moore mould. He doesn’t care what anybody says or writes about him as long as he is riding winners.
‘Rachael is the same – she lets her riding do the talking.
‘It was a brilliant thing for racing and brilliant for Rachael.’
‘I’d like to say I am top of her list of admirers but there are so many people fighting for that spot! She is very well-balanced and as good a jockey as you would see anywhere.
‘I watched her closely at the Cheltenham Festival. She is so tactically aware of what is going on around her. I thought then, ‘You are some cool cookie’.
‘She reads a race so well and sees what is about to happen when she is riding. She doesn’t get in the mire and try to dig herself out of it — she makes sure she does not get into the mire in the first place.’
Pitman, who also won the 1995 Grand National with Royal Athlete, enjoyed the way Blackmore plotted a path close to the inside rail, something she liked jockeys to do on her National runners.
She said: ‘Braver jockeys go round the inside and I was delighted she went down the route. It is surprising how much ground it saves.’
Charlotte Budd was the first female jockey to ride in the Grand National in 1977 when partnering 200-1 shot Barony Fort, who refused at the 27th fence.
Budd, who was Miss Charlotte Brew when she rode in the National, said: ‘Rachael is something else. She’s not just a leading jockey, she is a ‘best’ jockey.
‘I’ve always had that conviction that girls are as good as men on a horse and they sometimes offer different attributes.
‘You can see with Rachael Blackmore, in particular, how horses respond to her riding. She’s only 9st — she’s not a big, strong person. It just shows that being a big, strong man isn’t the be-all and end-all in a jockey.’
Eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore said: ‘I genuinely think Rachael is among the best jump jockeys I have ever seen. She reminds me a little of John Francome in the position she takes over a fence.
‘Positional riding and technique are so important and Rachael has it all. Jockeys like AP McCoy and Lester Piggott were so unique in how they rode but if you were showing youngsters how to ride racehorses you would use Rachael Blackmore as an example.’
Blackmore’s achievement stole the headlines and overshadowed what was an amazing result for winning trainer Henry De Bromhead, who also saddled second place Balko Des Flos.
The feat came hard on the heels of De Bromhead training the 1-2, Minella Indo and A Plus Tard in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as winning the Champion Hurdle with Blackmore-ridden Honeysuckle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Put The Kettle On.
It is a run of results which means De Bromhead is third in the British Trainers’ Championship.
The Grand National was another Irish-dominated affair, with sixth-placed Blaklion the only British-trained finisher in the first 11 home.
That followed Ireland outscoring Britain 23 wins to five at the Cheltenham Festival.
Blackmore currently trails Paul Townend, who missed the National with a foot injury, by 10 wins in the Irish Jump Jockeys Championship. The season ends in three weeks’ time — but might there be a final twist for racing’s new history-maker?