Less than a month after she earned top jockey honors at the Cheltenham Festival, Rachael Blackmore could blaze another riding trail by becoming the first woman to pilot a Grand National champion.
Could this be the year Blackmore … or Bryony Frost … or Tabitha Worsley clears that gender hedge? Could this be the year a woman wins one of Europe’s premier races?
Five days before Saturday’s Grand National at Aintree, the books think so, at least in Blackmore’s case. Trainer Henry De Bromhead — himself the hottest trainer on the hunt circuit — said Blackmore is likely to ride Minella Times. That dropped Minella Times’ odds from 14/1 to 12/1 at one house, and to 10/1 at another, with more money coming in.
You could have had Minella Times at 50/1 in February. Of course, that was before Blackmore’s rampage through Cheltenham last month, when she won six races. Those victories included the Champion Hurdle, marking the first time a woman captured one of Cheltenham’s signature races. She won a Grade 1 race each day of the four-day Festival.
Cloth Cap holds Grand National favorite status — for now
“Having seen her rewrite the record books at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, punters are now backing Rachael Blackmore to make more history in the biggest race of them all,” Coral’s David Stevens told the Sun. “And it would be no surprise to see Minella Times sent off as the closest market rival to big race favorite Cloth Cap next weekend.”
At Coral, Cloth Cap currently sits as the 7/2 favorite, with Any Second Now and Burrows Saint at 10/1. Minella Times and Kimberlite Candy are both at 12/1.
The 31-year-old Blackmore seized the Grand National spotlight thanks to Tiger Roll’s absence. The two-time defending champion (2018 and 2019) will not run this year’s Grand National. His connections pulled him out over a weight disagreement. Instead, you’ll see Tiger Roll in Thursday’s Betway Bowl on Aintree’s opening day.
Blackmore shoots at an historic target
You’ll see Blackmore take aim at the now-retired Katie Walsh, who holds the mark for the best Grand National finish by a female jockey. Walsh finished third aboard Seabass in 2012. Walsh’s father, Ted, trained Seabass. He currently trains Any Second Now.
Frost will ride Yala Enki in the Grand National. She broke out piloting Frodon to the King George VI Chase title in December. The pair finished fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Worsley, meanwhile, rides Sub Lieutenant for her mother, Georgie Howell.
Worsley won the Foxhunters Chase in 2019, but she and Blackmore illustrate the perils of jump riding. In 2017, Worsley broke her back when her horse failed to clear the final hurdle in a Ludlow race. Surgeons needed six pins and three metal rods to put her fractured T11 and T12 vertebrae back together. She returned the following spring just in time to break her collarbone.
Six Cheltenham wins, four Cheltenham falls
Blackmore rode six winners at Cheltenham, but she also suffered four spills along the way. This doesn’t count the mistake Blackmore made taking A Plus Tard instead of stablemate Minella Indo in the Gold Cup. Minella Indo and 21-year-old rider Jack Kennedy, who broke his leg four times in falls, won the Festival’s marquee event.
Even trailblazers make mistakes. But it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Blackmore rectifies that oversight at this year’s Grand National.