Blackmore becomes first woman jockey to win Grand National

Aintree (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National on Saturday, coming home clear on Minella Times in the world's most gruelling steeplechase which was first staged in 1839.

The 31-year-old added National glory to her history-making exploits at Cheltenham last month with an inch-perfect ride.

Blackmore's victory came 44 years since Charlotte Brew became the first woman to tackle the National -- Katie Walsh had gone closest with third on Seabass in 2012.

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.

Sadly for Blackmore and de Bromhead their extraordinary achievement was behind closed doors with spectators barred due to coronavirus protocols.

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."

Blackmore had to come back down to earth as she had a ride in the last but admitted things were a blur.

"I don't even know if I am Rachael Blackmore anymore!

"I never even thought about having a ride in the race let alone win it when I started out in 2011.

"I guess the message from my success is that anyone can dream."

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."

De Bromhead, 47, remained his usual calm self, a thumbs up post the 1-2 the only gesture of celebration.

"I think it is surreal, I am sorry but I use the same words only that I have no other vocabulary for it," said de Bromhead.

"I better watch out now Rachael may become a prima donna," he added laughing.

"I am going back by boat and of course Rachael is flying!

"But in all seriousness she rode herself to this success, she kept on getting winners and it is her ability that got her here."

- 'A truly amazing achievement' -

Blackmore's success earned a warm tribute from Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin.

"A truly amazing achievement again @rachaelblackmor –- Ireland is so proud of you becoming the first woman to win the #GrandNational," he tweeted.

"A historic few weeks that will live long in the memory."

The Irish repeated their dominance of Cheltenham as the first five were all trained in Ireland.

Any Second Now, carrying the same colours 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.

Two other fancied runners, 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.

Just 15 of the 40 starters finished.

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.

Katie Walsh said Blackmore was "remarkable".

"She works so hard and is an inspiration for women and for men," she told the BBC.

"She has taken some terrible falls and bounced back, she really is an animal. The mental strength she has is something to behold."