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Aintree pioneers: celebrating Rachael Blackmore and 7 other remarkable women


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  • After rewriting the history books to become the first female jockey to win the Grand National in the race’s 182-year history, Rachael Blackmore announced: “I can’t believe I am Rachael Blackmore. Genuinely I feel like that little kid and I just can’t believe it’s me.”

    The Irish jockey is living the dream while inspiring a new generation of aspiring young riders that anything possible.

    To help celebrate Rachael Blackmore’s tremendous feat, we take a look back at some of the other women who smashed the glass ceiling at Aintree. 

    1951: Nickel Coin is the first Grand National winner to be led in by a stable lass, Jo Wells (now Motion), rather than lad.

    The 19-year-old looked after Nickel Coin and the following weekend took the mare hunting at the Surrey Union’s closing meet of the season. Incidentally, the Jack O’Donoghue-trained winner, who was ridden in the race by Surrey farmer John Bullock, was the 13th mare to win the Grand National but none has passed the line in front since.

    1977: Charlotte Brew (now Budd) on Barony Fort is the first woman to ride in the race.

    Shortly after female jockeys were given the green light to ride in the Grand National, 21-year-old Charlotte Brew lined up for the 1977 race (pictured), reaching as far as the fourth fence from home where they were hampered and Barony Fort refused. The winner of the race was Red Rum, earning the third of his Grand National victories.

    1982: Geraldine Rees is the first female jockey to complete the Grand National, on Cheers.

    Geraldine, 26, a junior European eventing gold medallist, rode round to finish eighth and last of the finishers in the fifth attempt by a female jockey in the four-and-a-half-mile steeplechase. 

    1983: Jenny Pitman becomes the first female trainer of a Grand National winner, with Corbiere. 

    Jenny went on to repeat the feat in 1995, with Royal Athlete, and was subsequently joined by Venetia Williams (Mon Mome, 2009), who also rode in the race in 1988, Sue Smith (Auroras Encore, 2013) and Lucinda Russell (One For Arthur, 2017). In 1993 the Jenny Pitman-trained Esha Ness was first past the post in the void Grand National.

    1986: Caroline Beasley on Eliogarty is crowned the first woman jockey to win over the Grand National fences, in Aintree’s Fox Hunters race.

    Caroline (now Robinson) won in this race for amateur riders, having also made history as the first woman to win at the Cheltenham Festival in the Foxhunter there in 1983.

    1994: Rosemary Henderson achieves a then highest-placed finish of fifth on Fiddlers Pike.

    Rosemary was 51 when she crossed the line behind Miinnehoma with her own Fiddlers Pike and became only the second female jockey to complete the course. After an absence of 11 years, the next woman to enter the Grand National, Carrie Ford (Forest Gunner) also finished fifth, with the pair sharing the record for a further seven years. 

    2012: Katie Walsh goes two better on Seabass to finish third in the Grand National.

    The Irish jockey was the first female jockey to finish in the top three and both Katie and Nina Carberry started in a record six Grand Nationals each.

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    2021: Rachael Blackmore becomes the first female jockey in the Grand National’s 182-year history to win the famous steeplechase.

    Riding the Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Times and lining up in the Grand National for her third attempt, Rachael rewrote the history books and became a global superstar. “Keep your dreams big,” she said afterwards. There were three female jockeys in this year’s race – Rachael was joined by Bryony Frost and first-timer Tabitha Worsley, who finished 14th.

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