Rachael Blackmore, you are as good as I've ever seen.
On the back of an imperious Cheltenham Festival, the 31-year-old Irish jump jockey won today's Grand National aboard Minella Times. Tactically brilliant and stylishly strong, Blackmore has it all. She has earned her accolades, attaining the most coveted attribute of a hard-nosed sport, the respect of her peers. A jockey's jockey.
From the Jockey Club News Service.
Rachael Blackmore rewrote the history books yet again to become the first female jockey to win the Randox Grand National as she and Minella Times gave owner JP McManus a second win in the iconic race.
Minella Times had been backed into 11-1 for the world’s greatest steeplechase after Blackmore rode six winners at last month’s Cheltenham Festival to win the leading jockey award.
Blackmore, who grew up in Tipperary and is just 10 winners behind Paul Townend in the Irish Champion Jockey title race on 85, described winning the race as a “massive” moment in her career.
After partnering the eight year old to an historic six and a half-length victory, the 31 year old jockey said: “I am so lucky to be riding these horses for Henry. 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. When I hit the rail and I heard I was four lengths in front, I knew he was going to gallop to the line, but we all know what can happen on the run-in here. When I crossed the line, I don’t know how I felt - it’s incredible.”
She went on to say: “It’s unbelievable. It’s just incredible. I just got such an unbelievable passage through the race. Minella Times just jumped fantastic and brought me from fence to fence.
“I just travelled and jumped everywhere. I wish I could give you a better run down of what happened. I got a beautiful passage everywhere. He travelled really well and jumped really well. I thought jumping two out I was trying to hold on to a bit as it is a long way home.
“He was just unbelievable. I’m riding all these horses for Henry de Bromhead who had a one- two there. I’m so privileged to be getting on these horses. A massive thanks to JP McManus as well. He is an extremely special horse. Ruby Walsh and Katie Walsh I’ve asked them both in the past about riding around here and they often talk about a semi-circle in front of you and I felt like I had that everywhere.
“That is what you need in a race like this, you need so much luck to get around with no one else interfering first of all. You need so much to go right and things went right for me today. I feel so incredibly lucky. It is unbelievable I’m just so thrilled.”
Speaking to ITV after the race, trainer Henry de Bromhead was asked what his secret is after the huge success he enjoyed at Cheltenham.
He said: “I don’t know it’s just brilliant, it’s all down to Rachael obviously, she was brilliant on him today, I’m just delighted - amazing, super ride, she hardly left the rail.
“She was just brilliant on him. It’s brilliant for the McManuses. Just over the moon. Balko (Des Flos, second) was super as well, Aidan was brilliant on him. He ran an absolute cracker as well, incredible.
“It feels amazing, it really does - it’s incredible. It’s stuff you dream of. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid. It’s amazing, I’m just so lucky. She’s (Rachael) brilliant, isn’t she? Aren’t we so lucky to have her, they broke the mold after her. She’s brilliant.”
The trainer told the media later: “It’s amazing, it really is. The stuff you dream about; incredible. Rachael was brilliant on him, and it’s amazing to do it for the McManuses. We got a lot of luck all the way around, and winged fences - it’s incredible. It looked as though Rachael had it won jumping the last, but we all know how things can change. Any Second Now looked a bit unlucky with his passage and was coming back at us, and Balko Des Flos was staying on as well.
“Balko Des Flos [second] is a class horse and just lost his form, but Rachael was convinced that he was really enjoying the Cross-Country at Cheltenham when he unfortunately came out, and it was brilliant to see him running so well for the Racehorse Club. He ran a cracker, and Chris’s Dream was going very well; he just unshipped Darragh O’Keefe four or five fences out. I’m just delighted.
“Yes, I used to dream about winning this - of course, but it was a very distant dream! These are the races you want to win. I feel so fortunate.
“We were a bit unfortunate with Minella Times through the winter, having a couple of great runs and just getting beaten, but this makes up for it!
“Yes, we schooled the horses over some Aintree-type fences - fairly makeshift things - which seemed to have helped, but Minella Times is such a good jumper anyway.
“Rachael is brilliant and we are so lucky to have her. I think they broke the mould after her; she’s tough out and brilliant - what can you say? You can see that when she joined us we have gone from strength to strength with her. She’s a fantastic rider, a great team player and just a lovely person to work with. She’s breaking through all the records.
“There’ll have to be a party now! I’ve got the old ferry trip again tonight, which is something to look forward to!”
Former jockey AP McCoy, who was champion jockey 20 years running and until today had won JP McManus his only Grand National with Don’t Push It in 2010, paid tribute to Blackmore after the race.
He said: “She’s got it all and she’s proved it on the biggest stage. Everyone in the world can now see it.”