Rachael Blackmore could be Aintree’s First Lady
— Blue Blood Racing (@BlueBloodRacing) March 12, 2019
The Grand National has never been won by a female rider but there are some hugely promising candidates eager to alter that statistic.
Bryony Frost is Britain’s flagbearer but, arguably, Ireland’s golden girl Rachael Blackmore might be even better placed.
Katie Walsh sets the standard
The name Walsh is synonymous with the Aintree Grand National. Ted Walsh trained the 2000 winner Papillon, ridden by his son Ruby. The latter went on to become a legend of the saddle, striking again in the Aintree showpiece on Hedgehunter in 2005.
Katie Walsh currently holds the record for the best finish in the Grand National by a female rider, after she came home third on board Seabass in 2012. The horse, trained once more by her father, Ted, went off as the 8/1 joint-favourite but couldn’t match winner Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy in the closing stages.
Blackmore’s star on the rise
Rachael Blackmore is the standard-setter for female riders. She had two winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and pushed Paul Townend to the pin of his collar in the bid to be crowned champion jockey in Ireland.
Blackmore has formed a superb alliance with trainer Henry De Bromhead and she also comes in for huge support from powerful owners Gigginstown House Stud.
It seems close to certain she’ll have a prominent mount come April 4th at Aintree.
Touted for more Cheltenham success
Before that, she could take the Cotswolds by storm, with many tipping Blackmore as a lively outsider to be leading rider at this month’s Cheltenham Festival, following the retirement of perennial winner Ruby Walsh since last season.
Walsh was leading rider at Cheltenham 11 times in his stellar career, no rider has enjoyed more success around Prestbury Park at the Festival. Davy Russell and Nico de Boinville have won the prize in the last two seasons.
Blackmore would be breaking new ground should she manage that feat too, of course. She steered A Plus Tard to a handsome win last season and also bagged a Grade 1 prize when Minella Indo won the Albert Bartlett.
She returns this year with an already promising book of rides and is as short as 6/1* to be Top Jockey at the Cheltenham Festival; a measure of Blackmore’s talents and standing within the weighing room.
It could be a big first afternoon on Tuesday March 10, with De Bromhead saddling Notebook in the Racing Post Arkle and Honeysuckle in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, both set to be leading chances for Blackmore.
Aintree experience building
Last season, Blackmore rode Valseur Lido in the Grand National, her second attempt at the Aintree feature. She will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky this time around.
Valseur Lido, trained by De Bromhead and owned by Gigginstown, finished tenth last season and the experience of completing the course isn’t to be understated.
While Gigginstown have the headline act in Tiger Roll, Davy Russell’s mount, Michael O’Leary’s operation will have plenty of back-up options for the race on April 4th.
More likely however is that Blackmore may be on board improving eight-year-old Poker Party for De Bromhead this time around.
That being the case, she’ll have leading claims and a crack hand to play in the world’s greatest steeplechase.
It would take a brave gambler to wager against Blackmore winning an Aintree National in her career. The aptly-named Poker Party could be her winning hand.
*Odds subject to change.