Aintree Racecourse has had its fair share of successful women associated with the Grand National over the years, with trainers, owners and jockeys alike making their mark on the blue-riband event.
Here is a look at some of the names down the years, both past and present.
Jenny Pitman (Retired Trainer)
Mrs P” or “the cuddly one” as she was affectionately known, retired from training racehorses in 1999, but not before she had left some of her training legacy upon the Grand National too.
Jenny Pitman trained Corbiere to a memorable Grand National win in 1983 and then achieved the same feat two years later with Royal Athlete. She was denied a third victory in 1993 with Esha Ness when the race was voided because of two false starts.
It wasn’t just Pitman’s record in the race that made her a household name, but also her very visible prominence in the nation’s perception of the event.
She had at least one runner in the Grand National every year from 1981 up until her retirement, and her on-screen chemistry with the BBC’s sports anchorman, Des Lynam, was a joy to behold for millions of viewers watching at home.
Venetia Williams (Current Trainer)
Venetia Williams is the only female trainer to have saddled a Grand National winner who has also ridden in the race. She fell at Becher’s first time when riding 200/1 chance Marcolo in 1988 and trained 100/1 shot Mon Mome to score in 2009.
Incidentally, Williams was knocked unconscious riding Marcolo in the Grand National and her riding career ended when a fortnight later she broke her neck riding at Worcester.
Her strength as a trainer, however, is her attention to detail and the fact that she never gives up on a horse. When she gained her revenge on the Aintree course in 2009 by training 100–1 shot Mon Mome, it was the longest priced winner of the race for forty-two years.
Williams currently has Royale Pagaille and Cloudy Glen entered for the 2023 Grand National on April 15th with Royale Pagaille also still officially entered into the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 10th.
Jessica Harrington (Current Trainer)
Jessica Harrington is a well-known Irish horse trainer who has achieved a great deal of success in the racing industry. She was born on February 12, 1947, in London, England, but grew up in County Kildare, Ireland.
She has been involved with horses her entire life and started out as an amateur jockey. She rode in point-to-point races and was successful enough to earn her trainer’s license in 1989. Since then, she has trained numerous winners both in Ireland and abroad.
Harrington’s most famous horse is probably Moscow Flyer, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival twice in 2003 and 2005, as well as a host of other major races. She has also trained other notable horses, including Jezki, Supasundae, and Sizing Europe.
She came close to winning the Grand National in 2019 when her mare, Magic of Light, was beaten by Tiger Roll.
For the 2023 Grand National, she has another shot with Lifetime Ambition.
Lucinda Russell (Current Trainer)
Lucinda Russell is a successful Scottish horse trainer who has enjoyed a great deal of success in the racing industry.
She started out as a point-to-point jockey before moving on to become a professional trainer. She took out her trainer’s license in 1995 and has since trained numerous winners both in Scotland and across the UK.
Russell’s most famous horse is probably One For Arthur, who won the Grand National at Aintree in 2017. The victory was a historic one for Russell, as she became only the fourth woman in history to train a Grand National winner.
In addition to her success with One For Arthur, Russell has trained other notable horses, including Brindisi Breeze, who won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012, and Silver By Nature, who won the Scottish Grand National in 2011.
For the 2023 Grand National, Lucinda Russell has entered the race favourite, Corach Rambler. With back-to-back wins in the Ultima Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, can Russell add another National title to her impressive list of victories?
Rachael Blackmore (Current Jockey)
Rachael Blackmore is an Irish jockey who is one of the best in the racing industry. She started out as an amateur jockey before becoming a professional in 2015.
She quickly made a name for herself as a talented rider, and has since gone on to achieve a great deal of success.
In 2021, Blackmore made history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National, riding Minella Times to victory at Aintree. She also won six races at the Cheltenham Festival the same year, making her the first female jockey, to win the jockeys’ title.
Blackmore’s success in 2021 earned her the prestigious title of RTE Sportsperson of the Year, and she has been praised for breaking down barriers and inspiring a new generation of female jockeys.
Throughout her career, Blackmore has ridden for some of the top trainers in Ireland and has become known for her skill in riding over hurdles and fences. She is highly regarded by her peers and is considered one of the top jockeys in the world today.
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Katie Walsh (Retired Jockey)
Katie Walsh is a retired Irish jockey who enjoyed a successful career in the racing industry. She was born into a family of horse trainers and jockeys and is the daughter of trainer Ted Walsh and sister to jockey Ruby Walsh.
Walsh started out as an amateur jockey and rode her first winner in 2003 before turning professional in 2006, quickly becoming one of the most successful female jockeys in Ireland.
Throughout her career, Walsh rode for some of the top trainers in Ireland and the UK, and she is known for her skill in riding over hurdles and fences. She rode numerous winners, including three at the Cheltenham Festival, and was widely regarded as one of the top jockeys of her generation.
One of Walsh’s most notable achievements came in 2012, when she finished third in the race aboard Seabass, a horse trained by her father. Up to that point, it was the best finishing position by any female rider in the history of the race.
She also won the Irish Grand National 2015 on board Thunder And Roses for trainer Sandra Hughes and owner Gigginstown house Stud.
Walsh retired from racing in 2018, having won over 600 races during her career. Since retiring, she has worked as a racing pundit and commentator, and has become a vocal advocate for women in the sport.
Nina Carberry (Retired Jockey)
Nina Carberry was one of the the most experienced of all the Grand National female riders, having finished the course on four of her five starts, her best result being placed seventh on Character Building in 2010.
Nina and Paul Carberry became the first brother and sister to ride in the same National in 2012 and Katie and Ruby Walsh achieved the same feat in 2013.
She began her riding career in point-to-point races and made her professional debut in 2001 riding numerous winners throughout her career.
One of Carberry’s most notable achievements came in 2011, when she became the first female jockey to win the Irish Grand National, riding Organisedconfusion to victory. She also enjoyed success at the Cheltenham Festival, riding two winners in the amateur races.
She retired from racing in 2018, having won over 400 races during her career. Since retiring, she has worked as a racing pundit and commentator, and has become an advocate for women in the sport.
Charlotte Brew (Retired Jockey)
In 1977, at the age of 21, Charlotte Brew became a history maker as the first woman to ride in the Grand National.
Brew rode her own 12-year-old chestnut called Barony Fort (200/1), surviving the first circuit before falling at the fourth last, when tailed off.
Geraldine Rees (Retired Jockey)
Geraldine Rees became the first woman to complete the course in 1982 when riding a horse called Cheers. The pairing managed to finish the race in eighth and last place.
Rosemary Henderson (Retired Jockey)
Rosemary Henderson, who was dubbed “the galloping granny”, finished fifth at the age of 51 on her own horse, Fiddlers Pike (100/1) in 1994.
She subsequently wrote a book, ‘”Road To The National”, about her famous exploits.
Despite such little representation in the Grand National over the years, female trainers and jockeys continue to break down barriers and make history in the famous event.
Will another woman win again in 2023? We will have to wait and see!