For the first time in 30 years, at least three female jockeys will saddle up for the Grand National on Saturday April 14th at 5.15pm. With the news that Rachael Blackmore has been given the ride on the Mouse Morris trained Alpha Des Obeaux, she will now join Katie Walsh and Bryony Frost for the Aintree marathon.
It’s only in the last eight years that female jockeys have consistently been represented in the Grand National with either Nina Carberry and/or Katie Walsh taking part every year since 2010. Up until then it was quite sporadic with only Charlotte Brew (1977, 1982) and Geraldine Rees (1982, 1983) taking part on more than one occasion.
And while seeing three female jockeys saddle up on Saturday will certainly be worth celebrating, it won’t be the first time in history that has happened. In 1988 Penny Ffitch-Heyes, Venetia Williams and Gee Armytage all took to the notoriously difficult fences but unfortunately none made it around the course.
From 1977 to 1989, there were 13 rides by female jockeys and only one made it to the finish line and that was in 1982 when Geraldine Rees finished in eighth place on Cheers.
It was 1994 before another female jockey took to the Grand National fences, Rosemary Henderson on Fiddlers Pike, before another lengthy gap of nine years before Carrie Ford brought Forest Gunner home in 5th place.
Between 1994 and 2017, there were another 13 female jockey pairings and in a massive turn of events from earlier years, ten of those finished the race, indicating that both the quality of runner and the opportunity to partner better horses is on the rise giving Walsh, Frost and Blackmore a much better chance of seriously contending in 2018.
With regards to Blackmore, Gigginstown House Stud boss Eddie O’Leary made the announcement saying: “Rachael will ride him and I think she has huge ability and is so professional – she’s a credit to her profession really – and hopefully everything will go well.”
He added on Alpha Des Obeaux: “He has plenty of class and you’d imagine he’d appreciate a test like an Aintree Grand National, but like Tiger Roll, we’d prefer better ground for him.”
Rachael Blackmore has never been to Aintree before let alone ridden there, but is looking forward to it. She said: “I’m obviously very excited to be riding in the race and hopefully we can do our talking on the track next week.”
“I’ll definitely ask Katie Walsh about riding Aintree and all the other obvious sources.
“I haven’t really thought about it yet but I’m just delighted to be part of it.”
Blackmore, who has ridden 35 winners this season in Ireland and Britain, rode Alpha Des Obeaux last time out when he was sixth to Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and is currently 40/1 with Betfair to win this year’s Grand National.