Blackmore a trailblazer for women in horse racing

May 29, 2021 | By More

Everyone always remembers firsts. Over the last decade in the sport of horse racing, there have been plenty of those for female jockeys and women in horse racing. In 2021, Rachael Blackmore rode the winner of the most famous race of all. The Grand National.

The hope moving forward is that women’s exploits in the saddle will become commonplace at the highest level. Referencing the gender of riders will no longer be the narrative taken in the media. That is certainly what Rachael Blackmore hopes for. However, it has been quite some journey from 2011 to now for the ladies getting a leg-up.

Key women in horse racing

Newmarket is close to the border between the counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The Newmarket July Cup is one of the premier Flat sprint contests for thoroughbred racehorses on turf. It is the one premier races in the British pattern calendar, but has eluded charismatic Italian jockey Frankie Dettori. However, the racecourse is the site of history for another reason.

Hayley Turner’s horse racing blog recounts her exploits in the saddle. Hayley rode a maiden Group 1 winner for her gender on the perhaps aptly named Dream Ahead in that event. It was a huge moment for the sport and female riders. However the impact outside of back page headlines wasn’t immediate.

The exploits of Turner in the saddle have done plenty to inspire women in horse racing to become jockeys. She won the Nunthorpe Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival later in 2011 and steered I’m A Dreamer to Beverly D. Stakes success across the Atlantic in the USA the following year.

Female jockey success in Jumps racing

Over jumps, Lizzie Kelly became the first woman to ride a Grade 1 winner on Boxing Day in 2015. Her victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Tea For Two, a horse trained by her stepfather Nick Williams. Less than 18 months later, the same horse and rider would land an open steeplechase. At the highest level, in the Aintree Bowl.

Bryony Frost cracked the Cheltenham Festival code with beloved equine partner Frodon. In 2019, she became the first of a number of women in horse racing to record Grade 1 success over obstacles. It was at National Hunt horse racing’s top meeting in the Ryanair Chase. The beloved duo was at again on Boxing Day 2020. A triumph in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Five years on from Kelly’s breakthrough, Bryony Frost saw greater success. She became the first woman to ride the winner of one of jumps horse racing’s Triple Crown Steeplechase events. And then came Blackmore across from the Emerald Isle, hellbent on proving she was best.

Rachael Blackmore eyes the National

Amidst a tidal wave of Irish dominance at the Cheltenham Festival, Blackmore was crowned top jockey at the meeting. She took the richest prize over the smaller obstacles, the Champion Hurdle, on unbeaten mare Honeysuckle during all that too.

Not content with that, Blackmore took dead aim at the world’s most famous steeplechase, the Grand National at Aintree. The Grand National is as famous as the Melbourne Cup in Australia. Frost had finished fifth on Milansbar before and Katie Walsh steered Seabass to third place. Blackmore went better than that.

Minella Times took her round four-and-a-quarter miles over 30 miles in the Merseyside country outside Liverpool. They came home in front for perhaps the most historic and significant success for a female jockey to date.

Like Turner before her and other inspirational women in horse racing of recent times. Blackmore hopes to inspire others to pursue careers in the sport of kings.

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