Forget male or female, at the 2021 Grand National Rachael Blackmore became super human, writes Bradley West.
Few people in sport, let alone the world of horse racing, have shattered such thick glass ceilings in such a short period of time, three weeks as the 31-year-old jockey has.
To begin with, she became the first ever female top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival – delivering a scintillating six winners and swatting away all rivals before her.
And now having had barely any time to breathe since, she’s achieved what no other woman did in 172 years of Grand National running before her, winning the world’s most famous jumps race with 11/1 shot Minella Times.
“It’s just incredible, the Grand National is so massive and I can’t believe it, it’s phenomenal, I’m speechless,” Blackmore said.
“I never imagined even getting a ride in this race, letting alone be standing here looking at this trophy. This race captures the imagination of every young person with a pony.
“I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human.”
The roll call of Irish winners in the Aintree showpiece is long and illustrious.
You have legendary horses such as L’Escargot, Monty’s Pass and Tiger Roll, and the list of riders is even better.
And to Ruby Walsh, Pat Taaffe and Barry Geraghty you can now add the name Blackmore – and she had the first of those men in tears, overcome with emotion in the ITV studio on the course.
“When I heard the commentator say he was four lengths ahead, I knew he could gallop to the line,” Blackmore added.
“This is an unimaginable feeling, you can’t get close to dreaming about how it feels until it happens. I can’t put into words how this feels.
“I got such a beautiful passage around, he jumped brilliantly, it’s just incredible.”
In typically ruthless fashion, the 4m2½f contest hit the 40 competitors hard, with just 15 finishing.
Jessica Harrington’s Jett threatened a major shock for a long while, taking a commanding lead for three quarters of the contest before falling back into the field.
It was there that pre-race favourite Cloth Cap took to the front but he didn’t last much longer – one of 15 contenders to pull up in the most unforgiving of races.
But, where all lost their heads around her, Blackmore was a picture of calm all the way around and emerged to contend with the Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Times at the front at just the right time before pulling clear.
Victory was secured by six and a half fantastic lengths, with de Bromhead completing another famous 1-2 with 100/1 shot Balko Des Flos second.
“She’s incredible and she’s breaking all records,” de Bromhead said.
“She rode her way into these positions and we’re so lucky to have her. I just hope she doesn’t become a prima donna, perhaps I’ll start having to massage her ego.
“He ran a cracker [Balko Des Flos]. They all ran really well and I’m delighted.
“Any Second Now looked a bit unlucky with his passage and he was coming back at us. She [Blackmore] got a great passage all the way round and a lot of luck on our side.
“We put some fairly makeshift thing together [fences at home]. He’s such a brilliant jumper, he was so good all the way.”