LONDON, United Kingdom – Rachael Blackmore found it hard to quantify her achievement in becoming the first woman jockey to win the Grand National but for legendary rider AP McCoy it is a “ground breaker” for the sport.
Blackmore has always been at pains to play down being a woman jockey and after crossing the line on Minella Times she said: “I don’t feel I am a female, a male or even a human at the moment!”
For McCoy — whose sole Grand National success came in 2010 on Don’t Push It in the same colours as Minella Times’ owner JP McManus — Blackmore’s brilliance is manna from heaven for racing.
“She is phenomenal, this is ground breaking,” he said.
“It’s great for her but it’s brilliant for the sport as well.
“It gives every young girl hope of winning the biggest race in the world and winning any race for that matter — she can do it all.”
Blackmore is getting used to making history having become the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March on Honeysuckle.
Honeysuckle’s win set the 31-year-old Irishwoman on her way to being crowned leading jockey at jumps racing’s showpiece meeting with six — also a first for a woman rider.
Katie Walsh, whose third on Seabass in the 2012 Grand National had been the best previous finish by a woman jockey, says Blackmore is “remarkable”.
“She is an inspiration for women and for men,” she told the BBC.
“She has taken some terrible falls and bounced back, she really is an animal. The mental strength she has is something to behold.”
Trainer Henry de Bromhead, for whom she rode Minella Times and Honseysuckle, gave Blackmore her big break in 2018.
De Bromhead says he does not see her a lot outside of racing.
“However, we have a few laughs together,” he told AFP.
“She is a great combination of being a lovely person and a terrific jockey. A real team player too.”
Blackmore hunted as a child but she had no direct links to racing, coming from a farming family based in County Tipperary.
However, her mother Eimir said she was not surprised Rachael chose to forge a career in such a dangerous sport.
“She continuously climbed out of her cot even well before her first birthday,” Eimir told the Irish Times.
“We knew she was going to have an adventurous disposition, to say the least.”
Her potential was spotted by Irish jockey Davy Russell — most famously associated with two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll — who recommended Blackmore as an amateur rider to trainer James “Shark” Hanlon.
Her first ride for him, Stowaway Pearl, was a winner in 2011 and he convinced her to turn professional in 2015.
“She had the talent and she had the work ethic, all she needed was a little bit of luck,” he told the Times in March.
“She was working here for me and she was studying equine science in Limerick, and she was doing a course in Dublin.
“She’d go home to her dad (Charlie) and help him milk 80 or 100 cows. She just doesn’t stop.”
However, to her teacher mother Eimir’s regret, when hard choices had to be made between her various interests, her devotion to riding came first.
“When she graduated in equine science in UL (University of Limerick), she graduated in absentia because there was a race that day and she wanted to ride,” she told the Irish Times.
“So my mantelpiece is bereft.”
Her work ethic has paid off handsomely in a sport that pits men against women on equal terms and McCoy believes she is the best of the bunch at the moment.
For Blackmore her message regarding her feat is to be able to inspire not just women but everyone.
“It is 10 years since my first winner but I never thought I would get a ride in the race let alone be standing here with the trophy,” she said.
“I would say keep your dreams big.”