Rachael Blackmore will be on a mission to become the first woman to achieve Grand National glory today.
Having been cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s most famous race returns for the 2021 edition.
Blackmore will ride Minella Times in the big race following her superb performance at the Cheltenham Festival.
Minella Times was being heavily backed before news of Blackmore’s slot in the saddle but now, the horse will be among the favourites.
Minella Times has been ridden by Blackmore on his last three starts, with a win in a Listowel handicap chase followed by two runner-up spots in competitive large-field contests at Leopardstown.
Having inevitably attracted plenty of market support, the JP McManus-owned gelding – in his green and yellow colours – will provide Blackmore with her third ride in the world’s greatest steeplechase after two previous efforts in 2018 and 2019.
“I’m really looking forward to riding him – he’s had two very nice runs in handicaps at home,” she said.
“He seems very well, (and) his jumping technique is good.
“It’s a Grand National, and anything can happen, but I wouldn’t swap him anyway.”
Blackmore notched a remarkable six wins at Cheltenham last month and narrowly missed out on claiming glory in the Gold Cup.
Minella Times has never run at Aintree and will be tackling the unique course for the first time on Saturday.
But De Bromhead has created some National-style fences at home, and Blackmore reports the horse fared well when introduced to them.
“Henry put up some Aintree-looking fences, a bit of spruce – he seemed to take to them well,” she said.
“His jumping technique has been good, so I’m really looking forward to riding something like him.
“He jumps and he travels. There’s plenty of unknowns over this distance, but we couldn’t be happier with him.
“We’re just hoping for a nice run round.”
Blackmore is one of three female jockeys going for a shot of glory in the National – Bryony Frost rides the Paul Nicholls-trained Yala Enki and Tabitha Worsley will be on veteran Sub Lieutenant.
GRAND NATIONAL LATEST ODDS
The 2021 Grand National takes place this Saturday at Aintree when 40 runners and riders are set to compete in the world’s most famous horse race. Check out the latest odds below:
Burrows Saint 9/1
Any Second Now 9/1
Minella Times 10/1
Mister Malarky 12/1
Magic of Light 16/1
All three women riding this year will be aiming to better the 2012 performance of Katie Walsh, who partnered Seabass to the highest-ever placing achieved by a female jockey when finishing third.
The daughter of a dairy farmer and a school teacher, Blackmore has come a long way and never dreamed of blazing a trail in her younger years at home in County Tipperary.
“We went to see Istabraq on a school tour,” she revealed in March, recalling her own inspiration. “I never envisaged when we went to see him back then that I’d be riding the winner of a Champion Hurdle.
“When every person becomes a jockey they dream about riding at Cheltenham and all these things, but riding a winner like this is unbelievable.”
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