Can ladies make the difference at the Grand National?

The Grand National is viewed as the most popular jumps race on the annual horse racing calendar, seeing 40 horses and jockeys take on the obstacles that Aintree racecourse has to offer in the four and a half mile race. Posts will be taken by the competitors at 5.15pm on Saturday 14th April 2018 to participate in the horse race that has been taking place since 1839, competing for £1m in prize money, the highest offered by any jump race in Europe.

1977 saw the first female jockey racing in the Grand National and since then 16 female jockeys have entered the world famous annual race at Aintree, just outside the city of Liverpool. Horse racing is one of the few sports that provides the opportunity for men and women to compete against one another on a level playing field.

Aintree 2018 is set to see three female jockeys participate in the Grand National on the 14th April, for the first time in 30 years. Rachel Blackmore, Katie Walsh and Bryony Frost are all set to compete in the famous race.

Katie Walsh, sister of famous male jockey Ruby Walsh, at present is the most favoured of the three at present to succeed in the race, after she finished third in the 2012 Grand National and has previously ridden three winners as the Cheltenham Festival. The weekend will see Katie team up with her trainer and husband Ross O’Sullivan, riding Baie Des Ilies in her sixth attempt at the race. Katie is not favourite to win the race, but is strongly fancied nevertheless; and anyone who fancies a punt can do so at all established bookmakers like Betpoint.

Rachel Blackmore, a last minute replacement rider called up with not a great deal of notice has never even been to Aintree, never mind raced there. She is only one of three professional female jockeys in Ireland. This young lady will be riding the 8 year old Alpha Des Obeaux, trained by Michael Morris, who had a Grand National winner in 2016 with Rule the World. Blackmore has ridden 35 winners so far this racing season in Britain and Ireland; in addition to Alpha Des Obeaux to sixth place in the Irish Gold Cup.

Horse racing is in the blood for Bryony Frost, whose father Jimmy won the Grand National in 1989. Frost will ride Milansbar, trained by Neil King, the same horse whom she raced and won the Warwick Classic Chase by 11 lengths with in January, during her breakthrough season as a professional jockey. Interestingly this is the same race that ‘One for Arthur’ winner of the Grand National 2017 won on his way to glory last year.

Despite the addition of female jockeys in the Grand National there is still yet to be a female winner of the race, but with more female jockeys now on the horse racing scene than ever, surely it is just a matter of time.