Robin Oakley

Hats off to Rachael Blackmore

Racing rightly prides itself on being a sport in which men and women compete on equal terms – but it has taken a while

Full reign: Rachael Blackmore proving that horses ridden by women can indeed win the Grand National [Photo: David Davies/ Pool/Getty]

Sporting heroes in our modern world have an extra burden to carry. Within seconds of their triumph, with the adrenaline still pumping, somebody is going to thrust a live microphone in their face and demand: ‘What does it feel like to have been the first person of Asian lineage to surmount six metres in the pole vault, to have been the first Lithuanian to have won the Sahara Rally, or the first transgender non-swimmer to have crossed the Channel in a self-propelled bathtub?’

It is the sort of ordeal that led former jockey Mick Fitzgerald, whose wise post-race analyses these days as a pundit are models of profundity, to declare after riding Rough Quest to victory in the Grand National that it had been ‘better than sex’, an instant response that left his lady of the time less than chuffed.

Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain declared that ‘Horses do not win Grand Nationals ridden by women’

The true answer for many asked such a question would probably be something like: ‘I feel totally bloody marvellous. Well done me,’ although there may be variants such as ‘I need a bloody good drink’ or ‘That’ll show the bastard who wouldn’t let me ride this horse last year’. But in the modern world and with the ghouls of social media in mind you have to show due humility and scramble through a mental checklist of those whom you should credit for aiding your success — the trainer, the stable lass, your racing mentors and Mum and Dad for ferrying you to and from those Pony Club meetings.

For Rachael Blackmore the ‘How does it feel?’ question is coming around with astonishing regularity. At the Cheltenham Festival she was the first woman to ride a Champion Hurdle winner and the first to be Festival champion jockey.

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