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Has Rachael Blackmore proved gender is irrelevant in racing?

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

15:17 11 Apr 2021

As racing once again hails the burgeoning talent of Rachael Blackmore, we discuss the topic of gender in the light of her historic Grand National win.

Blackmore's triumph on Minella Times was under the microscope on the Sunday Paper Review, with broadcaster Cliona Foley and journalist Vincent Hogan.

Rachael Blackmore: the best there is

"You have to remind yourself that this race is 182 years-old," Hogan began.

"It is only very recently - in 1977 - that there was the first female jockey to ride in it, Charlotte Brew. It was 1982 that Geraldine Rees was the first female finisher.

"I suppose it is little wonder that the media is obsessing about the historic nature of a female rider winning this, but I really enjoyed Rachael's interview because I detect that she is really weary of the gender side of this conversation - she just wants to be judged as a jockey.

"When you listen to Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy speaking about her, two gods of this sport [...] it is very clear that Rachael Blackmore is the one to have stepped into their shoes now. She is the stand-out National Hunt jockey around. Not the stand-out female jockey - the stand-out jockey."

'Superhuman'

Hogan praised Blackmore's 'class in the saddle' at Aintree, and agrees with Brough Scott's assertion that she has 'told us to grow up, to judge riders on their merits, not on whether they are male, female or any other gender.'

Foley, host of the Off The Bench podcast on women in sport, reflected on Rees' contention that Blackmore was 'superhuman.'

"The defining point of her career, until yesterday, was at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup where she picked the wrong horse. Jack Kennedy went on Minella Indo, she finished second.

"I remember watching her face coming out of that race, you knew how competitive she was. Her Cheltenham this year was extraordinary; not only was she top jockey but the bad falls she had as well as the amazing victories. To miss the big double in Cheltenham really, really hurt her.

"Tony McCoy said it really well yesterday that you judge a jump jockey because it is such a physically and mentally-demanding sport. He said she has got it both ways.

"The amount of rides that she has ridden - she has so far 506 rides, 10 behind Paul Townend - but he has only ridden 284 rides. That just tells the amount of work that this woman puts in, and the amount of work that she puts in."

'Putting it to bed'

Foley believes that yesterday was a landmark moment for women's sporting achievement, by being just plain old sporting achievement.

"She has battled to take the gender out of her job description, and she absolutely did that yesterday."

Dominic King in the Daily Mail referred to an older interview with Blackmore  recently as to whether she wanted to be a star - a decision that has now been taken out of her hands.

"She's a genderless star," Foley says of Blackmore's emergence, "by making history yesterday and finally putting to bed that thing of a woman winning the Grand National.

"1977 was the first woman to ride in the Grand National, and there have only been 18 others that have ridden. That is put to bed now, and I believe that the conversation has ended now. The fact of her background, and that she doesn't come from a racing dynasty, it has encouraged men and women in her sport.

"There was always that nonsense going back as far as Ginger McCain of 'there's no place for a woman in the National'. That is put to rest now.

"The word 'queen' is used a lot to celebrate achievements on social media now - let's take the gender out of it and say she is the monarch now!"

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