Saturday 10th April 2021 marked a momentous day in the history of horse racing, as not only was it the 173rd Grand National horse race in England, UK, but it was also the first time in the race’s history it has been won by a woman.
The race, which started nearly two centuries ago, takes place at the famous Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, in north west England. The race has for a long time echoed wider problems with gender equality in the sport, often dominated by men in a clear demonstration of the gender barriers faced by women competitors.
However, times are changing because Rachel Blackmore has become the first woman jockey to win the race – making 2021 a major year for the sport and women in sport in general. Blackmore is currently 31 and originally comes from nearby Ireland, where a large number of jockeys come from and there is much appreciation for the sport of horse racing.
Jockeys are naturally meant to be lightweight so as not to impede horses’ performance. This is just one reason smaller sized men have always been the long running preference as riders. Slight men come without the traditional larger childbearing hips of a woman’s physique, though jockeys such as Blackmore are on their way to disproving this theory of gender handicap.
However, despite much progress being made, Blackmore is still only the 20th female jockey that has ever competed in the national. In an interview immediately after the race she commented: “This is just unbelievable.” Blackmore went on to describe how she didn’t “feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human.”
The race went ahead without an audience as spectators were banned due to the ongoing coronavirus global COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions meant the stands were empty as the jockeys and horses went full throttle for the race, but Blackmore’s peers have called her an inspiration nonetheless as millions tuned in around the world via tv and computer screens.