The racing world was left in awe of trainer Henry De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore at the recent Cheltenham Festival. The Irish duo stole all the headlines across the course of the four-day meeting and it seems like the sky’s the limit for the pair.
After a fantastic six winning rides, four of which were for De Bromhead, the 31-year-old was named the Festival’s Top Jockey, becoming the first female rider to claim the accolade, whilst De Bromhead, who also racked up six winners, became the first trainer to win the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase and the Gold Cup in the same meeting.
As we kick our Cheltenham blues to the curb and look to have a bet on the Grand National 2021, one horse that will be sure to catch the eye of the punters is Minella Times. Owned by National-winning billionaire J. P. McManus, the eight-year-old is trained by De Bromhead and often ridden by Blackmore. And, whilst it’s not yet a confirmed ride for the 31-year-old, you can bet that De Bromhead will be eager to have her on board.
Blackmore’s first time in the saddle of Minella Times was at Navan back in December 2019. The pair went on to win the Foxrock Handicap Chase by just short of a length. However, Hugh Morgan took the reigns for the next two races, failing to win either, before Blackmore returned to the hot seat in September 2020 to make it two wins from two outings with a narrow victory at Listowel in the Southampton Goodwill Plate.
She has remained in Minella Times’ saddle since. Her third outing was in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December. The pair set off as a 14/1 shot but stormed over the line in second, four-and-a-half lengths behind jockey Paul Townend and Castlebawn West. Their most recent race together was back at the Irish course in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase and it was much closer, as they finished just half-a-length behind fellow McManus owned horse Off You Go.
Given the performances of Blackmore and De Bromhead at the Cheltenham Festival, it’s no surprise that Minella Times’ odds of winning the Grand National have been slashed from outwards of 40/1 to inwards of 14/1. The bookies are certainly not taking any risks. However, winning the historic race will not be easy task for all those involved.
Nonetheless, the pressure will be on Blackmore’s shoulders. Her Grand National best was a 10th-place finish aboard Valseur Lido in the race’s last outing in 2019, and there’s no doubt that many punters will be expecting her to better Katie Walsh’s third-place finish in the saddle of Seabass in 2012, which is the best effort from a female jockey to date.
With the likes of Cloth Cap, who is a very short favourite to win the race at 4/1, Any Second Now (12/1) and Kimberlite Candy (16/1), who are both owned by McManus, competing alongside the best of the rest, which includes Burrows Saint and Secret Reprieve, De Bromhead and Blackmore will certainly have their work cut out. But, as they showed at Prestbury Park, nothing is in impossible. So, rule them out at your own peril.