High hopes of female jockey winning Grand National

Katie Walsh, Bryony Frost and Rachael Blackmore all line up in the Randox Health Grand National on Saturday.

This will be the 189th running of the world’s greatest steeplechase, but a female rider has yet to pass the post first – a statistic any of this excellent trio would be delighted to defy.

Walsh posted the best result yet from a female rider when finishing third back in 2012 and appears to have a leading chance again as she teams up with husband Ross O’Sullivan with the gambled-on Baie Des Iles.

She said: “We’re hoping she will take to the fences and she is a really solid jumper.

“It’s always very difficult to have a horse for the Grand National, but she has an attractive profile and is relatively unexposed.”

While Walsh is no stranger to the National challenge, Bryony Frost will be having her first spin in the big race following a landmark season that included Grade One success at Christmas.

She teams up with Milansbar, who is following in the hoofprints of last year’s winner One For Arthur after claiming the Classic Chase at Warwick on what has been his only start with Frost in the plate.

Frost said: “He’s intelligent, he decides what to do with his stride. He would be more tentative than brave, which is exactly what you need because a brave horse could land on top of it.

“As long as he’s thinking for me and I can keep him happy and in a rhythm, then (you need) a lot of luck and you can see where you go. You have to be on the same page and that’s what gives you so much of the buzz.

“We’re all up there with the same chance – it doesn’t matter if you’re 100-1 or the favourite – you’ve all got to go on the same ground over the same fences and hope for the best of luck.”

Frost is no stranger to the National obstacles, having finished fourth in the Foxhunters’ last year, and she can also draw upon the experience of her father Jimmy, who won the race in 1989 on Little Polveir.

She said: “It’s a massive plus for me (to talk to her father) because Dad has been there and knows what it takes. He can talk me through all of the strides and the fences, what happens and what to look out for and try to tick the right boxes

“A few people have done it (won on first ride), Dad did it so that’s not a history-breaking moment. I just concentrate on myself and the horse.

“Whatever happens, I know I need luck and I will go out there and try to do my best. What would it mean to win? I don’t know because I’ve never experienced a feeling like it.

“I’d be the luckiest person on earth in that moment and if it happens, come and ask me and I’ll tell you how it feels.”

It will be Blackmore’s first visit to Aintree and one she cannot wait to experience after getting the call to ride Alpha Des Obeaux for leading owners Gigginstown House Stud and National-winning trainer Mouse Morris.

“I’m very excited and very grateful to get the opportunity. It’s my first time to Aintree so I’m really looking forward to it,” she told Press Association Sport.

“Mouse rang me on Saturday and said I was going to ride him, I was absolutely over the moon and hopefully we can run a good race.”

Horse and rider teamed up to good effect in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, when sixth to Edwulf.

“I rode him in Leopardstown, but Aintree is obviously very different so it poses a lot more challenges,” she said.

“Fingers crossed he gets a clear run round and hopefully he’ll run a big race.”

While appreciating “it would be fantastic” if one of the three lady riders could lift the National, Blackmore has already made history by becoming the first female to be crowned champion Irish conditional in 2016-17.

“That was a massive year for me. I got a lot of support from a lot of trainers in Ireland and had a very good agent so that was a great achievement for me,” she said.

“Things are going along nicely this season and I’m getting a lot of support. It’s great.”

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