The nation witnessed history being made on Saturday when 31-year-old Rachel Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Aintree Grand National. Her victory aboard Minella Times came just weeks after she rode an incredible six winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
She is one lady riding on the crest of a wave but there are plenty of other successful women in our sport. Four female trainers had winners at Chepstow’s fixture on Saturday including Venetia Williams who has recorded the most wins by a lady trainer in the history of jump racing.
Venetia learnt her trade from trainers across the globe working in France, Australia, the USA as well as the UK. She rode as an amateur jockey and started training in 1995.
She is based at Kings Caple in Herefordshire, a yard from where she has sent out the winners of some of the biggest races in the jump calendar including Mon Mome, the 100-1 winner of the 2009 Aintree Grand National ridden the late Liam Treadwell. Other notable victories have come in the Coral Welsh Grand National (twice), the Ladbrokes Trophy and the King George VI Chase.
On Saturday at Chepstow, there was yet further evidence of why she has been so successful when L’Homme Presse, who had been off the track for 773 days, won by 28 lengths in the opening novices’ hurdle. He beat the long odds-on favourite Getaway Luv in the process.
The six-year-old had been trained in France in early 2019 but suffered an injury. That didn’t put off owner Andrew Edwards who bought him regardless of the mishap. He took a gamble that the horse would the retain the ability he’d shown in two runs in France and at home on the gallops prior to his injury. He’d been tipped off that L’Homme Presse was useful by Felix De Giles, an English jockey now riding on the other side of the channel.
Roll on two years and with the gelding in Venetia’s care, a pretty spectacular UK racecourse debut followed (admittedly in a modest contest) which is testament to the skills of an exceptional trainer – and a patient owner!
The Pyle based trainer and owner David Brace had a day to remember last Friday when his horse Pink Eyed Pedro, a former winner of the Dunraven Bowl at Chepstow and also successful at the Unibet Jump Season Opener at Chepstow last October, came runner-up at odds of 33-1 in the Topham Chase at Aintree. The horse has been an absolute star for the yard.
Mr Brace had another success on Monday when his chaser Colorado Doc won at Huntingdon ridden by Sean Bowen.
Sean was also in the saddle on Sunday when Robin Of Sherwood, an ultra-consistent chaser owned by Welsh rugby players Gareth Davies and Rob Evans, made it three wins for the season when he scored at Warwick. Sean has now ridden 66 winners this season.
The Jump Jockeys’ Championship is coming to an exciting finish with Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes neck and neck. At the time of writing Skelton is on 139 and Hughes 137. It promises to go to the wire on Saturday 24th April.
The next fixture at Chepstow is on Friday 23rd April, sponsored by Burnham Plastering the owners of recent Potters Canter Carpet West Wales National winner, Amateur.
(Photo credit: the Racing Post)