The Irish and the Grand National go hand in hand, but why do they have such an affiliation with the Aintree steeplechase?

Grand National History

The Grand National is one of England’s greatest sporting events, but the race has its origins in Ireland. In 1752, two amateur riders, Edmund Bake and Cornelius O’Callaghan, made a bet between themselves to race from the steeple of Saint John’s Church in Buttevant to that of Saint Mary’s Church in the town of Doneraile. This was the start of ‘steeplechasing’, and the sport quickly caught on in both Ireland and England.

It only seems appropriate, given the origins of the race, that the Irish have the greatest overseas impact at the Aintree Grand National. The race is even run over roughly the same distance as the original country chase from St John’s Church Buttevant to St Mary’s Church at Doneraile, County Cork.

Irish jockeys and Irish-bred horses have always enjoyed considerable success at Aintree. There have been 28 winners of the race trained in Ireland since the first Grand National back in 1839.

The first was Coolreagh-bred Matthew, who won the race in 1847, the 10-1 joint-favourite. The next was Abd-El-Kader, who became the first dual winner of the Grand National in 1850 and 1851.

After a long wait, and 24 years later, The Liberator triumphed, having finished third behind Austerlitz two years earlier.

L’Escargot became the second-ever horse to win the National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Golden Miller was the first to achieve the feat. L’Escargot finished third in 1973, second in 1974 and finally won the Grand National in 1975. Trained by Dan Moore of the Fairyhouse yard, he beat Red Rum, who had won the previous two seasons and went on to win again in 1977.

Recent Irish Grand National Winners

Jockey of L’Escargot, Tommy Carberry, trained 1999 Irish and English National winner Bobbyjo, who was ridden by his son Paul Carberry. The father-son combo quickly caught on, and in 2000 Papillon won. He was trained by Ted Walsh with his son Ruby riding in his first National.

2003 saw Monty’s Pass reign victorious by 12 lengths, while Ruby Walsh secured his second National victory on Hedgehunter in 2005.

Hedgehunter was then runner-up in 2006 behind Irish-trained Numbersixvalverde, Martin Brassil’s first runner in the National.

The Irish were successful again in 2007 with Silver Birch, who beat McKelvey by three-quarters of a length. Trained by Gordon Elliott, Silver Birch was his first-ever entry into the Grand National.

Don’t Push It landed trainer Jonjo O’Neil, owner J.P. McManus and jockey A.P. McCoy, their first win in 2010. At 10/1, Don’t Push It went off as the joint-favourite, beating Black Apalachi by five lengths.

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Rule The World came in at 33/1 for trainer Mouse Morris and owner Michael O’Leary in 2016. This would turn out to be the first of three Grand National winners for The Giggingstown House Stud. They beat the favourite The Last Samurai, by six lengths, and this would turn out to be his penultimate race.

The Famous Tiger Roll

When you think of the Grand National, you can’t help but think of Tiger Roll. He will go down as one of the all-time greats, being only the second horse to win it back-to-back. Tiger Roll is also the first Irish horse to achieve that feat.

His first win came in 2018. Tiger Roll was priced at 10/1 and beat Pleasant Company by a head. This was trainer Gordon Elliotts’ second Grand National winner. The 2019 win looked like it was in doubt as Tiger Roll and Magic Of Light approached the last. However, the horse ridden by Davy Russell jumped well and took a solid lead to win the race for a second time.

Unfortunately, the 2020 Grand National was cancelled, and as a result, Tiger Roll wasn’t able to make history and win three in a row.

Rachael Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore is a trailblazing Irish jockey who has carved a name for herself in the world of horse racing. Born on July 11, 1989, in Killenaule, County Tipperary, Ireland, she developed a passion for horses from a young age. Blackmore’s ascent in the male-dominated field of horse racing is a testament to her talent, determination, and resilience.

Rachael started her career in horse racing as an amateur before turning professional in 2015. Her decision to turn professional was a turning point in her career, and she began to gain recognition for her skills and tenacity.

One of the most significant milestones in her career came in 2021 when she achieved international fame at the Cheltenham Festival. Rachael Blackmore made history by becoming the first female jockey to win the leading jockey award at the Cheltenham Festival, with an impressive six victories.

First Female Jockey to win the Grand National

However, it was the Grand National in April 2021 that truly cemented her place in history. Riding Minella Times, Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National, one of the most prestigious horse races in the world. This victory was not only a personal achievement for Rachael but also a landmark moment for women in sports, highlighting the rising prominence of female jockeys in horse racing.

Rachael Blackmore’s success has broken barriers and stereotypes in a sport that has traditionally been male-dominated. Her victories have been celebrated not just in Ireland but across the world, and she has become an inspiration for aspiring female athletes in various fields.

At the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, Blackmore was triumphant once again. Not only did she secure a repeat win on Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, but she also accomplished a breakthrough for female jockeys by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In a breathtaking ride, Blackmore guided favourite A Plus Tard to a dominant 15-length victory.

Despite her fame, Rachael is known for her modesty and focus. She often highlights the importance of hard work and has been vocal about the support she has received from trainers and fellow jockeys.

As she continues her career, Rachael Blackmore’s impact on horse racing and women in sports is undeniable. She exemplifies dedication, skill, and breaking boundaries, and her achievements mark a new chapter in the annals of horse racing history.