How Rachael Blackmore’s Grand National win can fast-track a new era of opportunity in horse racing

Can Rachael Blackmore's victory in the 2021 Grand National on Minella Times inspire the racing industry to be more accessible than ever?

"I don't feel male or female right now - I don't even feel human! It's just unbelievable," said the victorious Rachael Blackmore, to ITV Racing after removing her goggles and blinking into the April Aintree light as Grand National champion.

Although becoming the first female to win "the race the world stops to watch", the gender aspect was a moot point as she hopped the last fence on Minella Times, for this was a win of sheer class and little else.

Blackmore, who started trotting around on ponies as a child, before progressing to become a professional jockey, had done the equivalent of working her way from the National League to the Premier League and scoring a Sergio Aguero-esque title winner on the last day of the season.

The racing industry emerged winners too, under fire for the Gordon Elliott saga, the best of jumps racing was showcased by the talented Blackmore, who in her understated way gave an insight into the future of the sport.

Thinking has shifted and Grand National legends take a new form since Ginger McCain, the trainer of Red Rum was heard to utter that "Women don't win Grand Nationals".

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Of course, there will be more female jockeys now, less pressured by the weight concerns of their male counterparts and as Blackmore showed, equally able to judge races and ride out finishes.

But, thanks to Blackmore's achievement, the focus of the racing industry has to be in equality of opportunity in the sport, regardless of gender or financial status.

Blackmore didn't come from racing stock and initially wanted to become a vet but, armed with little more than an endeavour to learn, worth ethic and talent has succeeded in winning the greatest test of the jumps jockey.

While football has positioned itself as the people's game, really it is racing that is the people's sport. Accessible for folk from a variety of backgrounds as shown by the pageant of Ladies Day at Aintree and on the Epsom Downs for the Derby, a melange of people mixed into a mass for the equine spectacle.

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Accessibility is something that the industry can double down on, building on the work of such brilliant charities as the Ebony Horse Club in London, who use horses to raise the aspirations, life skills, education and well being of young people in Brixton.

Why can't every major city have a racing academy to give kids access to the therapeutic and sporting benefits of horses like Premier League football clubs with their academies for homegrown talent?

A ticket-price cap has often been debated for football but is something that racing can pick up without fuss, to enable people from all backgrounds to continue to attend the races, without taking out a mortgage.

A new dawn of quality, relatability and modernity as the sport shapes itself for the next hundred years with a sponsor friendly focus on youth training, community engagement and top notch animal welfare.

ITV Racing's superb television coverage can be a media anchor-point with Ed Chamberlin and team effective at bringing the colour of race day into people's living rooms and unpicking the industry from foals to first places in the big races.

Let Blackmore be the figurehead. The super-skilled rider, has uncovered the meritocracy that sport should be and she showed it with still, calm quality over thirty fences at Aintree.

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