There will be at least three female jockeys competing in the Randox Health Grand National in Aintree on Saturday with Rachael Blackmore, Bryony Frost and Tabitha Worsley all set to take part in the biggest race in the world.
With the King George (Frost), Champion Hurdle (Blackmore) and Cheltenham Festival main runner (Blackmore) all ticked off since Christmas, the only female National winner to date remains Enid Bagnold’s fictional character, Velvet Brown. Even if, in reality, Katie Walsh was not far from winning the famous steeplechase in 2012 when five lengths third on Seabass behind Neptune Collonges.
Blackmore has a choice of two ‘probable’ Henry de Bromhead runners, Chris’s Dream, a 33-1 shot, and Balko Des Flos, a 40-1 shot, and a ‘possible’ third runner, Minella Times which is as short as 14-1.
The last race Balko Des Flos won was the Ryanair Chase in 2018, but it did well at Aintree on the Mildmay course. He last beat Blackmore at the Glenfarclas Cross Country in Cheltenham behind Tiger Roll earlier this month, but the ground is playing in his favor.
Chris’s Dream, who was only beaten by a neck in the Grade One Ladbrokes Chase for more than three miles at Down Royal for the first time this season, was stopped in this season’s Ryanair after ‘getting a bit lost ”.
“He’s been named for the National for a long time, but they’re both top class today,” said the Waterford coach.
“Minella Times (who has not been excluded from the top two in three starts this season) is progressing. He would also have a squeak if he ran.
Frost, whose best national ranking was fifth at Milansbar behind Tiger Roll in 2018, coached Yala Enki on the Aintree-style fences at Lambourn on Monday after doing the same at David Pipe’s national fencing last week.
“He jumped really well,” Nicholls said. “In the Becher Chase he went tanking in the first one which he may be a little inclined to do and fell but he jumped brilliantly and Bryony said his jump had been brilliant since then.
“I will also be directing Give Me A Copper which Harry (Cobden) will be setting. He ran well in his seasonal debut but he can sulk a bit so we kept him cool and sometimes the race can entertain the sulking horses. But I would say Yala Enki is our best chance, he’s a solid stayed with a touch of class.