Minella Times and Rachael Blackmore win the 2021 Randox Grand National at Aintree for owner JP McManus and trainer Henry de Bromhead.

By Cormac Thompson
The stage was set. Four miles 2 ½ furlongs, thirty spruce fences and 40 adrenaline-pumped horses with as many adrenaline pumped jockeys on their backs strung out across the starting tape. Millions about to watch their every move over the next ten minutes or so. Cameras were placed in every possible angle of the sun-drenched course capturing all the thrills and spills in this rollercoaster of a race. For once racing enthusiasts didn’t have to wrestle the TV remote from other family members as everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the Aintree showpiece.
The occasion got into the minds of the jockeys and it cost them the perfect start with the starter ordering the 40 runners to take a turn and have another go. The flag then dropped and started the almost traditional cavalry charge down to the first fence. But it was Rachael Blackmore’s brilliance that was going to steal the show, she started her mount down the middle-inner of the track and found a pocket of space after the first to let Minella Times catch a good sight of his fences. Approaching Becher’s Brook Blackmore tagged to the rail where Minella produced a fine jump before then executing the tricky Canal Turn perfectly. Horse and rider seemed to be in a perfect rhythm as they flew out over the iconic “Chair” and little did many know at that stage they were nearly half way to destiny. Minella Times held an almost identical position approaching Becher’s for the second time as he did the first. At the fourth last, Minella Times cruised past the favourite for the race Cloth Cap and landed himself in the perfect position to challenge as the field turned for home. Coming off the final bend into the second last, Blackmore let her mount jump into the lead and in doing so led the field down to the last where he popped over it and set off up the run-in, fending off the challenge of Balko Des Flos and Any Second Now to etch his name into the holy grail of National Hunt racing. As for the woman on his back, this was historic. Rachael Blackmore will now be known as the first female rider to win the Grand National. After watching Katie Walsh’s piece on female riders and the Grand National, Rachael’s victory was almost theatre like.
Minella Times was bred in Co. Westmeath by Cathal Ennis. He is sired by Oscar and his dam is an Anshan mare named Triptoshan. He was bought as a six-month foal by well-known handler John Nallen from Co. Tipperary. He actually fell in his first and only point to point in Belcare Co. Galway back in 2017 when he was two lengths clear at the last. He was then purchased by one of NH racing’s most famous and biggest owners in JP McManus and was sent to Henry De Bromhead’s yard to start his racing career. Little did Nallen know that four years on he would be shouting this horse home in the biggest race of the year. Nallen was also a handler of a certain Minella Indo who he also bought as a foal in 2013. Speaking to RTE Radio 1, Nallen explained where the names of the horses originated from. “Minella is the name of the family hotel that we have owned since 1961 in Clonmel. The night I was naming those horses I was sitting in the reception of the hotel and I had the naming forms with me and I just looked up and saw the three papers on the counter, The Times, The Independent and The Examiner. The Examiner didn’t turn out as well as the other two but that’s the way it goes”.
It was a second win in the Grand National for JP McManus after Don’t Push It won it in 2010. As for Henry de Bromhead, of all that he has achieved in his remarkable season so far this surely sits at the top of the tree. Blackmore summed it up best, “I don’t even feel human” was her reaction after the race. Winning something like that you definitely don’t feel human, you feel invincible.