The Randox Health Grand National at Aintree is now just seven days away and the media frenzy that follows the world’s greatest steeplechase is sure to build to fever pitch by next Saturday afternoon (5.15).
On Monday we’ll receive the five-day declarations, giving us a clearer picture of the likely final 40 runners who will set out on the four-and-a-quarter mile, 30-fence marathon challenge, but it won’t be until the 48-hour declaration stage on Thursday morning that the final field (subject to late withdrawals) will be known.
One thing that seems fairly certain is that there will be not one, but two lady riders booked to ride in this year’s renewal. Both Katie Walsh (pictured above leading at the last on Seabass in the 2012 Grand National), and Bryony Frost are outstanding riders who are more than capable of becoming the first ever female jockey to win this legendary race.
It’s a feat that has been dreamed of for generations ever since Elizabeth Taylor starred in the 1944 Hollywood movie National Velvet, that told the story of a girl who posed as a boy in order to ride in the Grand National. Hollywood being Hollywood, of course she won, only later to be revealed as a girl at a post-race medical examination!
In 1977, Charlotte Brew became the first woman to actually ride in the race when partnering 200/1 shot Barony Fort who eventually refused when tailed off at the fifth-last fence. In 1982, Geraldine Rees became the first to complete the course when finishing a superb 8th on Cheers, but the greatest effort so far by a female rider came from Katie Walsh in 2012 when she partnered her father Ted Walsh’s Seabass into a fantastic third place. Walsh led at the second-last fence and was only headed at The Elbow on the long run-in in the race won in a photo-finish by Neptune Collonges.
This year Katie will ride her husband Ross O’Sullivan’s Baie Des Iles (50/1 with Bet365), a good third at Punchestown last time out in the BoyleSports Grand National Trial Handicap Chase. Bryony Frost, who has been a media sensation this season winning the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day on Black Corton among a number of high-profile successes, will ride Neil King’s mudlark Milansbar (40/1 with William Hill) on whom she landed the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick in January. Milansbar was runner-up under a different rider in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter three weeks ago. His odds could really tumble if there is plenty of rain before the big race.
The media hype around these two ladies will be immense. While both ride horses have sporting chances of going well, public support will almost certainly force their odds down through sheer weight of money, so anyone wanting to beat the odds would be well advised to step in sooner rather than later if they want to demonstrate their support for these lady riders with a bet on either Milansbar or Baie Des Iles.
Update: On Saturday evening, a third lady rider was booked to ride in the Grand National. Rachael Blackmore will partner Mouse Morris’ Alpha Des Obeaux (50/1 with 10Bet), winner of the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase in November.
For Betting.net’s in-depth ante-post Grand National tips click here.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.