Daily Digest: Rachael Blackmore makes history at Cheltenham Festival

Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle

In today's news: Rachel Blackmore makes history as first female to win Champions Hurdle, FA confirms suspension of women's football below Championship level and a new global rugby union competition is set to launch in 2023.

Rachael Blackmore makes history at Cheltenham

Rachel Blackmore carves her name in the competition's history books as she becomes the first female jockey to win the Champions Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival.

The 31-year-old was partnered with race favourite Honeysuckle, who continues her unbeaten form as she makes it 11 wins from 11 starts. Blackmore has now ridden 85 winning horses in her career so far and today's victory gives her a fourth Cheltenham win.

Blackmore cruised to an historic victory after beating holding champion Epatante in the Champions Hurdle. Prior to her race, the leading Irish female rider gushed over the "phenomenal" Honeysuckle, who did not let her down on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Tiers 3-6 of women's football curtailed

All football leagues below the Women's Championship have had their 2020/21 seasons curtailed for a second consecutive season. Due to the ongoing complications of the coronavirus pandemic, tiers 3-6 in the women's football pyramid have been forced to declare their current campaigns incomplete, meaning there will be no promotions or relegations once again.

The FA released a statement earlier today to confirm this decision, based off feedback from their Tiers 3-6 Club Survey and Grassroots Survey.

The decision is similar to that made last year, following the suspension of all football leagues back in May 2020. Whilst the two top flights – the Women's Super League and Women's Championship – had their season outcomes calculated on a points-per-game (PPG) system, all leagues below were forced to null and void their campaigns.

However, the Promotion Pool, which allows progression from tier 7 to tier 6, will remain open and the deadline for applications has been extended until May 2021.

New global women's rugby competition set for 2023

World Rugby has revealed the details of an upcoming global women's competition set to launch in 2023. The sixteen-team, three-tier rugby union event is due to receive a £6.4 million investment in its first two years. It is expected to take place across the months of September and October, except for active World Cup years.

Along with the new competition set-up, World Rugby will introduce a sporting calendar aligned with the men's sport, which is aiming to supercharge the women's game as it continues to move forward in stature.

Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has described this movement as a "landmark decision" within women's rugby and he expects the 2023 competition to "accelerate the development" of the sport. It will be supported by a new Women in Rugby commercial programme.

Sandy MacIver pens new Everton deal

Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver has committed her future to the Merseyside outfit after signing a new two-year contract extension. 

The 22-year-old first joined the Toffees in January 2020 after spending three seasons in the USA following her spell with Everton's academy. MacIver's return to England has proved to be a huge move for her after cementing herself as Willie Kirk's first choice shot-stopper.

Her performances in between the sticks earned her a call-up to the England camp, where she made her senior Lionesses debut during an international friendly against Northern Ireland last month.

Everton are currently fifth in the Women's Super League and will be eyeing a spot in the top four as the last stretch of the 2020/21 season plays out.

New Lionesses fixtures announced for April

England will return to international action next month with two new friendly fixtures on the calendar. The Lionesses will visit the Stade Michel d’Ornano in Caen to take on France on April 9th, before hosting Canada at Stoke City's bet365 Stadium on April 13th.

The new dates will be part of the preparations for the 2022 EURO competition, which is due to be hosted in England.

England Women

These fixtures give interim Lionesses manager Hege Riise the opportunity to make adjustments to her team ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. She has two opportunities to rotate personnel and finalise any decisions for the trip to Japan this summer.

The Norwegian will take charge of the Team GB squad at this year's Games and has already made some cut-throat decisions when deciding on a shortlist of contenders.

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