Rachael Blackmore says she feels excitement more than nerves as she bids to win her second consecutive Grand National.
Blackmore, who became the first woman to ever win the Aintree race, will reunite with defending champion Minella Times for Saturday’s race.
Because the National is a handicap chase with weights allocated according to the rating of each runner, Minella Times must carry 21lb more, on 11st 10lb, this year.
Trainer Henry De Bormhead said: “He loved it last year, but he’s obviously gone up a good bit in the ratings so it’s not going to be easy for him.”
Blackmore not feeling the pressure
Tiger Roll was the last horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals in 2018 and 2019, but the feat has only been achieved a handful of times in history.
Nonetheless, Blackmore says that she is not feeling the pressure of riding the defending champion and stressed that the Grand National has a “different feel” about it compared to other events.
“The Grand National has a different feel to it,” she told BBC Sport. “You don’t feel the same kind of pressure as you do for Cheltenham. Everyone knows there are so many different variables for the Grand National and so much can happen, so no jockey feels the same expectation.
“What you do feel is excitement. Jockeys will wish each other good luck. It has a different feel to it. And especially riding someone like Minella Times.”
Despite winning last year, Minella Times is not the favourite for Saturday’s race and currently has odds of around 11/1.
The Charlie Longsdon trained Snow Leopardess is the bookies’ favourite with odds of around 7/1, while Gordon Elliot trained Delta Work is close behind.
A role model for women everywhere
Blackmore has already made history on multiple occasions. As well as winning the Grand National last year, she also became the first woman to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival with six victories, including the Champion Hurdle.
After her historic victory at Aintree, Blackmore was asked how she felt to be the first woman ever to win the National and her response was iconic.
“I don’t feel male or female right now – I don’t even feel human. This is just unbelievable.”
Ahead of this year’s race, Blackmore said she’s honoured that so many people have congratulated her and offered her support but that she’s trying not to take it for granted.
“I suppose I’m still living in that bubble at the moment, so I’m not getting too wrapped up in any of that,” she said. “I’m just enjoying what I’m doing. I get lots of letters from kids, wishing me good luck or saying well done and that’s wonderful to see them have such an interest.”
That being said, Blackmore admitted she is aware of how much of a role model she is to others and emphasised that her aim is to keep doing what she’s doing.
“Yeah, look I definitely do [know she’s a role model]. In some ways, you’re just hoping you don’t do anything to kind of mess that up but at the end of the day I can just try my best to keep riding winners and that’s the most important thing.”
The Grand National gets underway on Saturday at 17:15 BST.