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Horse Racing

First female jockey to ride in Grand National admits she was in tears as Rachael Blackmore stormed to famous win

CHARLOTTE BREW, the first-ever woman jockey to take part in the Grand National, admitted she was in tears as Rachael Blackmore rode into the record books.

In 1977 Brew made history as she partnered Barony Fort in the big race, just two years after a ban on women riding in the National was lifted.

Brew was splashed on the front of the Sun before her historic ride
Brew and Barony Fort got as far as the 27th fence before the horse refused

She faced stinging criticism from some at the time including Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain, but helped pave the way for Blackmore and Minella Times’ memorable success some 44 years later.

Now 65, Brew roared on Blackmore from her Somerset home with her three daughters.

She said: “On Saturday morning one of my daughters asked me if I thought a woman would ever do it.

“I said, ‘probably at some point, but it’s easier said than done.’

“There were only three girls in the race on Saturday, and 37 men.

“And then I must admit I had a lump in my throat for a good while after the race, I was very emotional. It was just brilliant and fantastic in so many ways.”

The 1977 National was dubbed ‘Charlotte’s National’ on the front of the Sun in the lead-up to the historic moment.

And Brew even booted Elvis to page three that day – something the former jockey still laughs about today.

She said: “I still have that page printed and hanging on my wall today. I was briefly more famous than Elvis!

“We were all cheering Rachael on, it was absolutely fantastic. She was brilliant in the saddle.

“She’s such a wonderful jockey, it was so well-deserved. When you think of how many different jockeys have tried to win the National, some haven’t even got round, and she’s done it so soon.

“But afterwards she was brilliant too, she dealt with the moment perfectly. She’s just so unassuming and that’s another big difference between them now and my day.

Blackmore fired 11-1 shot Minella Times to a historic win at Aintree

“It’s important to say the right thing, and you have to respect her so much for being able to do it when everyone is so emotional.

“She was saying hopefully it’ll become the norm and that it’ll stop being that she’s a female jockey.

“To be honest I think it’ll always be unusual to have a woman at the top of jumps racing, but she is amazing.”

The National may be a completely different prospect from the daunting task Brew faced in the seventies as a 21-year-old.

But that doesn’t stop her from respecting what Blackmore, 31, achieved. She just wishes there had been a sellout Aintree crowd present to witness it.

Brew said: “It’s such a change looking back to my days and then to now. I have to accept I was relatively inexperienced, it was different in those days.

“You wouldn’t recognise the place anymore, let alone the course.

“I went back there once when my children were little as I wanted to show them the fences. It’s amazing there now. The stands and everything are huge.

“It was a massive shame there was no one there, as that was a historic moment in many ways.”

It all comes less than a month after the daughter of a teacher and dairy-farmer was crowned top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival.

Her six winners, including mare Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, shot Blackmore into the mainstream.

Could the Blackmore factor inspire more females to take up the sport? Brew thinks it might.

She explained: “When you consider this is all just a few weeks after Cheltenham too. One day there she had two winners, but also had three falls.

“That in itself is amazing, and I think it helps sum her up to bounce back like that.

“There’s always been plenty of females in the sport, but not at the top of it, hopefully this gives them that bit of a nudge to push on.

“Nina Carberry, Bryony Frost and Katie Walsh are all brilliant too. But Rachael has shown everyone it can be done.”

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