“YOU miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
The words of Wayne Gretzky, widely regarded as the best hockey player to ever play the game, and I think those words are universal not only in sport but in life.
There are rare occasions in life when you recognise in the present moment that you will remember that exact happenstance for the rest of your days.
Some folk like to regale tales of when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954 or when Usain Bolt sprinted 100 metres in 9.58 seconds.
In 1989, Michael Jordan scored 'the shot' for his Chicago Bulls team with just three seconds left on the clock. Two months after that monumental three-pointer that eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA play-off series, another game-changer by the name of Rachael Blackmore was born.
As we gathered around the TV last Saturday evening, to get a closer look at the Aintree Grand National, everyone collectively knew we were witnessing history.
It all seemed so effortless as Blackmore navigated Minella Times over those 30 evergreen ditches, staying inside most of her 39 opponents and when they ran towards the elbow, a certain air of inevitability hit — Rachael Blackmore wasn’t going to miss her shot.
The Grand National is regularly referred to as the most famous horse race in the world, but when you see congratulatory tweets from the likes of Ringo Star, Billie-Jean King, and Piers Morgan, the global reach of this historic race is really put into perspective.
It doesn’t get any bigger than the Grand National.
Blackmore may have been realising a personal dream, but from a wider perspective, her achievements aboard Minella Times represented every woman who thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t.
Every person who tried and failed. Anyone who has ever wondered whether it’s worth trying again.
As Minella Times crossed the line in the world’s toughest horse race, tears of joy were shed because after 173 renewals of the Grand National, a woman had finally conquered racing’s Everest!
Roughly 12 hours before Blackmore’s historic victory, Jamie Lee Kah won her first Sydney Group 1 win aboard the former French-trained Cascadian, in turn becoming the first woman to ride a Group 1 winner for Godolphin.
This was her fifth career Group 1 success and she currently leads the Melbourne Jockey’s premiership by 26 over next best Damian Lane.
Closer to home, Hollie Doyle is one of the market leaders for this year’s jockey’s championship and is considered a go-to rider for the big occasions.
It’s not that long ago, I felt obliged to pen a piece outlining why I felt female riders did not need a weight allowance in order to compete against their male colleagues.
That we didn’t need to follow France Galop in allocating allowances and that talent will always win out, regardless of gender.
As we take stock of the significance of last week’s heroics, let’s consider the other key findings from last week’s Grand National.
Firstly, Henry de Bromhead should probably be considered for the FAI managerial position after saddling a 1-2 in the main event, just a month after his awesome Cheltenham Festival exploits. Secondly, Irish-trained horses were responsible for the first five home in the race and 12 of the 15 finishers.
Of the 25 horses who failed to complete the course, 19 of those were British-trained. More dissections and post-mortems will undoubtedly ensue for the BHA, but let us bask in the glory of Ireland’s racing prowess.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we learned that ambition, combined with steely determination and unquestionable talent, can take you right to the top.
The Blackmore story is now well documented and her success as consistent as Michael Jordan’s free throws.
Every media outlet will want their share of the story, but as sure as night follows day, this Tipperary woman will remain level, undeterred, and unchanged.
A woman was probably always going to win the Aintree Grand National one day, but for racing to have someone of Rachael Blackmore’s quality as a person to stand behind the success is priceless.