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LIVERPOOL (Reuters) - Rachael Blackmore made Grand National history by becoming the first female jockey to win the race as she steered Minella Times across the finishing line at Aintree on Saturday.
The Irishwoman, who became the first leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival last month, timed her finish to perfection as Minella Times surged ahead after the 30th and final fence.
Minella Times, priced at 11-1, never looked threatened in the charge to the finish with 100-1 shot Balko Des Flos coming second and Any Second Now in third place.
The closest a female jockey had previously come to winning the most famous steeplechase in the world was Katie Walsh on Seabass in 2012 when she finished third.
"I cannot believe it," Blackmore said. "He was a sensational spin. I'm so lucky to be riding. It is unbelievable.
"He was just incredible and jumped beautifully. I tried to wait as long as I could. When I jumped the last and asked him for a bit, he was there.
"I don't feel male or female right now, I don't even feel human. This is just unbelievable."
Favourite Cloth Cap, ridden by Tom Scudamore, pulled up at the third last fence, while one horse, The Long Mile, was euthanised after suffering an injury, the race course said. Only 15 of the 40 starters finished the race.
While last year's race was cancelled, this year's took place in front of empty stands rather than the usual 70,000 fans because of continuing restrictions due to COVID-19.
But Blackmore's feat will reverberate around the horse racing world and beyond.
"A truly amazing achievement ... Ireland is so proud of you,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Twitter.
“A historic few weeks that will live long in the memory.”
Riding six winners at the Cheltenham Festival was extraordinary enough, but to follow that up by outclassing the field in the National, the most daunting race of them all, took her fairytale year to another level entirely.
Her victory also continued an incredible run for trainer Henry De Bromhead who trained the winner and runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and has now repeated that at the National.
"It's amazing -- it's what you dream of," he said. "Rachael is brilliant. I am so lucky to have her.
"It's such a tough game and Rachael had to do it the hard way, like all jockeys."
Outsider Jett made the running for much of the four-mile, two-and-a-half furlong slog round the firm circuit and was eight lengths clear with three fences remaining.
But eight-year-old Minella Times hit the front with two to go and made no mistake over the last before galloping clear to win by six lengths.
"You need some luck to get around with no-one else interfering and you need so much to go right and things went right for me today," Blackmore said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)