In today’s world, the ways media intersects with ‘the big events’ is also a point to note when you’re looking for a front-row seat for a slice of ‘history in the making. The clarity of footage and numerous ways to tune into the world-class sport is more diverse than ever. Whether it’s F1, Premier League Football, UFC, or, yes, the jewel in the crown of horse racing, The Grand National, you’re more likely to find people streaming these world-class events than consuming them from the old-fashioned media like television. Even though studies have shown that the most streamed sports in the UK are still football, rugby, and golf, horse racing is slowly winning over the streaming fans across the country.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the history of the most famous horse racing event, the Grand National, and give an overview of the most successful mares through the years.
It would certainly be fair to say that winning mares in the Grand National have been relatively few and, since the turn of the twentieth century, far between. The first ‘official’ running of the Grand National took place in 1839, and mares have won just 13, or 7.5%, of the 173 renewals so far. Interestingly, in the first 50 years of the Grand National, ten mares, namely Charity (1841), Miss Mowbray (1852), Anatis (1860), Jealousy (1861), Emblem (1863), Emblematic (1864), Casse Tete (1872), Empress (1880), Zoedone (1883) and Frigate (1889), won the celebrated steeplechase.
However, in the subsequent 132 years, just three mares – Shannon Lass (1902), Sheila’s Cottage (1948), and Nickel Coin (1951) – have been welcomed into the winners’ enclosure at Aintree as winners of the Grand National. In 2019, Magic Of Light, an 8-year-old Flemsfirth mare trained by Jessica Harrington, made a bold bid to strike a blow for the fairer sex; she jumped the final fence upsides the eventual winner, Tiger Roll, but although staying on gamely on the run-in, went down fighting, by 2¾ lengths.
Though as far as mare winners go, over seven decades after winning the National in 1951, Nickel Coin remains the last mare to do so. Trained by Jack O’Donoghue and ridden by Johnny Bullock, Nickel Coin defied odds of 40/1, taking advantage of a final fence blunder by Royal Tan – who would win the National three years later – to win by six lengths. Just three finished, with Derrinstown the only other horse to complete the course.
In all likelihood, due to the length of time at hand, any future mare winning the Grand National will also be seriously big odds (and as a way of reminder, these odds are with bookmakers, rather than betting exchanges, where they can be truly astronomical). As such, those who get it right will certainly be winning big.
We live in an era of female excellence in sports, which also shows in horse racing. Who could forget Rachael Blackmore’s spectacular Grand National win just last year on Minella Times – a first in the event, she then went on to become the first female winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on A Plus Tard. So when you think about it, is it highly likely that this wave of ‘girl power’ will eventually apply to mares too. In fact, it’s surely only a matter of time before history repeats itself!