We could all sense that the 2021 Grand National would see some glorious, record-breaking moments, and the iconic race meeting certainly didn’t disappoint. Across each race day, the top-quality action at Aintree racecourse provided the nation with some thrilling highlights.
The magic assuredly reached its peak on Grand National Day, which saw the incredible Rachael Blackmore smash records yet again, becoming the first female jockey to win the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Take a look as we revisit the highlights from each day of the exhilarating festival in our Grand National 2021 review.
Liverpool’s NHS Day Highlights
The 2021 Grand National kicked off with Liverpool’s NHS Day, renamed to honour the work of the NHS staff across the region. Despite the festival continuing behind closed doors, the action on the racecourse made up for the lack of crowds.
The opening day began with The SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Steeple Chase, which saw Protektorat take the crown, providing a win for the Skeltons and owner, Sir Alex Ferguson. Trainer Dan Skelton admitted his surprise at the victory, believing the run to be a ‘short-term plan to get a long-term result next year.’ Jockey Harry Skelton, however, hailed the six-year-old as having a hell of a lot of ability despite not being the easiest to work with.
The second race of the day was The Doom Bar Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle which provided yet another impressive win for Sir Alex with Monimal, who jockey Harry Cobden declared the best English Juvenile he’s ever experienced. Trainer Paul Nicholls noted how the four-year-old has moved from strength to strength and suggested that the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle could be a possibility for the summer.
Opening day advanced with The Betway Bowl Steeple Chase, which saw a disappointing run for Tiger Roll, many of whom were disheartened that he was not given a chance to run the National to see if he could secure a third consecutive victory. The race marked a treble win for Sir Alex as Clan Des Obeaux took the crown, with Tiger Roll managing fourth place. Delighted at the third win, Sir Alex joked, “I think that’s my first hat-trick in Liverpool – I don’t think they’ll be too pleased.”
Next, The Rose Paterson Randox Health Foxhunters’ Steeple Chase provided an unexpected win from Cousin Pascal, delighting owner Joe O’Shea. The 9-year-old delivered a follow-up win for jockey James King who also won the race back in 2017 with Dineur and claimed that the success was even greater the second time around.
The penultimate race of the day was The Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Steeple Chase, where Editeur Du Gite claimed victory, having also experienced success at Newbury last month. Jockey Joshua Moore noted that the seven-year-old gave a great spin and loves a flat track.
Liverpool’s NHS Day concluded with The Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat, providing Rachael Blackmore with her first taste of success at the 2021 Grand National meeting with Me Too Please, unaware of the greatness that was yet to come.
Ladies Day Highlights
Day two of the Grand National would usually involve racegoers showcasing their showstopping outfits at Aintree racecourse. This year, however, saw a virtual style awards take place using the hashtag #AGrandDayIn, where winners donated their prize money to charities. Alongside the fashion fun, Ladies Day also contained a full day of enthralling racing moments.
Ladies Day commenced with The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, with Tronador claiming first place alongside jockey Jack Kennedy. Trainer Denise Foster noted that ‘he ran a cracker in the Boodles two years ago, and he wasn’t beaten overly far. He was fresh and well before this and travelled over really well.’ As a result, Foster is hopeful that the five-year-old will experience further success this season.
The second race of the day was The Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle which saw Belfast Banter recreate his Cheltenham success. Trainer Peter Fahey noted that whilst the Cheltenham success was excellent, the Grade One win at Aintree was next level.
Another runner who managed to replicate their Cheltenham triumph was Chantry House in The Betway Mildmay Novices’ Steeple Chase. Trainer Nicky Henderson hopes the 7-year-old has not used up all his luck during the two races, believing that he has a long and bright future ahead.
Next was a magnificent victory for Fakir D’oudairies in The Marsh Steeple Chase as he stormed ahead of Nuts Well and Itchy Feet to claim a dominant win. Jockey Mark Walsh expressed that the six-year-old deserved to have his ‘day in the sun’ after a string of second-place finishes.
The following race marked another comfortable win as Livelovelaugh secured first place in The Randox Health Topham Steeple Chase. The Willie Mullins trained 11-year-old was well clear of Pink Eyed Pedro and Senior Citizen and provided a solid win for son and jockey, Patrick. ‘Every jockey wants to win over the fences here, and I got some spin there’, noted the younger Mullins.
The Ladies Day penultimate race was The Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle which saw a shock win from Ahoy Senor, beating Bravesmansgame and Oscar Elite. Following the surprise victory, trainer Lucinda Russell now has her eyes on Punchestown later this month, considering the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Day two of the Grand National concluded with The Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle, where Rowland Ward claimed his first win of the season. Trainer Stuart Edmunds claimed that whilst he may not have had the rub of the green this season, he’s got ‘a bit of class’.
Grand National Day Highlights
Following two enthralling days of racing action, the festival reached its climactic conclusion on Grand National Day and is a day that will go down in racing history.
The final day began with drama at The EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle, which saw a blunder from winner Hometown Boy during the final flight. Whilst the scare gave away a few lengths, the six-year-old still managed to secure the victory. Trainer Stuart Edmunds declared that he will not run again this season and will be a nice novice chaser for next year.
Next was an impressive win for the Dan Skelton trained My Drogo in The Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle. The success marks a fourth consecutive win for the six-year-old, as missing Cheltenham last month proved to be a wise move. The race also saw a fall from Lucky One, ridden by Harry Cobden, who will not ride for the remainder of the season, having suffered a cheekbone fracture.
The Nicky Henderson trained Shishkin maintained his unbeaten record over fences in The Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Steeple Chase. Henderson confirmed that the seven-year-old would not run in Punchestown, though he is tipped for The Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022.
Proceeding to The Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle, we witnessed a thrilling finish from Thyme Hill. The seven-year-old missed out on Cheltenham last month, paving the way for a solid Stayer’s Hurdle win, delighting jockey Tom O’Brien. Having not ridden Thyme Hill to victory since Worcester back in 2018, the pair’s success was a significant moment. Sadly, it was a disappointing performance from Paisley Park, who was pulled up before the third-last flight.
Edging closer to the grand spectacle, The Betway Handicap Steeple Chase saw Happygolucky claim victory as trainer Kim Bailey noted the strong season he has had so far and that he is ‘unlucky not to be unbeaten.’
After great anticipation, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. With an 11-1 chance, Minella Times secured the sensational win in The Randox Grand National Steeple Chase alongside the unstoppable Rachael Blackmore. The race went down in history as Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the National, a feat she also secured in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham with Honeysuckle. Additionally, Blackmore also went on to be crowned Top Jockey at Cheltenham, another title not previously won by a female.
Growing up in County Tipperary, Blackmore began riding from a young age and gained a degree in Equine Science from the University of Limerick. Blackmore first experienced success as an amateur jockey back in 2011, winning the Tipperary Ladies’ Handicap Hurdle at Thurles with Stowaway Pearl. She eventually turned professional in 2015, and her jockey career continued to move from strength to strength.
Her first run at the Grand National was in 2018 with Alpha des Obeaux, though unfortunately fell at the fifteenth fence. The following year, she experienced her first Cheltenham win with A Plus Tard in the Chase Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
2021 has been an inspiring year for Blackmore, with many stating her efforts have made her worthy of a damehood. Racing fans are undoubtedly excited to see what other achievements could be around the corner this year.
Whilst difficult to follow such a fantastic spectacle, The Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race saw another outstanding female victory as jockey Megan Nicholls secured the most significant win of her career on Knappers Hill, a proud moment for her trainer father, Paul Nicholls.
With an abundance of unforgettable moments, the 2021 Grand National certainly made up for the meeting not taking place last year. We are incredibly excited for the Grand National 2022 and for spectators to safely return to Aintree Racecourse. If you want to get in on the action for the Grand National 2022, please head on over to our Grand National hospitality page for our range of fantastic packages, including the fabulous Silks Restaurant. Next years’ iconic racing extravaganza is one not to be missed!