Rachael Blackmore created sporting history on Saturday when becoming the first woman to ride the Randox Aintree Grand National winner on board the Henry De Bromhead-trained Minella Times.
The woman who gave racing a vital shot in the arm when dominating last month’s Cheltenham festival created a seminal moment in sport by winning the world’s most famous steeplechase on the 11-1 shot.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 173rd National, which took place behind closed doors, nevertheless conspired to become a groundbreaking moment that will resonate throughout the world.
What for so long seemed as fantastic a prospect as the plot for the 1944 movie ‘National Velvet’ turned into glorious reality as Blackmore guided Minella Times to a thrilling six-and-a-half length defeat of his 100-1 stable companion Balko Des Flos.
It secures the 31-year-old jockey an indelible spot in racing history, definitively transforming the face of a famously demanding sport in which the National has always represented the supreme challenge of horse and human.
Immediately pitched the inevitable gender question, an exultant Blackmore said: “I don’t feel male or female – I don’t even feel human! This is unbelievable.”
It was her third ride in the race, one of just 20 women in all to tackle the famous National fences since Charlotte Brew became the first to ride in the great race in 1977.
That was the year Red Rum cemented his legendary status with an unforgettable third victory, a moment now with competition for significance thanks to the National’s latest epochal winner.
“Minella Times jumped fantastically and didn’t miss a beat anywhere. When I hit the rail and I heard I was four lengths in front, I knew he was going to gallop to the line, but we all know what can happen on the run-in here. When I crossed the line, I don’t know how I felt – it’s incredible,” Blackmore said.
“I just travelled and jumped everywhere. I got a beautiful passage everywhere. He travelled really well and jumped really well. I thought jumping two out I was trying to hold on to a bit as it is a long way home.
“I’m so privileged to be getting on these horses. A massive thanks to JP McManus [owner] as well. He is an extremely special horse.
“Ruby Walsh and Katie Walsh, I’ve asked them both in the past about riding around here and they often talk about a semi-circle in front of you and I felt like I had that everywhere.
“That is what you need in a race like this, you need so much luck to get around with no one else interfering first of all. You need so much to go right and things went right for me today. I feel so incredibly lucky,” she added.
Minella Times was a 28th Grand National winner trained in Ireland and at a time of unprecedented Irish dominance of the sport generally led home a clean sweep for the raiders of the first five places.
Any Second Now, who carried McManus’s first colours, overcame being badly hampered by a faller to finish third at 15-2 while Burrows Saint was fourth at 9-1. Farclas was fifth at 16-1.
The 50-1 outsider Blaklion was the first British runner home in sixth and the only non-Irish finisher in the first 11 of the 15 finishers.
Once again, just as at Cheltenham, De Bromhead was inevitably shuffled to the sidelines in terms of focus, although this National sealed an unparalleled period of success for the Co Waterford trainer.
Minella Times’ victory completed a scarcely believable ‘Grand Slam’ of jump racing’s greatest prizes, coming on the back of his unique ‘Holy Trinity’ of the three most coveted races at last month’s Cheltenham festival.
That was when Honeysuckle, ridden by Blackmore, won the Champion Hurdle, Put The Kettle On landed the Champion Chase and Minella Indo led home his stable companion A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup.
That Gold Cup was the sole misstep by Blackmore at Cheltenham when she chose to ride the runner-up. However, another ‘Minella’ supplied the ultimate consolation for her while leading home another stunning big race 1-2 for the trainer.
“Rachael is brilliant and we are so lucky to have her. I think they broke the mould after her; she’s tough out and brilliant – what can you say?” De Bromhead said.
“You can see that when she joined us we have gone from strength to strength with her. She’s a fantastic rider, a great team player and just a lovely person to work with. She’s breaking through all the records.
“It’s amazing, it really is. The stuff you dream about. Rachael was brilliant on him, and it’s amazing to do it for the McManuses.
“We got a lot of luck all the way around, and winged fences – it’s incredible. It looked as though Rachael had it won jumping the last, but we all know how things can change,” he added.
Although owners were allowed attend Aintree, McManus wasn’t present to welcome back his second National winner in the emotional circumstances of his daughter-in-law Emma dying in December.
Another of his runners, The Long Mile, sadly was a casualty in the race and had to be put down.
A total of 15 of the 40 starters completed the race. Just two other British-trained horses besides Blaklion were among them. The 11-2 favourite Cloth Cap was pulled up at the 28th of the 30 fences.
Saturday’s race was all about Blackmore, however. One bookmaking firm immediately made her an unbackable 1-100 favourite to be RTÉ’s sportsperson of the 2021.
However, the much longer term significance of such a seismic achievement is impossible to estimate.
“She’s got it all and she’s proved it on the biggest stage. Everyone in the world can now see it,” said racing’s most successful ever jockey, Tony McCoy, afterwards.
Since that global TV audience is estimated at 600 million the odds of such a singular success changing the face of the sport everywhere are a lot shorter than they were for so long on what once seemed an impossible outcome.
Grand National result
1st Minella Times (R Blackmore) 11-1
2nd Balko Des Flos (A Coleman) 100-1
3rd Any Second Now (MP Walsh) 15-2
4th Burrows Saint (Mr P Mullins) 9-1
5th Farclas (J Kennedy) 16-1
6th Blaklion (H Skelton) 50-1
7th Discorama (B Cooper) 16-1
8th Jett (Mr S Waley-Cohen) 80-1
Winning trainer: Henry de Bromhead
Anmeldebescheinigung: How to get Austria’s crucial residence document for EU citizens
The EU’s freedom of movement enables citizens to move to another country in the bloc relatively easily, but there are still some conditions you need to meet.
As a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, you have the right to live in Austria for more than three months as long as you meet one of the following criteria:
- Being employed or self-employed in Austria
- Studying at a recognised Austrian institution
- Having sufficient financial means to support yourself
As well as fulfilling one of these conditions, you also need valid health insurance for Austria.
If you are working legally in Austria, you will have this automatically, either through the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK) if you are employed by a company or through the Sozialversicherungsanstalt der Selbständigen (SVS) if you are self-employed.
As a student or self-supporting person, you will instead need to find your own comprehensive health insurance policy; your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) might be sufficient for students who aren’t in Austria long-term, but this doesn’t cover all medical visits so it is generally worth getting a separate health insurance policy.
When you arrive in Austria, you need to register your residence within three days, and at this point you will receive a Meldebestätigung (proof of residence). However, the process of getting your registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinugung) does not happen automatically after the initial registration.
You need to submit your application for the Anmeldebescheinigung within four months of your arrival in Austria, and you do this in person at your local MA35 office, the government department responsible for immigration and citizenship matters.
You need to make an appointment to attend the office in person.
If you live in Austria for five continuous years as an EU/EEA citizen, you automatically receive the right of permanent residence. You do not need to apply for any specific document to prove this or to continue living in Austria, but if you want to, you can apply for a certificate of permanent residence.
The documents you’ll need are the following (it’s a good idea to bring both the original and a copy):
- Valid ID or passport
- A completed Anmeldebescheingung form: Most of the details here are simple to fill out. You’ll need your personal information (name, date of birth, parents’ names, marital status), your current residential address, and to note which of the criteria for residence you meet and which company you have health insurance with. You can fill out the form before your visit, but you usually sign it when you have your in-person appointment, not before.
- Proof of employment or self-employment if you’re working: This would be a work contract for employees, while self-employed workers can show their tax number, trade licence if applicable, contracts with clients, and/or other proof of your business.
- Proof of studies if you’re studying: This could be a certificate of enrolment, and you may also need to show proof that your place of study is accredited. Your university’s student office should be able to help you get the documents you need.
- Proof of sufficient funds and health insurance if you are either studying or self-supporting: This includes your insurance certificate, and proof of your bank balance or pension statements for example. Students who are being supported by their parents should be able to show confirmation from their parents of a monthly allowance.
- Your proof of residence in Austria (Meldebestätigung)
Your documents will need to be in either German or English, so documents in other languages need to be translated by an authorized translator.
Getting the certificate costs €15, and there may be additional fees depending on which foreign documents you provide. Not getting it is potentially more expensive though (not to mention illegal) as you could face a fine of up to €250.
Brendan Kennelly, one the country’s most popular poets, dies aged 85
Family members confirmed his death on Sunday evening at Áras Mhuire nursing home, Listowel, in his native Co Kerry.
He graduated from Trinity College, wrote his PhD thesis there, and went on to become professor of modern literature at the university.
Mr Kennelly had more than 30 poetry collections published, which captured the many shades and moods of his home county as well as his adopted Dublin home.
He was also a popular broadcaster and made many appearances on radio and television programmes, such as The Late Late Show.
[His poetry is] infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics
President Michael D Higgins, a friend of Mr Kennelly’s, said his poetry held “a special place in the affections of the Irish people”.
“As one of those who had the great fortune of enjoying the gift of friendship with Brendan Kennelly for many years, it is with great sadness that I have heard of his passing,” he said.
“As a poet, Brendan Kennelly had forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people. He brought so much resonance, insight, and the revelation of the joy of intimacy to the performance of his poems and to gatherings in so many parts of Ireland. He did so with a special charm, wit, energy and passion.”
He added that Mr Kennelly’s poetry is “infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the country has lost a “great teacher, poet, raconteur; a man of great intelligence and wit”.
He added: “The Irish people loved hearing his voice and reading his poetry.”
He spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful
Trinity College Dublin’s provost, Prof Linda Doyle, said Mr Kennelly was known to generations of Trinity students as a great teacher and as a warm and encouraging presence on campus.
“His talent for, and love of, poetry came through in every conversation as did his good humour. We have all missed him on campus in recent years as illness often kept him in his beloved Kerry. He is a loss to his much loved family, Trinity and the country,” she said.
Tony Guerin, a close friend of Kennelly’s, and a playwright, said he will be remembered in Kerry and elsewhere as “the people’s poet”.
“My relation with Brendan was one of friendship. There are more scholarly people who will assess his contribution and discuss those matters. But he spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful, whether it was the written word or being interviewed by Gay Byrne,” he said.
Mr Kennelly is survived by his brothers, Alan, Paddy and Kevin, by his sisters, Mary Kenny and Nancy McAuliffe, and his three grandchildren.
His daughter Doodle Kennelly died earlier this year.
Arrangements for a family funeral are expected to be announced shortly.
New skeleton find could reveal more about Vesuvius eruption
The remains of a man presumed to be aged 40-45 were found under metres of volcanic rock roughly where Herculaneum’s shoreline used to be, before Vesuvius’ explosion in 79 AD pushed it back by 500 metres (1,640 feet).
He was lying down, facing inland, and probably saw death in the face as he was overwhelmed by the molten lava that buried his city, the head of the Herculaneum archaeological park, Francesco Sirano, told the ANSA news agency.
“He could have been a rescuer”, Sirano suggested.
As Vesuvius erupted, a naval fleet came to the rescue, led by the ancient Roman scholar and commander Pliny the Elder. He died on the shore, but it is believed that his officers managed to evacuate hundreds of survivors.
The skeleton might have otherwise belonged to “one of the fugitives” who was trying to get on one of the lifeboats, “perhaps the unlucky last one of a group that had managed to sail off,” Sirano suggested.
It was found covered by charred wood remains, including a beam from a building that may have smashed his skull, while his bones appear bright red, possibly blood markings left as the victim was engulfed in the volcanic discharge.
Archaeologists also found traces of tissue and metal objects — likely the remains of personal belongings he was fleeing with: maybe a bag, work tools, or even weapons or coins, the head of the archaeological park said.
Other human remains have been found in and around Herculaneum in the past decades — including a skull held in a Rome museum that some attribute to Pliny — but the latest discovery can be investigated with more modern techniques.
“Today we have the possibility of understanding more”, Sirano said.
Researchers believe that in Herculaneum temperatures rose up to 500 degrees — enough to vaporise soft tissues. In a phenomenon that is poorly understood, a rapid drop in temperature ensued, helping preserve what remained.
Although much smaller than Pompeii, its better-known neighbour outside the southern city of Naples, Herculaneum was a wealthier town with more exquisite architecture, much of which is still to be uncovered.
READ ALSO: Where are Italy’s active volcanoes?
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