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This year marks the 100th running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and almost from the start women played a central role in jump racing’s most prestigious prize.

The winning most owner you ask. Well, that’s Dorothy Paget, who spent somewhere in the region of £3million on horses during her lifetime.

What a life it was too. Look her up on Wikipedia and her occupation is listed as racehorse owner, now there’s a goal to aim for.

It’s easier when you have a fortune behind you, she was after all the daughter of Lord Queenborough and Pauline Payne Whitney from the rich and powerful American family.

She also had her idiosyncrasies, sleeping in the day, having breakfast at traditional supper time and her main meal at 7am.

She would bet with bookmakers on races that had already taken place while she slept. She also owned Golden Miller.

His record was remarkable, winning the Gold Cup in five successive years from 1932 to 1936 and the Grand National of 1934.

Bad weather forced the abandonment of the 1937 Gold Cup but in 1938, at the age of 12, Golden Miller was back and in front jumping the last only for the younger legs of Morse Code to sweep past and finally take his crown.

For those living through those inter-war years it would be hard to believe that a better steeplechaser would ever ever emerge.

But 30 years later the horse by which every jumper is now measured arrived on the scene.

His name, Arkle. A peak Timeform rating of 212 almost beggars believe – to put it into context it’s 21 pounds higher than Kauto Star ever reached.

He was to win three successive Gold Cups from 1964 to 1966, beating Mill House in the first one in a race that’s regarded as one of the greatest ever renewals. It was also the last time Arkle didn’t start as favourite throughout his career.

He was owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster. There on all his great days, leading in the giant Irish chaser to the winners’ enclosure, she was a key part of the story. And unlike Paget was regarded as being “every trainer’s dream owner”.

Jenny Pitman was a woman who smashed racing’s glass ceiling for the trainers. She was the first female trainer to win the Grand National when Corbiere landed the Aintree showpiece in 1983. 12 months later she repeated the feat in the Gold Cup with Burrough Hill Lad.

That was historic, her second win in the great race arguably even more special for the handler, Garrison Savannah ridden to a thrilling victory over The Fellow by her son Mark.

Pitman scaled the heights of the sport and was a trailblazer for those who followed. The daughter of a Leicestershire farmer, she began her career as a stable girl at the age of 14.

In 1974 she saddled her first point-to-point runner, took out a full licence a year later and the first winner under Rules duly arrived in 1976.

Her Weathercock House yard in Lambourn grew from 19 boxes to close to a 100. She was known for her Grand National day interviews with Des Lynam on Grandstand, for all her relationship with the written press had various high profile ups and downs.

She’s more famous though for those days in the sun at Prestbury Park and Aintree that led the way for others to follow.

Jessica Harrington came to training from a different background. She represented Ireland in three-day events at European, Olympic and World Championships level – and after taking out her own training licence in 1984 showed a deadly touch in big races both on the Flat and over jumps.

In the winter game her flagbearer was Moscow Flyer, a modern great two-miler who was competing in a golden era of the division. He won the Arkle in 2002, Champion Chase of 2003 and 2005.

12 years after his second success Harrington was to soar even higher at the Festival, winning the Gold Cup with Sizing John.

The son of Midnight Legend joined her at the start of that very season from Henry De Bromhead and enjoyed remarkable success, winning the Kinloch Brae, Irish Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup as part of a four-race Grade One haul.

He wasn’t to scale the same heights again but at Cheltenham in the spring of 2017, he was the best staying chaser around, primed to perfection for his big day.

Harrington is still training with great success although with a lighter numerical team for the winter game. Pigeon House in the Boodles her only potential runner at the Festival this this time around.

And onto Rachael Blackmore.

Racing isn’t viewed – outside its own bubble – as a particularly forward-thinking, inclusive sport. But it’s one of the very few where women and men compete on equal terms at a professional level.

And female jockeys, in both codes, are now among the very best riders in the weighing room. Full stop.

If Pitman was the trainer who shattered the glass ceiling for her profession, Blackmore broke through an already cracked one for the riders.

Since riding her first winner as an amateur in 2011, her progress to the top has been remarkable.

It was the tie-in with Henry De Bromhead that lit the blue touchpaper. Her first Cheltenham winner came aboard A Plus Tard in the 2019 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase. At the same Festival she tasted Grade One glory at the meeting aboard Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett.

In 2021 she became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle aboard Honeysuckle, the first winner of the Ruby Walsh Trophy as leading rider for the week. A month later Minella Times cemented her place in racing folklore by winning the Grand National.

There was only one scratch still to itch. She nearly did in in 2021, choosing the ‘wrong one’ as she finished second in the Gold Cup aboard A Plus Tard behind stablemate Minella Times.

12 months’ later they put it gloriously right, avenging that defeat with a spectacular 15 lengths defeat of the noisy neighbour.

History made in the most prestigious race of all. It’s been a common theme.

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