West Tip – one of the all-time greats

May 2nd, 2013 by admin

In the 1985 Grand National, West Tip ridden by Richard Dunwoody was going conspicuously well when he fell at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. Few would have thought the horse would go on to have such a tremendous Grand National record at that point – but his ever taking part in a horse race of any kind had looked even more doubtful just a few years earlier.

In 1982, he was injured in an accident involving a lorry just outside his stables and it was thought he may have to be put down. He had to have 80 stitches and, the following

year, he had a heart murmur, and broke down on both front legs in the Midlands National. But this strong son of Gala Performance was made of sterner stuff. He went on to a full recovery and was much-fancied for the 1985 National when Becher’s got the better of him. Nevertheless, he was back the following year and this time, he didn’t put a foot wrong – winning by two lengths at odds of 15/2 from Young Driver, with Classified in third and Mr. Snugfit fourth.

West Tip really was a traditional steeplechaser and a National hero. In the (Read more...)

Irish Tragedy

April 27th, 2013 by admin

The world’s greatest horse race has generated tales of derring-do, of extreme joy – but also of complete heartbreak in its 174-year history. But of all the tales associated with the National, surely none is more poignant or tragic than that of the Irish Wynne family’s association with Aintree.

The sad tale begins with first Irish-trained winner of the race; the nine year-old “Matthew”, ridden by Dennis (a.k.a.“Denny”) Wynne in 1847. The horse was trained by John Murphy at The Curragh, for Cork-based owner, John Courtenay.

Fifteen years after the race, Denny’s son Joseph was due to

ride “O’ Connell” for the 1862 National, but on the day of the race the Wynne family received the awful news that Joseph’s sister had died suddenly back home in Ireland. The horse’s owner Lord De Freyne tried to persuade Joseph not to take the ride; but the young man was determined to do so to help honour his sister and the Wynne family’s association with Aintree and the Grand National.

But an unbelievable double tragedy was to strike when, at the fence before the water jump, O’Connell was brought down in front of the grandstand to the shock of the many thousands of spectators. The (Read more...)

A brief history of the world’s greatest horse race

April 24th, 2013 by admin

With the 2013 National just behind us – and a long wait until next year’s race, it seemed like the ideal time to take a brief look back down the years at a few of the highlights the great race has thrown up through the years…

  • Famously, the first official winner in 1839 (the 1839 race is considered the first official running – though a predecessor race was held three times from 1836-38) was called Lottery. Incidentally, The Duke won the 1836 and 1837 “Great Liverpool Steeplechases” at Aintree, which would later become Grand National. And his jockey was

none other than the legendary Captain Martin Becher after whom Becher's Brook was named. The Duke was third in 1838.Lottery was the 5-1 favourite for the first official running. At this time, most of the fences were small country banks, but they included a stone wall - and much of the course was un-turfed.

  • The race didn’t become a handicap until the 1843 running. The most famous National horse in the early era was Manifesto. He won the race twice - in 1897 and 1899 - and ran in a total of eight Nationals, making the placings no fewer than six times!
  • In the (Read more...)

  • Cloister

    April 21st, 2013 by admin

    Cloister was one of the earliest Grand National greats o grace the Aintree course. He won the race in 1893, having finished as runner-up the two previous years. But this was no ordinary horse – and a great deal of speculation remains to this day about what really happened to Cloister once he had finished racing.

    In the 1891 running of the race, Cloister was carrying 11st.7lbs, and was up with the leaders for most of the race. But when it came to the famous Liverpool long run-in, with Cloister traveling better than the eventual winner Come Away, Cloister’s jockey went for a gap

    between the winner and the rail. At this point, Come Away's jockey decided to block out Cloister and went on to win. But after an objection by Cloister’s jockey the stewards decided to leave the placings unaltered.

    The following year, 1892, with an additional 10lbs to carry, Cloister tried to make the running but his extra weight took its toll and this time, he was a more distant 20 lengths second to winner Father O'Flynn.

    But it was a very different story the following year. This time, despite carrying even more with 12st 7lbs, Cloister headed the field by (Read more...)

    Mania back in the saddle for Scottish National

    April 18th, 2013 by admin

    Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania will be back in the saddle tomorrow after his heavy fall at Hexham the day after his famous Aintree victory saw him airlifted to hospital in Newcastle.

    Then on Saturday, the 23 year-old Scot will once again partner National winner Auroras Encore – but this time in the Coral Scottish National at Ayr on Saturday.

    It will be fascinating to see if the 11 year-old Auroras Encore can pull of what would be an historic double. Mania is reportedly looking forward to getting back in the saddle and particularly in re-partnering the Aintree Grand National winner

    despite feeling a little battered and bruised following his Hexham tumble.

    Auroras Encore and Mania finished a close second in the Scottish National last year and if they can go one better, the horse would be the first to complete the Aintree-Ayr double since Earth Summit who won the Scottish National in 1994 and the Grand National four years later. Incidentally, Earth Summit also won the Welsh National at Chepstow in December 1997 and remains the only horse ever to have won the Aintree Grand National and the Scottish and Welsh Nationals.

    But no other horse since the great Red Rum back in (Read more...)

    Ballabriggs calls it a day

    April 13th, 2013 by admin

    The 2011 National winner Ballabriggs has been retired. The horse which wrote the latest amazing chapter in the McCain family’s extraordinary association with the world’s greatest steeplechase is now aged 12 and was pulled up in this year's National - which was won by Auroras Encore. He finished sixth in the 2012 Grand National.
    Donald McCain Junior decided to retire the horse after talking with his owner Trevor Hemmings. McCain paid tribute to the horse and said that even if he never managed t win another National – at least he would always have one under his belt thanks to

    Ballabriggs. Ballabriggs won 7 of his 28 starts over his career, winning over £624k in prize money along the way. But it will be for the 2011 National, of course, that he will always be remembered. The then 10-year-old won in fine style having led for much of the race. And on the long run-in, the gelding gamely saw off a very strong challenge from amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen on board Oscar Time whilst third place went to the previous year’s winner Don't Push It ridden by Tony McCoy.

    Donald McCain was a child when his father trained the record-breaking Red Rum to (Read more...)

    Ryan Mania mania

    April 10th, 2013 by admin

    In his first race back after his National victory last Sunday, Auroras Encore’s jockey Ryan Mania suffered a horrible fall at Hexham which shocked onlookers. Mania was taken by air ambulance to the Royal Victoria hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with suspected neck and back injuries.

    But thankfully, the 23 year-old has recovered well – well enough, in fact, to attend a victory celebration parade in his home town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders.

    His participation in the town’s celebration had been in doubt after the fall on Sunday, but the young jockey was discharged just a few hours before the

    Galashiels parade. An MRI on Mania’s spine and neck showed that he had a tiny fracture to his C7 vertebra (where the neck meets the shoulders) as well as soft tissue and ligament damage.

    But the injuries couldn’t stop the young Scot celebrating his success in his home town where hundreds of people lined the streets to welcome home the young hero.

    Auroras Encore was Mania’s first ever ride in the National. He is one of the youngest jockeys of all time to win a National (the record belongs to Bruce Hobbs who won on Battleship in 1938 three months after his 17th birthday).

    Mania (Read more...)

    Auroras Encore – why not?

    April 7th, 2013 by admin

    Auroras Encore won the National in fine style yesterday – seemingly full of running on Aintree’s long run-in, as he easily pulled clear of his pursuers to win by a comfortable margin.

    It was one of those victories that leaves us value-seeking National punters thinking “why not?” when you look at the horse’s credentials. Nevertheless, Auroras Encore had been generally overlooked by punters following a disappointing number of recent runs, which were fully reflected in his 66-1 starting price.

    But go a little further back and the horse had finished a very close runner-up to Merigo in the Scottish National just a year ago. He

    was also very lowly-weighted with just 10-03 - and clearly lapped up the fast-drying ground at Aintree.

    The 11-year-old gelding, trained by Sue Smith, wife of Olympic show-jumper Harvey, and ridden by 23 year-old Ryan Mania won by nine lengths from Cappa Bleu (12-1) in second, Teaforthree (10-1) third, with 2011 runner-up Oscar Time (66-1) finishing fourth.

    Scottish jockey Ryan Mania was having his first ever ride in the National – whilst trainer Sue Smith become the third woman in the race’s history to train the winner – follow in the footsteps of Jenny Pitman and Venetia Williams.

    Yet again, the (Read more...)

    AP McCoy on Colbert Station as National field finalised

    April 4th, 2013 by admin

    Tony McCoy as selected the much-fancied Colbert Station for the race we’ve all been waiting for on Saturday - as the final declarations for the National were made today.

    The 10-1 shot trained by Ted Walsh has been tipped by many punters for Saturday’s race causing his odds to shorten considerably. Now the confirmation of A.P. McCoy, the man who has won an incredible 17 consecutive Champion Jockey titles, on board has shortened the odds further still.

    McCoy had the choice of riding Colbert Station or last year's very close runner-up, Sunnyhillboy, currently a 16-1 chance, who will now be ridden

    by Richie McLernon.

    McCoy has previously shared rides on Colbert Station with Mark Walsh who will now ride the Jonjo O´Neill-trained 50-1 chance Lost Glory. Ted’s daughter Katie, meanwhile, will attempt to go one or two places better on Seabass – the horse she’ll be riding for the second year running. She finished third on Seabass in last year’s race – the best place ever achieved in the National by a female rider.

    Her brother Ruby Walsh has also been confirmed as the jockey of 7-1 clear race favourite On His Own, while the much-fancied Chicago Grey will be piloted by Paul Carberry (Read more...)

    Always Waining & Joncol in – Wyck Hill out

    March 29th, 2013 by admin

    With the National just a week away, the betting is really beginning to hot up and a few entries are confirming their intentions or withdrawing due to injury. The past week has already seen Prince De Beauchene and Beshabar ruled out – and now Wyck Hill has joined the list of non-runners. The nine year-old hasn’t managed to recover fully from an injury sustained at Kempton in February. The JP McManus-owned horse was a 33-1 shot for the big race but trainer David Bridgwater said Wyck Hill had run out of time. However, the trainer of the winner of Aintree’s

    Topham Chase for the last three years in a row, Always Waining, has said the horse will now run in the National rather than aiming for an historic four timer.
    A crack at the big one was a possibility last year but Always Waining failed to make the shortlist for the final field. But this year, his mark of 143 will be sufficient to see him 25th on the National list and, therefore, guaranteed a run. The horse is scheduled to carry a potentially winning weight of 10st 10lb and his trainer, Peter Bowen, says he’s on top of his game – though (Read more...)