Amidst all the economic misery, at least one million-pound investment appears to have paid off: 40 horses and their jockeys set off in this year’s Grand National, and 40 horses and their jockeys were able to return safely to their homes at the end of the day. That million pounds invested in making the race safer must be worthwhile. For the first time in history, all 40 horses cleared the feared Becher’s Brook. Although the course is less dangerous, the Grand National remains an exciting and arduous race, and the winner, as always, totally unpredictable.
I don’t gamble, but if I had been tempted to bet this year, I might have actually made some money, because my sympathies are always with the underdog. And this year’s underdog, Aurora’s Encore, an outsider running at 66-1, could easily have been my choice. The bookies are happy, no doubt, as with such high odds very few people will have bet on this horse so they don’t have to pay out huge sums.
My own delight in this result – quite apart from there being no casualties – is increased by several facts about Aurora’s Encore:
- He is an 11-year-old horse, not some young foal or filly.
- He was trained by Sue Smith, wife of Harvey Smith, a Yorkshire man and “bad lad” of show jumping for whom I have a soft spot (not least because he’s a Yorkshire tyke).
- He was ridden by Ryan Mania, a 23-year-old riding in the Grand National for the very first time, who had given up his career as a jockey out of disappointment and frustration, but then found his love of the sport irresistible and returned to the saddle. Luckily for him!
- One of his owners used to be a bellboy at the posh Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, where the owners, trainers and jockey traditionally celebrated after the race. This man never dreamed in those days that he would become one of those celebrating!
I was sorry to see Katie Walsh unplaced, especially as she was riding Seabass, the same horse as last year, when she came third (see my post last year). I still live in hope of seeing a female jockey win the National. The Walshes were actually well represented today, as she and her brother Ruby were both riding as jockeys on horses trained by their father Ted Walsh. (Yes, Katie’s brother is called Ruby – short for Rupert.)
There is also something heartening in watching loose horses (those whose jockeys have been unseated), as they continue galloping with the rest of the field. Sometimes they are first past the post. Today, it was actually a loose horse that followed Aurora’s Encore, but sadly couldn’t be recognised as coming in second. They look as if they are enjoying themselves, but tend very conspicuously to avoid the jumps. Horse sense, no doubt. Overall, a good day for the Grand National.