There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since last year’s surprise big win for jockey Ryan Mania.
Having achieved his long time goal of winning the Grand National, Ryan dreamed of returning to ride for trainer Sue Smith on Auroras Encore and make it a double. It’s been forty odd years since any horse achieved successive victories; the last was the mythic Red Rum who made it a hat-trick (1973, 1974 and 1977).
Sadly though, 12yr old Auroras Encore was diagnosed with a leg injury after running at Doncaster in January and following surgery was forced to retire. To say Ryan has a soft spot for the horse is to underestimate their bond and he still has hopes of bringing Aurora’s Encore to the Scottish Borders for the common ridings.
He commented; “Yes, it’s sad but the main thing is he’s OK. I’d love to bring him to the Borders but I’m not sure yet if that will happen.”
It’s far from the end of Ryan’s dreams though. The 25yr old still hopes to join the select company of jockeys with successive wins to their credit, in modern times only Ruby Walsh can claim two wins, on Papillon in 2000 and Hedgehunter in 2005.
He will again ride for trainer Sue Smith, this time on Mr Moonshine whom he rode at Kelso earlier in the month, taking 2nd in the Premiere Chase. Ryan said the ground was a bit sticky for Mr Moonshine, same as it had been for Auroras Encore, who was placed 5th in the same pre-Grand National race in 2013.
Mr Moonshine is owned by the same partnership as Auroras Encore, including Sue’s husband, show jumping legend Harvey Smith. We’ve scoured the records and we can’t find any record of the same jockey, trainer and owners ever taking a double win, let alone successive wins. But when we spoke to Ryan in the lead up to Aintree he said the pressure was off.
“When it looked like I’d be riding Auroras Encore, same horse, same jockey, that felt like a lot to live up to. Now that’s not the case I feel like there’s less pressure, I’m more relaxed and I’m really looking forward to it. It feels easier.”
Like competing in the Grand National could ever be easy. But we have to say he does sound pretty relaxed.
“You can’t go into the National with a strategy. You just try to stay out of trouble, get round clear and enjoy it.”
Ryan will be wearing the same distinctive, easily recognisable blue and yellow silks as last year so he’ll be easy to spot as we yell our support at the telly.
Our other big hope for this year is our longtime friend and A Hume supporter Kim Bailey. Kim is one of the UK’s most experienced trainers and also a previous Grand National winner – Mr Frisk who ran the fastest ever time, 8 minutes 47.8 seconds in 1990. Quite a record to hold.
His hopes this year lie with The Rainbow Hunter and a return trip to Aintree. Last year the Rainbow Hunter ran in the Grand National for the first time but jockey Aiden Coleman was unseated at the eighth, canal turn.
There was a bit of uncertainty as to who would be in the saddle on the big day, The Rainbow Hunter’s stable jockey Nick Schofield will be unavailable and Jason Maguire who was another likely contender had a very bad fall at Stratford on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival that led to major surgery and a medically induced coma. Kim reports that Jason, who is now out of hospital continues to do well though he won’t be on racing form for a while.
However Kim has now confirmed Aiden Coleman as his Grand National choice. He commented:
“We are all hoping that his jockey decides to stay on board this year.”
When asked about the Rainbow Hunters chances he said:
“The Rainbow Hunter has had a wind operation since last year and goes to the race in the finest of rude health having recently won the prestigious Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster. This race guaranteed him a run in this year’s Grand National and we are praying that with a jockey on board we will pass the post 2 lengths better than last year. We were just behind the winner last year but without a jockey!”
Kim’s always been up front about The Rainbow Hunters preference for soft ground but his horse has also won on good ground, which looks likely to be the case on the 5th April. He said:
“Luck is needed and with a good run on good ground, who knows we could just do it again,”
Watch Ryan Mania’s pre-Grand National interview on Border Life.
Kim Bailey’s other fancied horses in the Crabbies Grand National are: Teaforthree, Rocky Creek, Long Run and Monbeg Dude.
Kim writes a daily blog – a truly insider’s take on racing life, the shape of days in his yard in Cheltenham and his view from the trainer’s paddock.
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