When Ryan Mania became the first Scot in 117 years to ride a winner in the Grand National the whole country celebrated and the Scottish Borders notably took great pride in having raised this particular son.
A good looking 23 year old jockey, with natural, affable charm, who rides winners in the most dangerous, famous jump race in the world – what’s not to like?
We will resist the Mania Mania puns but no wonder Scotland fell over itself like an embarrassing auntie to make a fuss of this young man. Homecoming parades in his hometown of Galashiels, appearances on ITV’s This Morning, journalists queuing at his hospital bedside after his post National fall at Hexham. As Ryan himself said,
“Nothing could have prepared me for the aftermath. You’re flung right into the thick of it and you just have to deal with it. But I’ve thrived on it. It’s been amazing and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Of course, like everyone else we wanted our chance to say well done to Ryan so when A Hume heard he was in need of some smart threads to wear for all those personal appearance requests clogging up his inbox we figured we’d set him up with a tailormade Magee Tweed Jacket.
Chris Pairman, our made to measure expert, measured Ryan and the jacket was made up in Ireland using the Magee Personal Tailoring service, using their soft green 100% wool tweed with pink and blue over check.
Ryan’s tall, especially for a jockey and I think we were all bit shocked to see him towering over Chris. He says this is a bit of a concern. And he has to work incredibly hard to keep the weight off. He laughed when he confessed that really he spends half his life miserable, unable to eat or drink what he wants.
It’s certainly a mad, tough life being a jockey. Each week Ryan clocks up 1,000 travel miles and the pay is woeful compared to that of other professional athletes – most jockeys will struggle to clear £20k a year – to say nothing of the conditions. As Ryan puts it:
“We’re the only athletes that go into competition dehydrated on an empty stomach.”
It doesn’t sound much fun. Oh, and we forgot to mention the 1 in 10 chance of injury at the start of each race. Still Ryan would hate anyone to think he’s complaining. Most jockeys do it for the love and Ryan’s no exception. We get the feeling Ryan’s just ridden the ride of his life – so far, and he’s having a ball.
We spoke to him earlier today and only when we asked about the excited background voices did Ryan mention that as we spoke he was taking part in the Coldstream Common Riding and the excited voices belonged to children – and adults – recognising him and shouting their support.
Along with around 450 riders, Ryan rode in the Coldstream Flodden Ride Out to mark the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden in 15 13 and those who lost their lives from North and South.
In Coldstream earlier in the week he’d been asked by children to sign their golf balls, t-shirts – anything they could get their hands on. And he’s only too happy to do it. A bit of him laughing at finding himself the object of attention, but at ease with it, giving of his time and up for it all, without letting any of it get to him. He claims he has a ready supply of good mates standing by to rip the proverbial out of him should he ever get above himself.
Getting above himself doesn’t look very likely however the media world has been sniffing around, and individuals hinting at a possible second career in limelight have approached Ryan. It’s not something he’s opposed to:
“I have to think of what happens when I can’t keep my weight down any longer. I can hope to ride until I’m 28 or so but I need to think about what happens after that.”
He’s done enough media now to know how it feels in the spotlight and says that although he gets nervous ahead of the slot he’s fine when the ball starts rolling and feels comfortable with TV and radio.
Following an interview at local radio station TD1, Ryan has been offered a bi-weekly slot on Sundays. An offer he’s hoping to take up soon, his own radio show giving him a chance to try on a media career for size.
Given the way his diary’s booking up, it does sound like Ryan’s Magee jacket’s going to be seeing a fair bit of action.
Thankfully we were able to have it ready for him in time the Great Yorkshire Show, in Harrogate, where Auroras Encore was the star turn in the show parade and Ryan appeared with trainer Sue Smith. It seems that although Ryan’s been able to keep his feet on the ground, for Aurora it’s been a bit more of a challenge.
“He was a bit naughty when we brought him out. There were thousands of people there. But he’d calmed down a bit by the time he got to the ring.”
It’s obvious that Ryan has a huge affection for this horse. Often jockeys are called to race horses they’ve never ridden before but Ryan has a long history with Auroras Encore. Together they came second in the Scottish National in 2012 and Ryan says he knows the horse inside out and “owes him so much”. He says with great conviction that he “wants to make sure I get him when he retires”. He wants to bring his horse home to the Borders and ride him in the Common Ridings. He feels quite certain his National winning horse will enjoy the experience.
In terms of Ryan’s career as a jockey it’s too early to predict how the National win will affect his racing future. Coming at the end of the jump-racing season Ryan’s big win has not yet had a profound effect on his career as a jockey. We’ll have to wait for the season ahead to see how things pan out. His aim is to ride as many winners as he can, to beat this year’s total. Which seems a straightforward and reasonable ambition. Last year his winners total was 32, including one massive, potentially life changing win. Now, his goal’s starting to sound like a tall order. We hope not. Five good years ahead before Ryan hits 28 and we’re quite sure he’ll make the most of them.
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