1981 Grand National: Bob Champion – The Greatest Comeback

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post in my Horse Racing History series here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today I decided to do a little research into a horse racing legend Bob Champion and how he successfully had one of the greatest comebacks within our sport, or even within sport in general and I just had to share with you all!

Robert Champion CBE was born on the 4th of June 1948 in Sussex, shortly after moving to Guisborough in Yorkshire. Known as Bob Champion, he became a very popular and successful jump jockey. However, at the height of his career, in July 1979, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, where he was treated with chemotherapeutic drugs and also had an exploratory operation to identify cancer in his lymph nodes. Luckily, Bob successfully recovered and even returned to riding racehorses again.

On the 4th of April 1981, it was the 135th renewal of the Grand National at Aintree. Bob Champion made a return to this iconic race and it was an achievement just to come back to be able to ride in one of the biggest races in the world, however, to win it would be something pretty spectactular wouldn’t it?

Bob Champion took the ride of Aldaniti who had recently recovered from chronic leg problems and was nursed back to optimum race fitness ahead of the race. So overall, seeing Bob Champion, who has recently come back from cancer win on a horse who had recently returned from a severe problem, this would be a pretty incredible thing to witness and at 10/1, it was not something many expected to happen.

However… Making the comeback of all comebacks, Bob Champion and Aldaniti won by 4 lengths to the 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile. Their victory was special and one that nobody could forget in a while. This victory also earned them the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team Award.

In the 1982 Birthday Honours, Bob Champion was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his contribution to sport.

A year later in 1983, the Bob Champion Cancer Trust was established. They help to support and raise funds for a research laboratory which is situated in the institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey and they also have a research team in the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk. You can find out more information as well as how you can support and donate to the Trust right here: https://www.bobchampion.org.uk/

Bob Champion later became a trainer based in Newmarket, his first horse being Just Martin for owner Frank Pullen who also helped to build his yard. In 1999 Bob Champion retired from training horses.

On the 22nd of December 2011, Bob Champion received the Helen Rollason award as part of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In the 2021 New Year Honours, Bob Champion was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to prostate and testicular cancer research. It is said that so far in the region of £15 million has been raised.

I wasn’t alive to see Bob win the Grand National, but my parents have spoken to be about it many times, including when we met Bob at a meeting in 2019 and my dad filled me in on the whole story and how he made the ultimate comeback so I decided I needed to look into this and write something up.

Overall, Bob Champion is exactly as his name states, a champion. He is living proof that no matter what happens to you, you can always come through it so much stronger than before. Bob had a deadly disease, but he came back to win the biggest race in the world and what a true inspiration he is to do so. I really enjoyed reading into Bob Champion and even though this is a shorter piece, I really hope you enjoyed it! I shall see you all in my next post.

Rubio: The Retired Grand National Winner

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a new post in my Horse Racing History series. I hope you enjoy!

The 1908 Grand National was a strange one because the horse who won it had actually already been retired. How? Why? So many questions. So let’s get right into it!

Rubio was an American bred racehorse. He was bred by James Ben Ali Haggin in the Rancho del Paso stud in California in 1898 by Star Ruby out of La Touera. As a yearling Rubio was sent to the United Kingdom when he was purchased for 15 guineas by a Northamptonshire farmer and horse dealer Septimus Clark in 1899. He then sold him to Major Frank Douglas-Pennant for 95 guineas. As a four year old Rubio was sent hunting. However, being a good judge of horses, Major Frank Douglas-Pennant soon noticed that he had a lot more to him than most of the horses around him so he made the decision to look to sell him as a potential racehorse with a reserve of 60 guineas. However, he failed to reach his reserve so therefore Major Frank Douglas-Pennant decided to send Rubio as a 5 year old to be trained as a racehorse with the successful trainer Brian Bletsoe.

Rubio started as a relatively successful horse. In his first season he won three races from three starts, however very soon after he broke down badly and his vet advised him to be removed from training. Based on this advice Rubio was sent to the landlord of the Prospect Arms Hotel in Towcester to ferry guests between the station and the hotel. Rubio seemed to enjoy his new role and in 1906, just three years later, it was decided that Rubio would go back into training as a racehorse once again.

This time, Rubio entered into training as a racehorse with Fred Withington. He got back to race fitness and ran once in his first season, this time at Kempton where he finished third. In 1907, Rubio only ran 3 times, including one win at Towcester where he carried 12 stone.

We then move into the most fascinating year, 1908. Rubio was doing well, so it was decided he would be entered into the Grand National. However, he wasn’t fancied at all, he wasn’t even the most fancied in his own stable. Another horse also trained by Fred Withington called Mattie McGregor was the most fancied horse of the stable. Therefore first class jockey Ernest Piggott was given the ride on Mattie McGregor and the stable jockey William Bissill was given the ride on Rubio. It is said that Bissill was very unhappy about being given the second string horse to ride, however Piggott was riding in France for a regular owner he rode for and they would not release him to ride Mattie McGregor. It was then decided stable jockey Bissill would ride Mattie McGregor and a jockey who had previously won on Rubio as a 5 year old Henry Bletsoe would ride him. However, sources also say that Rubio was then trained by William Costello, so therefore it was not the same stable which caused so much drama between the jockeys in the first place.

There were 24 runners in the race and it was the 1905 winner Kirkland who headed the betting. However at a massive 66/1, Rubio ended up beating Mattie McGregor and winning the race. This was the first time a horse who had retired to do another job was actually brought back and managed to win a Grand National.

Sadly, Rubio returned in 1909 however fell at the water jump. He returned to the stables and the vets found he had broken down again so the decision was made to retire him completely from racing with immediate effect.

So there we have it, a retired horse winning one of the biggest races in the world. An incredible story to research and I had to share! My history series is a very interesting one, but they always seem to be shorter posts, however I hope you enjoyed it and I shall see you in my next post!

Don Cossack: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Before I get into today’s post I would like to make a few announcements, unusual for me, I know, but I am super excited and proud and would like to share with my readers!

Firstly, I would like to formally announce I am officially working with Careers In Racing to continue to create content and promote the sport I love. I am truly honoured to be given this opportunity and I cannot wait to get started! You can read my opening interview right now on their website: https://www.careersinracing.com/careers-in-racing-social-creators-zoe-smith/ where I introduce myself and also answer some questions I never have before. I am super exited for this project and I know it will be incredible, so keep an eye on my website and my social media for more information!

Secondly, I was asked by someone you probably all know, William Kedjanyi, to write up his Just William column for Star Sports this week and I absolutely took him up on that opportunity. I focus in on social media within horse racing, amateur jockey’s not being allowed to ride at the Cheltenham Festival as well as Tiger Roll and his future. You can read that right here: https://www.starsportsbet.co.uk/just-william-zoe-smiths-racing-takes/. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this up, something totally different to my usual work and I hope you all enjoy.

Now, with those being said, let’s just jump right into today’s post. My Dad is my number one fan who reads every post I write and always gives me ideas for new posts I can look to write. So today I decided to focus in on a horse who my dad absolutely loves and followed throughout his career and that is Don Cossack. So without further ado, let’s get right into it!


Don Cossack was foaled 21st March 2007, by Sholokhov out of Depeche Toi. He was bred by Gestut Etzean in Germany. Don Cossack was sent to Ireland where he entered ownership of W. B. Connors who sent him into training with Edward Hales.

Don Cossack’s career started on 3rd May 2011 when he ran in a 4 year old National Hunt Flat Race for Mares and Geldings where he finished 5th out of 24 under Robbie McNamara at 6/1. Very shortly after, on 24th October 2011 Don Cossack was brought by the Gigginstown House Stud and move to Gordon Elliott’s yard. After an 179 day break, on 29th October 2011, he was sent to Naas for a National Hunt Flat Race where he started as the 2/1 favourite under Nina Carberry where he won his first race.

Don Cossack then had a 50 day break before returning to the track, this time to Navan on 18th December for a Grade 2 National Hunt Flat Race. He won by 1 1/2 lengths under Nina Carberry as the 4/6 favourite. He took another break, this time of 113 days, not returning to the track until the 9th April 2012. This time to Fairyhouse, winning by 17 lengths as the 6/5 favourite, again under Nina Carberry.

After a 230 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Navan, this time for a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles. He started the race as the 30/100 favourite, this time under Davy Russell and impressively won by 9 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was a Novice Hurdle at Navan on the 16th December 2012, where he started the race as the odds on 8/15 favourite under Davy Russell. Shocking everyone, this was the first time Don Cossack had lost in his career, taking his first fall. After this race, Gordon Elliott did say that he was found to be lame.

We then move into 2013, on the 3rd February, Don Cossack went to Punchestown for the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over 2 miles. Under Davy Russell he started as the 6/5 favourite. He ended up finishing 2nd by 1 length behind Mozoltov (9/4) trained by Willie Mullins with Ruby Walsh riding. Three weeks later, Don Cossack went to Naas to compete in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle. He started at 5/2, again under Davy Russell. He ended up finishing 3rd behind the winner Annie Power (5/2), the Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh partnership and in second place Defy Logic (13/8F) with AP McCoy on board for Paul Nolan.

Don Cossack then took a 246 day summer break, returning to the track, this time going to Galway for a Beginners Chase on the 28th October 2013 over 2 mile 6 1/2 furlong. He won the race under Andrew Lynch as the 10/11 favourite and in a very stylish way too, winning by 20 lengths. A very impressive start to his chasing career. Three weeks later, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown where he ran in a Grade 2 Novice Chase over 2 mile 6 furlong on the 17th November. He finished second as the odds on 4/5 favourite, this time with Bryan Cooper riding. The eventual winner, by 1/2 length, was Morning Assembly (6/4) for Ruby Walsh.

Two weeks later on the 1st December 2013, Don Cossack headed to Fairyhouse to compete in a Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 4 furlong. This time with Davy Russell taking up the ride and winning as the 13/8 favourite. Don Cossack took a 70 day break before returning in 2014, this time to Leopardstown on the 9th February, for another Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 5 furlong. With Bryan Cooper taking the ride, he started as the Evens favourite. Finishing second by 4 lengths behind the duo of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with Ballycasey (2/1).

The next time we would see Don Cossack was when he took his first trip across the pond to go to the biggest stage of them all, the Cheltenham Festival on the 12th March 2014. Here he ran in the Grade 1 RSA Chase, he started at 11/1 under Bryan Cooper, sadly he fell only for the second time in his career. However, his season wasn’t quite over yet. Gordon Elliott sent Don Cossack back to England, this time to Aintree on the 4th April 2014 to run in a Grade 1 Novice’ Chase over 3 mile 1 furlong. He started at 4/1 under Davy Russell, however only managed second place behind the very powerful duo of AP McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill with Holywell (7/2). Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on the 29th April, at 4/1. He finished 4th out of 5 with Barry Geraghty riding. Out of the 3 horses who finished ahead of him, 2 had previously beaten him before, 3rd place Morning Assembly (7/4F), 2nd place Ballycasey (3/1) and winner Carlingford Lough (7/2).

Next for Don Cossack was a 170 day summer break before returning to Punchestown on the 16th October 2014 for a Grade 3 Chase where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 11/10 under Bryan Cooper by 5 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was on my 18th birthday, 1st November 2014, where he headed to Down Royal for a Grade 2 Chase. He beat the odds on 8/11 favourite, Wonderful Charm, who finished in second place. Don Cossack won by 8 1/2 lengths under Bryan Cooper at 6/4. One month later, Don Cossack headed back to Punchestown for a Grade 1 Chase, this time beating the 11/10 favourite Boston Bob who finished in second place. This time by 4 1/2 lengths under Brian O’Connell at 13/8.

We then move into 2015 and on the 15th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles with Bryan Cooper riding, making it 4/4 for the season, this time winning at 6/4 by a massive 44 lengths. He then took a 56 day break before returning to England to have a second shot at the Cheltenham Festival, this time the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on the 12th March. He started as the 5/2 favourite under Bryan Cooper, however could only manage a 3rd place behind the winner Uxzandre (16/1) for AP McCoy and Alan King and in second place Ma Filleule (5/1) for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.

Don Cossack returned to England on the 10th April 2015 for the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree, where he started as the 3/1 joint favourite. This time he was rode by a new jockey as Bryan Cooper was currently serving a suspension, the new jockey being Champion Jockey AP McCoy. He ended up winning by 26 lengths to the horse I focused in on Wednesday, the brilliant Cue Card. With trainer Gordon Elliott saying in an interview:

I said a couple of years ago he was the best horse I’ve trained. It didn’t work out then, but he looks it now. AP (McCoy) said he just gallops and gallops. It will be the Gold Cup now.”

https://www.independent.ie/sport/horse-racing/don-on-gold-cup-trail-after-impressing-for-mccoy-31133904.html

Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown on the 29th April beating 2/1 favourite Djakadam in the Irish Gold Cup, this time by 7 lengths at 5/2 under Paul Carberry with regular jockey Bryan Cooper opting to ride Road To Riches. With trainer Gordon Elliott later saying:

We wanted to find out if he stayed the trip or not at this stage of the season so we would know where we are going next year. He’s always been the apple of my eye and this is one of the proudest days I’ve had training horses so far. I feel sorry for Bryan (Cooper, who chose to ride Road To Riches in the same colours as the owner Michael O’Leary) but he had to go with the other horse after being third in the Gold Cup. But I’m delighted for Paul; he’s been associated with me for a long time and to give him a Grade One is brilliant. We were nervous about running him but it’s the Gold Cup so we took our chance and now I’ll be safe in the job for another year, please God. I’m just so happy with the way he did it; he put seven lengths between them on the way to the line.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/apr/29/impressive-don-cossack-punchestown-gold-cup

After a 169 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown on the 15th October 2015 for a Grade 3 Chase, winning as the 1/4 favourite with Bryan Cooper on board, this time by 12 lengths to stable companion Roi Du Mee (14/1). Two weeks later, Don Cossack headed to Down Royal with Bryan Cooper again, for a Grade 1 Champion Chase over 3 miles. He won as the odds on 2/11 favourite by 8 lengths. For his final race of 2015, Don Cossack headed back to England, this time to Kempton on Boxing Day for the King George Chase. He started the race as the 15/8 favourite under regular jockey Bryan Cooper, however ended up falling 2 out, with Wednesday evening’s post hero Cue Card winning (9/2).

We then move into 2016 and on the 14th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles for a Grade 2 chase over 2 mile 4 furlong, he started as the odds on 1/8 favourite under Bryan Cooper where he won by 9 1/2 lengths. So, where to next for Don Cossack, a third appearance at the Cheltenham Festival and little did we know, would be his last appearance, not only at the Festival but in racing altogether. Don Cossack was made the 9/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup where, under Bryan Cooper, he won by 4 1/2 lengths to Djakadam (9/2). With jockey Bryan Cooper saying:

Everything went perfect. I didn’t want to get him crowded and we got into a lovely jumping rhythm. I knew turning in that there was only one winner bar a fall. He could have gone round again. There was a lot of press around saying that I couldn’t get on with the horse and I think I’ve proved you all wrong now, so I’m delighted.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/18/bryan-cooper-cheltenham-gold-cup-favourite-don-cossack

Sadly, we would never see Don Cossack on track again. He was being prepared to run at the Punchestown Festival in April 2016, when he sustained a serious tendon injury. After seemingly recovering from his injury, he returned to training, with retaining the Gold Cup being his main goal. However in January 2017, it was said that Don Cossack had suffered a recurrence of the leg injury and the decision had been made to retire him from racing. With Gordon Elliott saying:

It’s a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and, even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run. He’s a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away. It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gol Cup for us last year and he retires a champion. A peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/11/cheltenham-gold-cup-winner-don-cossack-retired-injury-setback-horse-racing

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Don Cossack, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, let’s go through Don Cossack’s race record

5111/1F23/1212F2/4111131/111F11/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

27 Races
16 x 1st
4 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 5th
3 x Fall

So all in all, he had an unreal career, winning £907,365 in total. It may have been a short career, but what a career it was. I was lucky enough last February to visit Olly Murphy, who was Gordon Elliott’s assistant trainer at the time of Don Cossack’s peak. He told me the following about Don Cossack:

Yeah, it was magic. He was the apple of Gordon’s eye from a young age. And it was great to be there and see him go through the ranks and in a Gold Cup. It was probably my biggest days racing aside from coming home and training myself. Being at Cheltenham and seeing him win a Gold Cup, it was magic, the emotion the whole day was second to none and yeah, he’s a horse who unfortunately we probably didn’t get to see the best of either.

https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/02/16/a-stable-visit-to-olly-murphys-warren-chase-a-full-interview/

For me, I think Don Cossack can be classed as a people’s horse because he showed people time and time again that he could come back. He would fall or have a bad race, but he would always return and fight his heart out and no matter what he would always try his best. Personally, Don Cossack was the first horse I bet on in the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup and ended up being my first Gold Cup winner too so he will always be special to me and I am gutted that we never go to see him again, I think we only seen half of what he was capable of and it’s a real shame that a recurring injury made sure he could never show that to the world.

I have the upmost respect for Gordon Elliott and the O’Leary’s, they didn’t try to overwork him, they made the decision to retire him as a champion so he could live a happy and healthy retirement.

Don started a new career with Irish Olympic eventer Louise Lyons. With Louise saying:

He has been with me for about a month and we have been to three shows – he is loving it and is really enjoying the attention. At shows we have had people coming up to stroke him and have their picture taken with him.”

https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/don-cossack-racehorse-retraining-louise-lyons-658114

Honestly, I am just so happy and relieved that Don Cossack got to finish on his own terms, I am so happy that the team decided to retire him and not push him for that extra run which could have ended disastrously. He was an incredible talent, but also a lovely horse and I am honoured to have been around to be able to watch him.

So, there we have it, Don Cossack in all his glory. I am thoroughly enjoying doing research into these posts, reading news articles, re-watching videos, searching their careers, it’s been incredible and I am really loving it and from the reaction on social media, so are my followers. I am still working my way through the 100’s of suggestions I have had sent to me, as well as focusing on more history stories and also a few new ideas I have in the works. I also have a few interviews planned leading up to Cheltenham, so if all goes as planned then it is all roads lead to Cheltenham! I am currently sticking to a strict schedule of 2 posts per week and I think that is working well for me at the moment, I am unsure if this will change at any point, but for the time being I will be continuing to post every Wednesday at 6pm and every Saturday at 11am.

Thank you again for reading, I will see you all in my next post!

Cue Card: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, I hope everyone is well and staying safe as these weird times continue! However on a positive note, Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner so we have a brilliant 4 days of top class racing to look forward to – even if it is from the sofa!

So, today’s post is all about the brilliant Cue Card and I want to thank Emma for this suggestion. If you don’t follow Emma then I highly recommend you do, my fellow Native River super fan! So, with that being said, let’s jump right into it!

Cue Card was foaled 30th April 2006, by King’s Theatre (IRE) out of Wicked Crack (IRE). He was bred by R T Crellin in Great Britain. As a yearling, Cue Card was sent to the National Hunt Sale in February 2007, where he was brought for €75,000 by Aiden Murphy. He then returned to the Derby Sale as a gelding in June 2009 where he was brought for €52,000 by Aidan Kennedy for the eventual owner Mrs Jean R Bishop who sent him to Colin Tizzard’s yard to be trained.

Cue Card started his career in a National Hunt Flat Race (Bumper) at Fontwell on 25th January 2010, starting the race at 6/1 under Joe Tizzard where he won easily by 6 lengths. So, with a win under his belt, Cue Card was sent straight to the Cheltenham Festival to contest in a Grade 1 Bumper. He was a massive outsider starting the race at 40/1 with Joe Tizzard riding again, however surprising everyone, he won the race very easily by 8 lengths beating Ruby Walsh on Paul Nicholls’ trained Al Ferof (8/1).

After two very easy wins, Cue Card took a 221 day summer break, before returning on 24th October 2010 at Aintree for his first Novice Hurdle race over 2 mile 4 furlong. With Joe Tizzard taking the ride again, he started as the odds on 1/2 favourite, where he won by an even bigger margin than he previously had, 13 lengths from Dear Sam (10/1). A few weeks later Cue Card returned to Cheltenham on 12th November 2010 for a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle, where again he started as the odds on favourite at 8/13, with now regular companion Joe Tizzard riding. Surprising absolutely nobody, Cue Card once again won, this time beating Dunraven Storm (5/1) ridden by Richard Johnson for Philip Hobbs by 8 lengths. Just one month later on 11th December 2010, Cue Card returned to Cheltenham for a Grade 2 International Hurdle, with Joe Tizzard on board. He started the race at 15/8, however this time he suffered his first defeat with Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs reversing the form and winning with Menorah (7/4F) by 4 and 1/2 lengths.

Cue Card took a 94 day break, before returning to Cheltenham for the Festival on 15th March 2011, this time for the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, again being ridden by Joe Tizzard. He started as the 7/4 favourite, however disappointingly for many, he ended up finishing 4th behind the winner Al Ferof (10/1), Spirit Son (5/1) in second and Sprinter Sacre (11/1) in third. A month later on 9th April 2011 Cue Card travelled up to Aintree for a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle, this time starting the race as the 5/2 favourite under Joe Tizzard, where he unfortunately came second to Spirit Son (3/1) by 13 lengths.

Cue Card took 182 days away from the track for his summer holiday, before returning on the 8th October 2011. This time travelling to Chepstow for his first attempt over the bigger obstacles in his first Novices’ Chase. He started as the odds on 10/11 favourite with Joe Tizzard taking the ride once again. Cue Card took to jumping fences like a duck to water, winning by 3 and 1/2 lengths. A month later on 11th November 2011, Cue Card’s next run would take place at Cheltenham for another Novices’ Chase, starting at 7/4. Cue Card was travelling well before he blundered and unseated his rider Joe Tizzard. Just two weeks later on 25th November 2011, Cue Card went to Newbury for a Grade 2 Novice Chase, this time starting at 2/1 with Joe Tizzard taking the ride again. Cue Card ended up losing by a short head to Evens favourite Bobs Worth, both ending up 35 furlongs ahead of the remaining two horses in the race. On 31st December 2011 Cue Card returned to Newbury, this time winning at 5/2 under Joe Tizzard.

After a 73 day break, Cue Card returned to the Cheltenham Festival for the Grade 1 Arkle Chase, where he finished second at 13/2 under Joe Tizzard, 7 furlongs behind the odds on 8/11 favourite Sprinter Sacre. After this, Cue Card took a 238 day summer break before returning on 6th November 2012 at Exeter for the Grade 2 Gold Cup Chase. He won easily by 26 furlongs as the odds on 5/6 favourite with regular jockey Joe Tizzard on board. After a 50 day break, Cue Card headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2011 for the Grade 1 King George, where at 5/1 under Joe Tizzard, he ended up finishing 5th behind winner Long Run (15/8F), Captain Chris (16/1) in second, Grands Crus (7/1) in third and Champion Court (25/1) in fourth.

Heading into 2013, Cue Card took a 52 day break before returning to Ascot on 16th February 2013 for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, where as the 15/8 favourite under Joe Tizzard he won by 6 lengths. On 14th March 2013, Cue Card headed straight for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. He started the race at 7/2 with Joe Tizzard taking his normal place riding. This time he beat the 2/1 Irish trained favourite, First Lieutenant, pretty easily by 9 lengths. Cue Card’s final race of the season came on 5th April 2013 at Aintree in the Grade 1 Melling Chase under Joe Tizzard, starting at 7/1, where he finished 4 and 1/2 lengths behind 1/3 odds on favourite and eventual winner Sprinter Sacre.

Cue Card took a well deserved 214 day summer break before returning on 5th November 2013 to Exeter where he went for the Haldon Gold Cup, starting as the 11/10 favourite with Joe Tizzard. Cue Card finished 3rd behind winner Somersby (9/2) and second placed Module (8/1). Cue Card headed to Haydock for his next race on 23rd November 2013 for the Betfair Chase. He started the race as an outsider at 9/1 with Joe Tizzard riding. Shocking everybody, he won the race comfortably in the end by 4 and 1/2 lengths. When interviewed, trainer and father of winning jockey, Colin Tizzard was visibly emotional saying the following:

My daughter rung up in tears as well. It is embarrassing of me to cry but that’s what it’s like. It’s a big one for us.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/nov/23/cue-card-betfair-chase-haydock-joy

With son and winning jockey Joe Tizzard saying:

I think that’s the first time I’ve seen him in tears, we all put a lot of work in. The horses, they haven’t been flying as much as we’d like them to at the start of the season, but the big ones are the ones that count.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/nov/23/cue-card-betfair-chase-haydock-joy

One month later on Boxing Day 2013, Cue Card returned to Kempton to go for the King George once again! This time starting the race as the 100/30 joint favourite, he went 3 better than the previous attempt, this time finishing second behind Silviniaco Conti (7/2).

Cue Card was then being aimed for the Cheltenham Festival with the Gold Cup, Ryanair and Champion Chase all being considered, however on 25th February 2014 Colin Tizzard announced that he had sustained what looked to be a muscle injury to his back so he would miss Cheltenham. However, an x-ray later revealed that Cue Card had a stress fracture to his pelvis, which ended up ruling him out for the rest of the season. With Colin saying:

We were getting nowhere. When we said he wasn’t going to run (at the Festival) we stopped riding him. The week before that, one day he’d be sound and the next he wasn’t. We said it must be a muscle. The physio said it was muscle, the vet said it was muscle, so we assumed that’s what it was. It’s a good job we did what we did. If we had given him a spin on a good day, God knows what could have happened. It’s a gut-wrencher really. You try to say it’s only a horse and there are worse things in life but expectations were high for all of us. We’ve had some brilliant days with him and hopefully we can have a few more.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/mar/06/cue-card-aintree-mount-benbulben-cheltenham

After taking 313 days away from the track, to the joy of so many, Cue Card did in fact return to the track on 4th November 2014. This time heading to Exeter to compete in the Haldon Gold Cup again, this time under Daryl Jacob, after regular jockey Joe Tizzard had announced his retirement. He started as the 13/8 favourite, finishing 4th, behind winner God’s Own (8/1), who interestingly enough was rode by Cue Card’s eventual partner Paddy Brennan, Balder Succes (4/1) in second and Oscar Hill (50/1) in third. Next for Cue Card was the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 22nd November. He started as the 3/1 favourite, again under Daryl Jacob, where he again finished 4th behind winner Silviniaco Conti (100/30), second placed Menorah (10/1) and third placed Dynaste (9/2). Cue Card then headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2014 for the King George, this time finishing 5th at 11/2 under Daryl Jacob, behind winner Silviniaco Conti (15/8F), Dynaste (7/1) in second, Al Ferof (7/1) in third and Champagne Fever (9/2) in fourth.

Cue Card didn’t head to Cheltenham, he started 2015 going to Aintree on 10th April for the Melling Chase, where he finished second under Daryl Jacob at 6/1 26 furlong behind joint favourite at 3/1 Don Cossack being rode by the Champion Jockey AP McCoy for Gordon Elliott. Cue Card finished his season by going to Ireland on 29th April 2015 heading to Punchestown for the Grade 1 Gold Cup. Starting the race as an outsider at 12/1 rode by Aidan Coleman, he ended up finishing fourth behind winner Don Cossack (5/2), Djakadam (2/1F) in second and Road to Riches (4/1) in third.

Cue Card took an 185 day summer break before returning on 31st October 2015 at Wetherby for the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase under a new, soon to be regular, jockey Paddy Brennan and starting as the 11/4 favourite, Cue Card won by 3 and 3/4 lengths. With Colin Tizzard later saying:

If you saw the DVD of the trapped epiglottis it was like a plug in his wind pipe. And horses will remember when they’ve had a problem like that. I think he needed the runs at Aintree and Punchestown to know himself that he was OK. I think it wasn’t until the Charlie Hall this year that the horse realised ‘this isn’t going to hurt when I come under pressure’. Going to the last I was thinking ‘is he going to empty?’. But then he went again and I think that was the tell-tale sign with him, realising that he could breathe.”

https://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/other_sports/14157281.cue-card-ready-for-boxing-day-bash-at-banishing-ghost-of-christmas-past/

Three weeks later on 21st November 2015 Cue Card headed to Haydock for the first part of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the Betfair Chase, starting at 7/4 under Paddy Brennan. He won by 7 lengths to the 2014 winner Silviniaco Conti (5/4F). Next, the second part of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the King George on Boxing Day 2015 at Kempton, under Paddy Brennan. He started at 9/2 and won in a photo finish by a head to Ruby Walsh on Willie Mullins’ trained Vautour (3/1). So now, it was onto the final step of the Stayers Chae Triple Crown and a possible £1 million bonus for the Tizzard team. heading straight to Cheltenham after an 83 day break on 18th March 2016, for the Gold Cup. Starting as the 5/2 second favourite under Paddy Brennan, Cue Card was travelling well and disputing the lead when he fell 3 out. (Don’t kill me, but I actually bet on eventual winner Don Cossack (9/4F) on this day!) But I think the question on the lips of almost every racing fan was, is and probably always will be… If he hadn’t have fell, would he have won the Triple Crown?

His season didn’t end there though, Cue Card bounced back for a Grade 1 Chase at Aintree on 7th April 2016, where as the 6/5 favourite under Paddy Brennan he won easily by 9 lengths to second place Irish trained Don Poli (4/1). To finish the season, Cue Card headed back to Ireland for the Punchestown Gold Cup on 27th April 2016, as the odds on 4/6 favourite under Paddy Brennan. He could only manage 4th place behind 12/1 winner Carlingford Lough, Djakadam (9/2) in second and Don Poli (6/1) in third.

Cue Card then took a very well deserved 185 day break before returning to Wetherby on 29th October 2016 for the Charlie Hall Chase where he started as the odds on 8/11 favourite under Paddy Brennan. However, disappointingly only managing to finish third behind inner Irish Cavalier (16/1) and Menorah (12/1). He then headed to Haydock three weeks later on 19th November 2016 to see if he could retain his crown in the Betfair Chase. Starting as the 15/8 favourite, Cue Card won under Paddy Brennan by 15 lengths to second place Coneygree (2/1). Of course, next was the King George on Boxing Day 2016 at Kempton, where he started as 5/4 second favourite under Paddy Brennan and ended up finishing second behind the 11/10 favourite and stable companion Thistlecrack.

To start 2017, Cue Card headed to Ascot on the 18th February for the Ascot Chase, starting as the odds on 4/9 favourite under Paddy Brennan. He surprised absolutely nobody when he won by 15 lengths to Shantou Flyer (22/1) in second place. So, next for Cue Card was the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup on the 17th March, with Paddy Brennan on board, starting at 5/2 Where he unfortunately took a fall at the same fence as in 2016, three from the finish. He then headed to Aintree on the 6th April for the Grade 1 Chase, where as the 2/1 favourite under Paddy Brennan he finished second by a neck behind 10/1 shot Tea For Two.

After taking a 212 day summer break, Cue Card returned to the track at Wetherby on the 4th November for the Charlie Hall Chase, at 5/2 under Paddy Brennan he unfortunately fell. He then headed to Haydock on 25th November 2017 for the Betfair Chase, where he started at 2/1 and ended up finishing second by a massive 57 lengths under Harry Cobden behind 11/10 favourite Bristol De Mai who was rode by one of Cue Card’s previous riders, Daryl Jacob. He then took an 84 day break before returning to Ascot on the 17th February 2018 for the Ascot Chase, where he was a 9/1 outsider who finished second under Paddy Brennan behind the 2/1 favourite Waiting Patiently.

Cue Card’s final race came on the 15th of March at the Cheltenham Festival in the Ryanair where he started the race at 9/2 however was pulled up by Paddy Brennan before the 12th. It was later said Cue Card would have one final run at Sandown on the 28th April 2018, however Colin Tizzard had said he was not training well enough for him to be declared for the contest. His owner Mrs Jean R Bishop told the Racing Post:

It was a bit of a shock but not a hard decision because apparently Cue Card has not been working well. Normally we would just leave him to get over it and wait for another race. But because this was his retirement race, we decided he wouldn’t be 100 per cent, so he wouldn’t be entered. It is the end of an era. I feel quite sad about it but all good things come to an end. We knew it was imminent but happening like it did was unexpected.”

https://www.racingpost.com/news/all-good-things-come-to-an-end-owner-bishop-reflects-on-cue-cards-career/327830

Cue Card ended one career, but went into another. He joined Katie Jerram, a show horse producer in Essex as part of the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) programme, where he later competed in The Royal Windsor Horse Show. I also managed to see Cue Card in the 2020 RoR Parade at Cheltenham and he looked an absolute picture!

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Cue Card, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, let’s go through Cue Card’s race record

11/11242/1U212/15112/312/4452/4111F1/43121F2/F22P/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

41 Races
16 x 1st
11 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
5 x 4th
2 x 5th
3 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider
1 x Pulled Up

I don’t even think I need to sum it up anymore than that, Cue Card was an all round legend who was loved by so many. His statistics are up with some of the best and I think one thing I have looked at and learned through researching these horses is that it doesn’t matter, win, lose, fall, whatever the outcome, a ‘people’s horse’ is a horse that will put everything out on the track and wear it’s heart on it’s sleeve. A ‘people’s horse’ is a horse who will try 110% every single time it races and will just keep going, they’re the horses that the masses fall in love with and end up going down in history. Not only has Cue Card got an incredible record in his career, winning 2/3 in the Triple Crown and so much more, he was a horse that everybody seemed to fall in love with. Even at Cheltenham last year when the RoR parade was taking place, it was packed out with everybody taking photos of him, he still holds that power in the racing world 2 years on from his final run and that is the true definition of a ‘people’s horse’. I think Cue Card is a horse that everybody wanted to see do well, even if you backed against it, like I did in the Gold Cup when I backed Don Cossack, I still wanted to see him do well and if any horse was to make my bet a losing one, I’d have wanted it to be Cue Card. I, for one, am so glad I got to witness the greatness that is Cue Card!

1997: The Postponed Grand National

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a brand new post in my Horse Racing History series and it is all about the 1997 Grand National, which was actually postponed. I would like to send a massive thank you to Mike Parcej who actually attended Aintree on the day and sent me over a first hand account of what he saw that day and I am super grateful. Throughout this post I will be quoting a lot of what Mike told me, as I believe this is the best way to really get a feel for how it was on the day! (All quotes from Mike will be in bold text.)

On Saturday 5th April 1997, it was the scheduled 150th running of the Grand National taking place at it’s usual home of Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. However, it didn’t take place on this day, instead taking place two days later on Monday 7th April, but why? Let’s get right into it!

The day started as normal. Intimidating police presence, everyone pushing all over the place, trying to find a quiet spot to have a coffee, a few presentations and thankfully plenty of room around the vast embankment of the huge paddock. The one place where you could actually see the horses! There was absolutely no indication of what was to come, it was just another Grand National Day.”

The day went pretty normally, the first few races took place without a hitch. However, at 2:49pm a bomb threat was made via a telephone call to Aintree University Hospital. Three minutes later at 2:52pm a second call was made, this time to the police control room in Bootle. Both callers used a recognised codeword used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). They warned that there was at least one device planted within Aintree Racecourse.

With no announcement at this point, the paddock screen suddenly went blank and the message ‘would all racegoers please leave immediately’ came up. I was on my feet and out of the front entrance like a bullet from a gun. My mate Andy was hanging around awaiting further news but I was having none of it. In my mind a bomb was going to explode and I was out of there at once.”

The police evacuated 60,000 people, stranding 20,000 racegoers, media personnel and all horse connections and their vehicles locked inside the confines of the course. At first spectators were evacuated from the stands and sent onto the course itself, however the police consulted with course clerk Charles Barnett and then advised via a live broadcast that everyone should leave the course immediately.

Out front, I have never seen such scenes in my life – sirens, police cars all over the place, the big black Royal car with Princess Royal being driven away at top speed. There is a bus stop outside the track and between the madness a bus for Liverpool City Centre came through like a rescue helicopter coming out of the fog. I turned around and was horrified to see Andy in a burger stall queue for a coffee! I shouted ‘Andy I’m getting on this bus’ he said ‘wait a bit I’m getting a coffee – I shouted ‘you do what you want, I’m getting on this bus’ so he grumpily joined me.”

Most of the competing horses either travelled home or were moved to Haydock Park Racecourse, while a dozen remained at Aintree in their stables. At 4:14pm the police carried out two controlled explosions at the course. Aintree responded by opening their homes to racegoers who were stranded in the city overnight, with tens of thousands temporarily homeless for the night, being offered places to stay at homes surrounding the course.

It was one of those ‘I was there’ days but for all the wrong reasons.”

The race was then set to be run two days later on Monday 7th April at 5pm, less than 10,000 people were expected to return to Aintree, however over 20,000 turned up to watch the race 49 hours later than originally planned.

When the race was finally run, a 9 year old 14/1 shot called Lord Gyllene won by 25 lengths with Tony Dobbin riding carrying 10 stone exactly.

I was disappointed that they didn’t run the Amateur Riders Chase and the Bumper that were due to be run after the National as well. After Lord Gyllene had won, they all stood up and said ‘the terrorists didn’t beat us after all’ but for those who had runners and horses in those two latter races, the terrorists did win.”

Interesting to note as a side reference, during ITV’s coverage of the 2017 Grand National, it was revealed that another bomb threat was made on Monday 7th April 1997, however Merseyside Police were confident that this was just a hoax and the race took place without any disruption.

If you want to see footage from the day I found a YouTube video you can watch right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xok12BpmChQIf you go to 2:19:00 this is where the commentators start to become aware of evacuations taking place. I must say it is a very interesting watch for someone like myself who has never seen this footage before!

As always, my Horse Racing History posts are not always the longest, but sometimes the most interesting posts I write! I enjoyed researching this one, especially speaking with Mike and getting a feel for the day from someone who was there. It’s a very interesting day to research and look into, but also a very sad one, however luckily nobody was hurt in the proceedings and eventually the Grand National did get to go ahead.

Again, I want to thank Mike for giving us a brilliant insight, and I hope you all enjoyed this one. It’s a heavy, tense one to take in, but after my previous Grand National post, this one was highly requested! I will hopefully see you all on Wednesday evening for my next post!

Danoli: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post and part 3 of me new What Makes a People’s Horse series. Today I am bringing you a Twitter suggested horse from none other than racings very own Richard Hoiles. When I asked who people would like me to research, Richard replied to my tweet with Danoli, a horse which was a little before my time, so of course I had to research this one as I have no idea who he really is. After Richard’s tweet I then had multiple other people tweeting and suggesting I definitely look into him, so today that is exactly what I am doing!

Danoli was foaled 14th May 1988, by The Parson (GB) out of Blaze Gold (GB). He was bred by Francis Austin in Ireland. As a three year old gelding he was sent to the Goffs Sale in June 1991 but failed to attract a buyer and was subsequently acquired by Dan O’Neill who sent him into training with Tom Foley in County Carlow. He was named Danoli by combining his owner’s name Dan O’Neill with his daughters name Olivia.

Danoli’s career started in 1992, when on 31st October he appeared in a National Hunt Flat Race (also known as a bumper) at Naas over 2 miles. He started the race at 16/1 with Mr P English on board. Danoli, shocking absolutely everybody, ended up winning the race, beating 11/10 favourite Atours.

We then move into 1993, on 30th January Danoli appeared back at Naas again in a bumper race this time over 2 miles 3 furlong, he started this race at 10/1 again with Mr P English riding. Continuing to surprise racing fans, he once again won, this time beating odds on 9/10 favourite Sea Gale. Three weeks later on 21st February Danoli then headed to Punchestown for another bumper race, returning to 2 miles, this time starting as the 5/2 favourite under Mr P English for the first time, he also won this race making it three out of three.

Danoli then took a 268 day break before returning to the track on 16th November 1993, this time at Fairyhouse in a maiden hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs, he went into the race as the 4/6 favourite, with Charlie Swan riding. Not many people were shocked at this point to see him get another win under his belt. A couple of weeks later on 5th December he returned to Punchestown for the Ballycaghan Hurdle over 2 miles where he won as the 8/11 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding. On 27th December Danoli headed to Leopardstow for a Novice Hurdle over 2 mile 2 furlong with Tommy Treacy riding again. Shocking many racing fans, he only managed to finish 3rd as the 4/5 favourite being beaten by Winter Belle (3/1) and Minella Lad (3/1) who, interestingly was trained by one of the greatest trainers I have ever seen, Aidan O’Brien.

After suffering the first defeat of his career Danoli returned to action in 1994 on 23rd January at Leopardstown in a Grade 1 hurdle race over 2 miles, dramatically stepping up in class against more experienced hurdlers. He went into the race at 12/1 with Charlie Swan riding. Not disgracing himself, he managed to finish second behind odds on 4/5 favourite Fortune And Fame. Just a couple of weeks later on 13th February he returned to Leopardstown for a 2 mile 2 furlong hurdle race, where he started the race as the odds on 4/5 favourite, winning under Charlie Swan.

Next up for Danoli was his first trip into the British mainland for the Cheltenham Festival’s Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 5 furlong where 23 ran on 16th March 1994. Danoli went into the race as the 7/4 favourite and won by two lengths under Charlie Swan. George Ennor wrote in the Racing Post:

They cheered him down to the start, they cheered him as he started, they cheered more loudly as he took the lead, and they raised the roof as he passed the post in front.

https://www.irishracing.com/news?headline=DANOLI-IS-RETIRED&prid=2487

If you want to watch his famous Cheltenham win, including shots of him returning to the the winners enclosure, then you can do so right here (I highly recommend you do, it is fantastic and the reaction from the crowd gave me goose bumps when watching!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRONfw1A3qk

Danoli returned to the British mainland a month later on 9th April 1994 where he faced a much tougher field in the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 4 furlong. Starting the race at 9/2 under Charlie Swan, Danoli shocked many by winning by a massive 8 lengths, finishing the season with another classy victory.

After taking a 211 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 6th November 1994 at Punchestown for the Morgiana Hurdle Grade 2 race, starting as the odds on 1/5 favourite with Charlie Swan riding. Surprising nobody, Danoli won easily by 8 lengths. A month later on 4th December Danoli travelled to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Hurdle, where he started, once again, as the odds on 4/6 favourite where he won, again under Charlie Swan, this time by 4 lengths to Dorans Pride (7/2). Next was the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle Grade 3 on 28th December where positions were switched. Danoli started as the odds on 1/2 favourite under Charlie Swan, this time finishing second behind Dorans Pride (7/2).

We then move into 1995 and after a 76 day break, Danoli returned to the track at the Cheltenham Festival on 14th March for the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 where he started as the 4/1 joint favourite. Danoli ended up finishing third under Charlie Swan behind Alderbrook (11/2) and Large Action (4/1J). One month later, Danoli returned to the British mainland for his final race of the season at Aintree in a Grade 1 hurdle race on 8th April. Danoli started as the 2/1 joint favourite and won by 3/4 of a length with Charlie Swan riding. After this race Danoli returned to the stable very badly lame, further examinations revealed that he had a fractured cannon bone in his right foreleg. He was very swiftly operated on at University of Liverpool’s Leahurst Veterinary College but at this point, his racing career was left hanging in the balance, with many worrying he may never be fit enough to return.

However after a 288 day break, trainer Thomas Foley worked wonders to get Danoli back on the track. Returning to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 21st January 1996, where at 10/1 he finished 3rd with Tommy Treacy riding. However, his comeback was so strongly received by the public that eventual winner Collier Bay (5/1) was basically ignored as all of the attention was on Danoli’s huge comeback, which many thought would never happen.

Next for Danoli was the Red Mills Trial Hurdle Grade 3 at Gowran Park on 17th February 1996, where he attracted a record crowd! Winning as the 2/5 favourite under Tommy Treacy, the scenes were electric with the Daily Record describing it as:

a huge, happy, raucous party.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Not+so+much+a+horse+race…more+a+lap+of+honour.-a061279920

Danoli then headed to the Cheltenham Festival again to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 12th March 1996, with Tommy Treacy riding, Danoli finished fourth at 5/1 behind winner Collier Bay (9/1), Alderbrook (10/11F) in second and Pridwell (33/1) in third. Danoli then headed straight to Aintree for the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 on 30th March, finishing 3rd as the 5/2 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding, behind winner Urubande (100/30) trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Danoli’s other regular jockey Charlie Swan, with Strong Promise I (25/1) finishing in second place.

After a 216 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 1st November 1996, interestingly the day I was born, at Clonmel for his first race over fences, this time winning as the 4/5 favourite under Mr P Fenton. Just 8 days later, Danoli returned to Naas for a Novice Chase on 9th November, winning as the odds on 2/7 favourite under Tommy Treacy. With his chasing career off to a seemingly flying start, Danoli headed to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on 1st December. He started the race at 100/30 with Tommy Treacy riding, however he ended up taking his first fall of his career. But do not fear, on Boxing Day 1996, Danoli headed to Leopardstown for a Grade 1 chase, starting as the 5/2 joint favourite and coming back from his first fall with a bang, winning under Tommy Treacy.

Moving into 1997, Danoli sadly started the year with a fall on 19th January at Leopardstown with Tommy Treacy on board as the 9/10 favourite, however a couple of weeks later on 2nd February 1997 he returned to Leopardstown where he won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Grade 1 at 6/1, again under Tommy Treacy. Next for Danoli was the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 13th March 1997, being rode by Tommy Treacy, he went into the race at 7/1 where he unfortunately fell 2 out.

Due to multiple injury problems, the next time Danoli would be seen on a racecourse is after a 580 day break when he made his much anticipated return at Gowran Park on 14th October 1998. He finished 3rd at 15/2 under Tommy Treacy behind winner Dorans Pride (7/4F) and second place Hill Society (5/2). However, he was then hit with injury again, meaning another extended break from the track. This time being 480 days.

Danoli returned on 6th February 2000, now as a 12 year old, for the Leopardstown Gold Cup Grade 1. Starting the race at 40/1 Danoli unseated jockey Tommy Treacy after making a bad mistake 3 out. 13 days later on 19th February 2000 Danoli appeared at Gowran Park for the Red Mills Trial Chase where he finished 3rd at 5/2 under J R Barry. One week later Danoli then went to Naas for a Grade 2 chase on 26th February, where he finished second at 5/1 under J R Barry behind 7/4 favourite His Song.

On 25th March 2000, Danoli headed to Navan for a 2 mile 4 furlong Chase where he started as the 7/4 favourite under J R Barry, showing his class once again, he ended up winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Just over a month later Danoli headed to Punchestown, for what would be his final ever race, the Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 on 3rd May. He started the race at 16/1 under J R Barry, however ended up falling.

In August 2000, Danoli’s retirement was announced with trainer Thomas Foley saying:

He’s given us some great memories and is a horse we’ll hardly ever see the like of again. We just don’t want to take any kind of chance with him in a chase and see him being put down.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Racing+News%3A+Danoli,+hero+of+a+nation,+is+retired.-a064142287

Danoli ended up spending the majority of his retirement at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, where he became inseparable from Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop.

Sadly in April 2016 Danoli was suffering with a severe bout of colic and unfortunately had to be put down at 18 years old. Thomas Foley saying:

He was a great horse for us, and we will always have fond memories. They tried everything they could and had no choice but to put him down, which was a great pity.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

Charlie Swan also spoke out about the death of Danoli saying:

People loved him because he was such a tough and genuine horse, If he could have jumped fences as well as he did hurdles, he could have even been a Gold Cup horse.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Danoli, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, I am going to go through Danoli’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

111/1132111/11231/3143/11F1F1F/3/U321/F/

So let’s now sum those numbers up! Apart from falling 4 times, unseating his rider once and finishing 4th once Danoli always finished within the top 3! Now let’s narrow that down:

32 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th
4 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Danoli. He was a horse that always gave his best and even when he took a fall he’d always come back and give it his best next time out. I was born in the middle of Danoli’s career so of course I don’t remember it, but I have sat watching videos, reading articles and interviews and speaking to some followers who did witness his greatness and I could only dream to have been around to watch him, especially his 1994 Cheltenham Festival win. I linked a YouTube video further up this post with footage of him entering the winners enclosure and if you haven’t watched it then please do, I loved watching it, seeing him push and push to the line, then the crowds reaction, it blew my mind. Clearly he was such a loved horse and the true definition of the people’s horse, being known as the ‘People’s Champion’ during his career and even a plaque being placed on his stable door saying so.

Again, I really hope you enjoyed this post. I am thoroughly enjoying researching and writing them and so far the feedback I have had is incredible and I am super grateful for that. If you haven’t already seen, I do have a further 2 posts in this series so far, Native River and Faugheen so please do also check them out. I asked on Twitter for suggestions of the horses people want me to focus on in this series thinking I would receive 10, maybe 20 to look into. However, it went a little bit wild and I received over 100 suggestions, so gradually I am working my way through the list and I will be posting more of these posts throughout the year. I also have plans for a couple of new interviews and more posts in my Horse Racing History series so plenty of content during 2021. I am sticking to my schedule of 2 posts per week, one on Wednesday evening at 6pm and one on Saturday morning at 11am. It seems to work for myself, and with the blog figures I have had lately it seems to be working for my readers too.

Again, I want to thank Richard Hoiles for this suggestion and thank you to everyone else who has suggested names too! Hopefully I will see you all on Saturday for my next post!

Faugheen: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a brand new post! Today I am bringing to you the second post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series! And I am bringing to you another one of my personal favourites, Faugheen!

Faugheen was foaled 2nd May 2008, by Germany (USA) out of Miss Pickering (IRE). He was bred by Dr John Waldron in Ireland. As a foal he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland Sale and brought for 4000 by Peter Quinlan. In June 2011, his brother Tom Quinlan sent the now three year old to the Goffs National Hunt Sale where he was brought for 12000 by Meadowview Stables. He then went into training with Andrew Slattery on the amateur point-to-point circuit.

On 29th April 2012 Faugheen competed at the Ballysteen meeting, starting as the 2/1 second favourite where he won by eight lengths. During the summer of 2012 he was then purchased by Mrs S Ricci and was sent straight into training with Willie Mullins. Very quickly Faugheen became the subject of support for the 2013 Champion Bumper without setting foot on a racecourse, however due to an injury Faugheen was out of action for over a year before returning to the track in 2013.

On 11th May 2013, he returned to Punchestown for a National Hunt Flat Race being ridden by Willie’s son Patrick Mullins winning as the 11/8 favourite. After taking a summer break, Faugheen returned to Punchestown, for a Maiden Hurdle, ridden by Ruby Walsh, this time winning as the odds on favourite at 1/5. A couple of weeks later he reappeared at Navan on 7th December 2013, again under Ruby Walsh, winning as the odds on 1/9 favourite. Three weeks later on 28th December 2013 he then went to Limerick under Emmet Mullins, again winning as the odds on 8/13 favourite.

He took a 74 day break, before returning for the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 for the Novice Hurdle on 12th March where he impressively won by 4 1/2 lengths under Ruby Walsh as the 6/4 favourite. Six weeks later he returned to Ireland for the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle Grade 1 at Punchestown on 29th April where, unsurprisingly, he won again under Ruby Walsh as the odds on 1/2 favourite.

Faugheen then took a long summer break of 207 days before returning on 22nd November 2014, this time running in England at Ascot in the Ascot Hurdle Grade 2 race, where he started again as the odds on 1/4 favourite, again, unsurprisingly winning under Ruby Walsh. Next up for Faugheen was the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day 2014, where again he started as the 4/11 odds on favourite, once again wnning under Ruby Walsh.

We then move into 2015, where Faugheen went straight to the Cheltenham Festival competing in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on 10th March. Once again starting the race as the odds on favourite at 4/5 and as expected he produced another win with his regular rider Ruby Walsh. He then went to Punchestown to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 1st May 2015, where, now unsurprisingly he started as the 1/6 odds on favourite, where he won with Ruby Walsh riding. Maybe interesting to note, Tiger Roll also competed in this race, coming 4th out of 4. What different routes these two horses took!

With a 198 day summer break, Faugheen then returned to the track on 15th November at Punchestown, where he started as the 1/6 favourite with Ruby Walsh, however, a shock to many, he ended up coming second, only a half furlong behind stable companion Nichols Canyon (7/1) rode by David Mullins. We then move on to the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day 2015, where Faugheen was ready to redeem himself after his first loss by retaining his Christmas Hurdle crown. He went off as the 1/4 favourite and won once again under Ruby Walsh.

Now moving into 2016, one month after his last win Faugheen returned to Ireland where he competed in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on 24th January 2016, winning as the 30/100 favourite, again partnering with Ruby Walsh. Just a month later on 17th February 2016, Willie Mullins announced Faugheen would be out of the Cheltenham Festival and beyond due to injury, tweeting:

Unfortunately #Faugheen will not run @Cheltenhamraces. He has a sore suspensory ligament”

https://twitter.com/WillieMullinsNH/status/699952230187798533?s=20

Later explaining:

We were just bringing him back. We had 28 days from yesterday to the Champion Hurdle and I said ‘I better start doing a bit with him’ and getting serious. He was just a little bit sore and our vet confirmed he had a small suspensory (injury) and I didn’t want to risk going any further. I just took a view that it was better to stop now and he’d be back for next year.”

https://www.rte.ie/sport/racing/2016/0217/768714-faugheen-ruled-out-of-cheltenham-festival/

Faugheen was expected to return for the start of the 2017 year, however Willie Mullins pulled him out of the Irish Champion Hurdle and eventually missed out on the 2017 Cheltenham Festival too.

Faugheen finally returned to the track in November 2017 after 665 days off the track, making a lot of racing fans happy to see him back! Even after a very very long break away from the track, he still returned to be the 4/11 odds on favourite on 19th November, where he surprised absolutely nobody by winning the Grade 1 hurdle, this time under Paul Townend. He then went on to run in the Ryanair Hurdle Grade 1 at Leopardstown on 29th December 2017, where upsettingly to many, he was pulled up by Paul Townend, much to the concern of the racing public.

We then move swiftly into 2018, where Faugheen returned to Leopardstown on 3rd February for the Irish Champion Hurdle, this time placing second under Paul Townend as the 9/10 favourite behind Supasundae (8/1) for Robbie Power. Next for Faugheen was the Champion Hurdle on 13th March 2018 at Cheltenham. This was the first time I had seen the Champion Hurdle in person and I was actually quite emotional this day, I remember seeing Faugheen come down the shoot from the parade ring and hearing people around me say how this may be his last time in England and he won’t continue much longer – Little did those people know right? Anyway, he went off at 4/1 back with regular jockey Ruby Walsh, where he finished 6th, with Buveur D’Air (4/6F) winning.

Just when people thought Faugheen was down and out, he returned to Punchestown on 26th April 2018 where he competed in the Stayers Hurdle Grade 1 over 3 miles under David Mullins where he won at 11/2 – The biggest odds he had ever started at in his entire career, beating favourite and stable companion Penhill (2/1) under Paul Townend.

After a 206 day summer break, Faugheen returned to Punchestown on 18th November for a Grade 1 Hurdle race, back to being the 2/5 odds on favourite under Ruby Walsh. However, he finished second behind stable companion, also owned by Mrs S Ricci, Sharjah (7/2) again rode by Paul Townend. Next was just over a month later when he went to Leopardstown for the Christmas Hurdle on 28th December, starting at 7/2 with Ruby Walsh, however falling 2 out with odds on favourite Apple’s Jade (8/13) being the eventual winner.

We then move into 2019 where Faugheen went straight to the Cheltenham Festival running in the Stayers Hurdle on 14th March, where he placed 3rd at 4/1 with Ruby Walsh, behind Paisley Park (11/8F) ridden by Aidan Coleman and Sam Spinner (33/1) ridden by Joe Colliver. Next was the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree on 4th April, where Faugheen got pulled up by Ruby Walsh after the 5th at 4/1. It was later found that he was suffering from atrial fibrillation. Definition: Atrial fibrillation is a condition that causes an irregular and often fast heartbeat.

Faugheen then took a 226 day break. In this time it was decided he would go chasing so on 16th November 2019 Faugheen returned to Punchestown, to run in a Beginners Chase. He started as the 8/11 favourite and won with Paul Townend on board. Next was a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Limerick on Boxing Day 2019 where he went off at 2/1 with Patrick Mullins riding, here he beat 4/6 favourite Samcro.

We then swiftly move into 2020 and arguably the weekend that brought all racing fans together. The Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown on 2nd February where Faugheen blew the roof off with Paul Townend winning as the 13/8 joint favourite. I remember this day so so clearly, I can’t remember a time where social media was as buzzing as it was after this win. As a whole, racing fans everywhere wanted to see Faugheen back to his best and this day was something very very special, one I will probably never forget watching!

Faugheen then went to the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on 12th March where he went off as the 3/1 favourite, he came 3rd behind Samcro (4/1) for Davy Russell who won as well as stable companion Melon (14/1) who finished second.

Faugheen has not rode since, with Patrick Mullins saying about Faugheen and Douvan in January 2021:

They’ve both had setbacks. Faugheen is in the yard, he got clipped during the week”

https://www.irishmirror.ie/sport/horse-racing/faugheen-douvan-likely-miss-years-23284269

So at 13 years old, it looks highly unlikely we will see Faugheen again this season and we have no clear indication of where we may see him again, if we do. So it’s a waiting game until Willie Mullins announces the plans for Faugheen if there are any.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a brilliant career, I want to just explain a few facts about Faugheen which I researched and read into and I couldn’t get my head around.

So firstly, I am going to go through Faugheen’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

 1/11111/1111/1211/1P261/2F3P/1113-

So, summing it up, apart from being pulled up twice, falling once and finishing 6th once, Faugheen has always finished within the top 3.

So, summing it up, Faugheen’s professional career, which is those above minus his one point-to-point run, so far in numbers:

26 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 6th
1 x Fall
2 x Pulled Up

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Faugheen. In his career, he has made over £1.1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. When we look back at 2020 and how many people were talking about Faugheen, it was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it and I know so many others who did too. I would love to see Faugheen at least one more time and go out with a bang and another win to his name. But I also want him to end his ridiculously successful career on his own terms, so in that respect, it is purely down to Willie and connections on what will happen next. Owner Rich Ricci did say at Cheltenham the following so nobody really knows what could happen next, especially as he’s had a setback this year too:

I don’t know (what happens next), it is a good question. We’ve got the Punchestown back in Ireland and I think the Irish would like to see him one more time, so if he is fit and well and ready to rock we will probably call it a day then. I’m not sure we will come back for a Gold Cup next year at the age of 13, but we will see what the horse tells us.”

https://www.rte.ie/sport/racing/2020/0312/1121870-samcro-edges-melon-in-photo-to-win-marsh-novices-chase/

Thank you so much for reading this post, last weekend I put on Twitter all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! However, if you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus in on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

Native River: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, today’s post is a little different, but I am hoping to make this into a potential new series called ‘What Makes a People’s Horse?’ And I thought after a brilliant weekend of racing, there is no better time to focus in on one horse who finally found himself back in the winners enclosure and who happens to be my all time favourite horse, which is, of course, Native River. Social media on Saturday was absolutely buzzing with happiness after seeing him win at Sandown and I wanted to write a post, breaking down some of his achievements as well as thinking about how he’s become such a popular horse amongst racing fans. So without further ado, shall we jump right in?

So, first things first, who is Native River? Native River was foaled 4th May 2010, by Indian River (FR) out of Native Mo (IRE). He was bred by Mr Fred Mackey in Ireland and in November 2010 he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland National Hunt Sale. He was brought by John Dineen for just €6000 who found owners, husband and wife, Garth and Anne Broom, better known as Brocade Racing.

Native River then began his racing career on the amateur point-to-point circuit. On 17th March 2014, he unseated his rider at a meeting at Dromahane before being sent to England to Colin Tizzard’s yard to start his professional career.

He didn’t get off to a bad start, finishing third out of seven in a National Hunt Flat Race at Newton Abbott on 10th October 2014 under Brendan Powell, before winning his first Novices’ Hurdle just three weeks later on 30th October 2014 at Stratford under Brendan Powell again, at 8/1 beating the 11/4 favourite Mount Haven. The good streak continued, when on 29th November 2014 he won again, this time at Newcastle in a Class 2, again under Brendan Powell, this time at 10/1 beating the odds on 8/11 favourite Definitly Red.

Native River then got stepped up in class for his first Grade 1 at Newbury, maybe a little too soon, as he came 6th out of 6 runners in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle on 29th December 2014. The next time he ran was at Cheltenham on 24th January 2015 in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle where he fell 2 out. His next race came pretty swiftly, on 8th February 2015, this time at Exeter where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 9/2, beating the odds on 4/5 favourite Emerging Talent. Next up for Native River was the big one, the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. A very good line up set to run, after making a mistake and losing places, he finished 9th in the race.

So, where to next? Novice chasing was the way to go and that is exactly what the Tizzard team did. His next race came on 10th October 2015 at Chepstow in his first Novice Chase, where he did not disgrace himself at all, finishing 3rd at 10/1, before very swiftly winning his first Novice Chase just a couple of weeks later on 3rd November 2015 at Exeter as the 11/8 favourite under Brendan Powell again, this time winning by a massive 16 lengths. An interesting fact, in this race he beat Abracadabra Sivola, who was actually rode by Native River’s now jockey, Richard Johnson.

He was then stepped up in class for the Worcester Novices’ Chase over three miles at Newbury on 26th November 2015. He took the lead approaching the final fence before pulling away to win by almost four lengths from 6/4 favourite Un Temps Pour Tout. After this race one of his owners Garth Broom had said:

He’s only five and giving weight away against older, more experienced horses… He’s got it all. He can stay and he can quicken.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/26/colin-tizzard-winner-native-river-newbury

He was then made favourite for the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton’s Boxing Day meeting. After a couple of awkward jumps he finished third as 6/4 favourite, with Tea For Two winning under Lizzie Kelly. His next race came just over a month later on 6th February 2016 at Wetherby in a Grade 2 Novice Chase where he came third at 11/4 behind winner Blaklion (4/1) and second place Definitly Red (3/1). Next up was the Cheltenham Festival where he rode in the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase on the Tuesday of the festival, 15th March 2016, where he did not disgrace himself in the slightest, coming second behind Minella Rocco (8/1), under Mr Michael Legg at 7/1. He then went onto Aintree on 8th April 2016, for the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase, where arguably one of the best partnerships in horse racing began, winning under Richard Johnson at 11/2.

Native River then started the new season, surprisingly to some, in a Grade 2 hurdle race at Wetherby on 29th October 2016, coming second under Richard Johnson again, at 5/2. Next up was a big one though, the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Newbury on 26th November 2016, where he went on to win as the 7/2 favourite, again under Richard Johnson. This was swiftly followed up by a race just as big, if not bigger, the Coral Welsh Grand National over 3 mile 5 1/2 furlongs at Chepstow on 27th December 2016 where he went on to win as the 11/4 favourite under Richard Johnson once again.

Then into 2017, Native River had a month before his next run which came on 11th February 2017 at Newbury in the Denman Chase, where he won, this time under Aidan Coleman at 11/10. Interesting fact to mention, the brilliant Bristol De Mai, who has had some brilliant races with Native River over the years, ended up coming third in this race as the 10/11 favourite. Next up for Native River was the big one at the Cheltenham Festival, on 17th March 2017 he competed in his first Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, however, again not disgracing himself in the slightest, Native River finished 3rd at 7/2 back under his now regular jockey Richard Johnson, behind winner Sizing John (7/1) and Minella Rocco (18/1).

With the Gold Cup being an extremely gruelling race, Native River then took a 330 day break. During his break, I actually conducted my first ever interview which was with Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, which you can read right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and during that interview he said the following:

I would love to think Native River could come back in the Gold Cup and go two spots better than he did last year. He was 3rd in the race last year and ran really really well. Erm you know, this season we will be geared for him to be running in the Gold Cup again so I suppose he’s my big hope.”

Bare that quote in mind for a few minutes!

Native River then made his return to the track to retain his Denman Chase crown on 10th February 2018, winning as the 8/11 favourite under Champion Jockey and now best friend Richard Johnson, after using that as his prep run, next up The Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup.

Arguably, my favourite race to watch back over and over again and also the first time I was there to witness a Gold Cup in person so definitely a day I will never ever forget! Friday 16th March 2018, the Grade 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase where Native River went on to win at 5/1, beating 4/1 favourite Might Bite. The duel between these two horses is one never to be forgotten, a brilliant battle between two incredible horses. Side note: I do want to take a second to wish Might Bite the happiest of retirements from racing and I wish him the best in whatever he goes on to do next, an incredible horse and I am so glad he’s been retired on his own terms.

Native River then went on to take a 253 day break before returning on 24th November at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, again, the first time I had been to Betfair Chase Day and what a race it was to watch! With only 5 horses competing, but the best in the country in my opinion, favourite Might Bite (Evens), Native River (5/2), Bristol De Mai (13/2), Thistlecrack (10/1) and Clan Des Obeaux (11/1). Native River finished second behind the incredible Bristol De Mai. Then going in to the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, finishing 3rd at 9/2 behind Clan Des Obeaux (12/1) and Thistlecrack (15/2).

After a 79 day break, we go into 2019 and straight into the Cheltenham Gold Cup to try and retain his title, however it was not meant to be, not to be disgraced, he finished in 4th place with reining Gold Cup Champion Al Boum Photo winning his first Gold Cup at 12/1. Native River then took a long summer holiday with a 267 day break.

During this time, I was honoured to have been able to visit the Colin Tizzard team at Venn Farm where I met my absolute hero Native River. You can read all about it right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/vip-stable-visit-to-colin-tizzards-venn-farm/. But in brief, I was able to watch Native River on the gallops, before then walking him off the walker to his stable, where I fed him and put his blankets on. I was asked to do this by their team as they knew how much I adored him and I can honestly never thank them enough for it, to them it was nothing, but to me, a girl who had followed this horse, travelled to see this horse and just absolutely love him, this was a dream come true. A day I will never ever forget truthfully.

He then returned on 7th December 2019 at Aintree for the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, where he won as the 5/6 odds on favourite.

Next up was 8th February 2020, the Denman Chase at Newbury, however regular jockey Richard Johnson was unfortunately injured at the time so the Tizzard team called up conditional jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr for the job where he easily steered Native River around to win as the odds on 2/5 favourite.

However, bad news struck for the Tizzards and Native River fans when just 11 days later on 19th February 2020 it was announced that he was being ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tendon injury with Joe Tizzard telling Racing TV:

Unfortunately we’ve had to scratch Native River from the Gold Cup this morning – he’s picked up a suspensory tendon injury, which means his season is over.”

https://www.racingtv.com/news/injured-native-river-out-of-gold-cup

Bringing joy to so many, Native River finally returned to the track after a 301 day break on 5th December 2020 at Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase where he came 3rd at 9/4 behind Lake View Lad (16/1) and favourite Santini (13/8).

Then this weekend on 6th February 2021, Native River showed his class once again, returning to the winners enclosure when he won the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown at 13/2 where he beat 9/4 favourite Bristol De Mai.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a crazy career, I want to just explain a few facts about Native River which I researched this weekend and I couldn’t get my head around. If you follow me and have for a while, you’ll know that this horse is a horse that I absolutely adore and have travelled the country up and down to visit, but I did not realise just how good the statistics are.

So firstly, I am going to go through Native River’s race record of all of those races I have just went through:

U/3116F19/3113321/21113/11/234/11-31

So, summing it up, apart from 1 unseated, 1 6th, 1 fall and 1 9th – all in his p2p/hurdle days, Native River has always been within the top 3, with 1 4th in the entirety of his career and since chasing he’s only finished outside of the top 3 once.

So, as explained above, Native River started his chasing career on 10th October 2015, he did run one hurdle race in 2016 where he came 2nd, this has not been including in these figures, the following figures are purely chasing figures:

20 Races
11 x 1st
2 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th

Which includes winning:

2 x Grade 1’s
6x Grade 2’s
2 x Grade 3’s

Now, Native River’s professional career as a whole, hurdling and chasing, not including his one point-to-point:

28 Races
14 x 1st
3 x 2nd
7 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 6th
1 x 9th
1 x Fall

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves. In his career, he has made over £1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. He’s a horse that as a racing fan, you might not choose to bet on every single time he races, but if and when he does win, you love to see it. (Personally I do bet on him every single time he runs but that’s just me aha). I have loved seeing so many lovely tweets about him this past weekend and I had to share his story and stats!

When I went to the Tizzard’s yard, Joe was very open about how loved he is, he told us how he’s one of the calmest horses in their yard and people are always drawn to him when they visit. You can just see how loved he is by his team and racing fans in general.

On a final note, if Brocade Racing, Colin Tizzard, Joe Tizzard, Richard Johnson or any other connections read this, when he retires I volunteer to take him off your hands if you do not already have a plan. (Cheeky little plug, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, right?)

Thank you so much for reading this post, a little different for me, but I want to take a chance in 2021 and really venture out and try new things, I did put on Twitter this weekend all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! I am super excited for this series as it is all about opinions, the words ‘people’s horse’ can be interpreted in so many ways, for me a horse like Galileo is a people’s horse, but more for what he’s done since retiring from racing opposed to whilst racing, but then you have the greats like Kauto Star who is known for the unreal racing career he had, but then Native River like today’s post who is still going and is still performing to his best. There are so many ways you can look at why a horse is so popular and that is why I am going to love this series so much as it’s a range of ideas, suggestions and opinions from racing fans. If you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

1993: The Grand National That Never Was

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post in my Horse Racing History series! Today’s is a very exciting one, just two weeks before my older brother was born, the 147th running of the Grand National took place but as always with my history stories… It didn’t quite go to plan! Let’s get straight into it…

On April 3rd 1993, the 147th running of the Grand National was scheduled to take place at it’s regular home of Aintree Racecourse, the day started off as it always did, then things suddenly took a turn. Before the Grand National could take place, fifteen animal rights protesters invaded the course near to the first fence, the second time in 3 years, a repeat of the 1991 Grand National 2 years prior, this caused the start to be delayed. However, that isn’t the biggest turn of events that happened that day.

When the race was finally ready to start the horses lined up as they normally would, however a false start was called when several riders became tangled in the starting tape. The starter was a gentleman called Keith Brown who was officiating his last ever Grand National before his retirement, he waved his red flag, then the second official Ken Evans who was 100 yards down the track signalled to the runners to turn around.

So they go again, on the second attempt, the tape became tangled again, this time around the neck of Richard Dunwoody, again causing a false start. However, this time his recall flag didn’t unfold itself as he waved it, which in turn meant that 30 of the 39 runners set off around the track, oblivious to the false start and the recall.

Officials, trainers and the crowd tried to halt the race, however the majority of the field continued on. By the 6th fence, Becher’s Brook only 1 of the 30 starters still competing had fallen. The BBC’s commentary team at the time were Peter O’Sullevan, John Hanmer and Jim McGrath and they continued to describe proceedings all whilst reminding viewers that ‘it’s got to be a void race’.

It wasn’t until the water jump, the final fence of the first circuit, that many of the jockeys became aware of the situation and pulled up, this included Champion Jockey Peter Scudamore on Captain Dibble and most of the horses to the rear pulled up also. Peter Scudamore pulled up due to seeing trainer Martin Pipe waving at him near the water jump to stop.

However, 14 horses continued to race into the second circuit. In the end, it was 50/1 shot Esha Ness ridden by John White and trained by Jenny Pitman who crossed the line first in the second fastes time in Grand National history. Only 7 horses finished the race.

Immediately after the race finished there was a lot of confusion as to what would happen next. Starter, Keith Brown was interviewed by BBC and hinted that there was a possibility that the nine jockeys who noticed and obeyed his recall could be eligible to take part in a re-run. A short time later several jockeys said that they though the officials attempting to stop them were actually something to do with the protestors from before the race. Esha Ness’ jockey, who unofficially won the race, John White, said that towards the end of the race “I could see there were only a few horses around, but I thought the others had fallen or something”.

The Jockey Club later declared the race void, ruling out any re-running of it and they subsequently launched an inquiry. At this stage bookmakers were forced collectively to refund an estimated £75 million in bets staked.

An inquiry was later conducted, headed up by High Court judge Sir Michael Connell, the deputy senior steward of the Jockey Club since 1988. His report portioned some of the blame to starter Keith Brown for allowing the horses to get too close to the tape in the first place, however most of the blame was aimed towards the second official Ken Evans for failing to notice the second false start. Later that year Keith Brown retired stating “it was very sad for all concerned, whatever could go wrong that day, did.”

Following the official inquiry, a 34 page report with recommendations was approved by the Jockey Club. Public discussion had included the possibility of introducing electronic devices, however the use of modern technology was dismissed on the basis of a lack of total success overseas and being open to sabotage or technical failure. The tape at the start line was made more sturdy, consisting of 3 strands instead of 1 with a more distinctive pattern and the width of the start was also reduced.

It was decided that when a false start is called, two official who are in constant contact with the starter via radio, will have fluorescent yellow flags that they wave at the jockeys, further up the course there will also be a third official who is positioned to stop those who fail to notice the two initial flags. If necessary, the third official can follow the field in a car to stop them.

This was the first and so far, the only time that the Grand National has been declared void and hopefully it will never happen again!

I hope you enjoyed this one, I feel like my history posts are sometimes a little short, but they’re also very interesting and I love doing the research into them. I hope to continue this series with plenty more stories. I have created a Google Form which you can access and input any ideas you may have that you would like to see me cover, this can be any historical stories, people to interview as well as any original ideas of content you may like to see me put out onto my site. I appreciate all of the feedback I get weekly from my readers so it is only fair I create content which best suits my audience and that my readers want to see! You can access the form right here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScg5vZg8Xonpg8l-3S6gVSwS3FPx8wiGFUcmkPX9qXiSW9QQQ/viewform

Thank you again for reading! I will see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Kian Burley featuring Hannah Burley

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with the one and only Kian Burley. I spoke with Kian and his mom Hannah on the phone last weekend where we discussed all things racing so without further ado, let’s jump straight into it!


Me: First things first, what made you get into horse racing?

Kian: So I like watching it on the TV and it’s the best sport and it’s so much fun because it is interesting when they have hurdles and fences.

Me: And when you went to Cheltenham last year, what was your favourite winner that you seen?

Kian: Shishkin.

Me: Do you think it will win again this year?

Kian: Yeah!

Me: What do you think is one horse that will definitely win at Cheltenham this year? What is the best horse going to Cheltenham this year?

Kian: I think Appreciate it for Willie Mullins.

Me: Do you think Willie Mullins will win another Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo or do you think something else will win?

Kian: I think something else will win it this year.

Me: Do you know who yet or have you not decided who yet?

Kian: I don’t now yet!

Me: And what about the Grand National, do you think Tiger Roll will win again?

Kian: I think Tiger Roll will win it again.

Me: And now, of course I have to ask you Kian, obviously Paddy Brennan is your favourite jockey, why do you love him so much?

Kian: Because he’s the best jockey in the whole wide world.

Me: And apart from Paddy, what other jockey’s do you like watching?

Kian: Connor Brace, Liam Harrison, Max Kendrick, Will Kennedy, Harry Skelton, Callum Rodriguez and Eoin Walsh. I like them all!

Me: And when you went to Cheltenham and you got to meet all the jockeys and trainers, who was your favourite person to meet?

Kian: Gary Windass.

Hannah: He met Gary Windass off Coronation Street and that’s all he ever goes on about! He was sat on the table next to us at Cheltenham and now that’s all he ever goes on about. Who was your favourite jockey to meet though?

Kian: PADDY!

Me: And when Paddy walked into your school Kian, how did you feel?

Kian: Amazed! I nearly fell of my chair!

Hannah: To be fair, only his class teacher, headteacher, me and my mom knew about it. The school had sent a letter out to get permission for other children to be on camera so Kian came home from school and said ‘aw we’re gonna be on camera but I don’t know what for. So me and my mom were saying ‘oh we don’t know what that is’. Then Barry from The Jockey Club had rang me and said if we ask people who wants a microphone on them do you think Kian will put his hand up and I said 100% yes he will, so when Barry came in and said we need a helper to have a microphone on do we have any volunteers, Kian put two hands up, he was making sure he got picked!

Me: How did it feel at Cheltenham Kian when everybody knew who you were?

Kian: Amazed! I had about 4 people ask for selfies!

Me: What was your favourite part of the day?

Kian: When the cameras were following me around.

Me: And of course you go down to Ravenswell to see Fergal and the team too, who’s your next favourite trainer aside from Fergal?

Kian: Erm… No one.

Me: Just Fergal?

Kian: Yes!

Me: How often do you go down to Fergal’s?

Hannah: It’s whenever we can get down there really, they’re 3 hours away from us, so when we go we have to set off at 4 in the morning…

Kian: We’ve gotta be down there for half 7!

Me: I was lucky enough to go down last year and I loved it down there. I think the whole team are just lovely to speak to.

Hannah: They are! They’re lovely. They’ve all got so much time for Kian as well and the Doc, Dr Simon is absolutely brilliant with him. They’re all just so nice.

Me: When you do go down to Ravenswell, who’s your favourite horse?

Kian: All of them!

Me: All of them? You don’t have a favourite?

Kian: No.

Hannah: He does… It is Imperial Alcazar?

Kian: Yeah!

Me: And what do you think when Fergal has a horse and he runs miles and miles ahead of all the others? He’s had quite a few that I’ve seen that just run off a million miles ahead!

Kian: I think what are you doing? Like Totterdown!

Me: So apart from Fergal’s horses, what’s your favourite horse you’ve watched?

Kian: Cue Card!

Hannah: When you watch your YouTube videos, what’s the race you always watch?

Kian: Cue Card winning the King George!

Me: And what race courses have you been to so far?

Kian: Everywhere!

Me: What one is your favourite?

Kian: Market Rasen!

Me: And obviously I know you get on really well with Doctor Simon and I seen the other day you was winding him up on Twitter about his cardigan, what did you think of his cardigan, have you seen it yet?

Kian: Not yet.

Hannah: What do you think of cardigans? Would you wear one?

Kian: NO!

Me: Do you think it will suit Doctor Simon wearing a cardigan?

Kian: NO!

Me: I feel like I have to ask you because Fergal is known to love his cakes, so what’s your favourite cake?

Kian: Victoria Sponge.

Hannah: You little fibber! You like chocolate cake!

Me: I seen on Twitter that you wrote a letter to Boris didn’t you?

Kian: Yeah and an email!

Me: Did you get a reply?

Kian: No! I wrote to Her Majesty the Queen!

Me: What did you say to the Queen?

Kian: About her horses.

Me: Do you watch flat racing and jumps?

Kian: I like them both!

Me: What’s your favourite flat race?

Kian: St Leger!

Me: And what’s your favourite jumps race?

Kian: Gold Cup! I remember when Paddy won it on Imperial Commander!

Hannah: You don’t remember it, you’ve seen the videos of it.

Me: And your mom’s always tweeting saying how you scream the house down whenever you’re watching the racing and now you have the biggest trending quote in racing…

Kian: GO ON PADDY LAD!

Me: Everybody shouts it now don’t they?

Hannah: When we were at Cheltenham and we were walking through people were stopping him to say go on Paddy lad! Even now when he goes into school people will shout go on Kian lad!

Me: What do you want to do next after lockdown?

Kian: Get back to racing!

Me: Where do you want to go next?

Kian: Every racecourse!

Me: Is that the plan? To do every racecourse?

Hannah: We’re going to try and go to Ireland too and see some Irish racing.

Me: Talking about Irish racing, I seen you met Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham too, what did he say to you?

Kian: Aye up Kian lad!

Me: Everyone just knows who you are!

Kian: And I met Ruby Walsh!

Hannah: When we first went through the gates Ruby Walsh was stood there and he said ‘hiya Kian’.

Kian: I spoke to Davy Russell, Nico de Boinville and Harry Cobden. I spoke to everyone!

Me: To finish off Kian, what are we telling everyone to bet on for Cheltenham?

Kian: Imperial Alcazar.

Me: And as Fergal’s assistant, do you know what race he’s going into yet or have you not decided?

Kian: We haven’t decided. I had a look and I think the 3 mile staying hurdle.

Me: With Fergal do you advise him on what to do or does he advise you?

Kian: I advise him!

Me: Thank you for talking to me today Kian!

Kian: Thank you!


Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Kian and Hannah for having a chat with me, I thoroughly enjoyed our call and talking about all things racing. I think Kian is absolutely brilliant for the sport and I think he has a long future in the sport with whatever he chooses to do next.

And secondly, if you haven’t already seen, Kian has started up his very own blog and I highly recommend going over to his page to have a read of his work: https://theassistanttrainer.wordpress.com/.

Again thank you to Kian and Hannah for their time and I hope my readers enjoy this informal interview/chat as much as I have!