Les Boots: The Worst Jockey in the History of Horse Racing?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today’s post is one I really wanted to share because I had never heard of this story until recently and thought if I hadn’t then how many others hadn’t? So without further ado, let’s get right into it!


Les Boots was an Australian jockey who’s professional jockey spanned 18 years. In those 18 years he broke just about every bone in his body which included a broken neck which saw him out of action for two years.

Less started as an apprentice jockey, working at Harry Butler’s stables. He began riding out and mucking out stalls until one day Harry called him into the office and told him he wanted him to go to Cheltenham in England and ride a horse called Umbalir in a jumps race, however he parted ways at the first hurdle with Les ending up in hospital. He rode Umbalir twice more, both rimes resulting in a hospital trip. Three for three – It didn’t look great.

Les Boots then went on to be known as the worst jockey in the history of horse racing due to the fact that he never had a winner, never placed in fact, he never even stayed on a horse for more than half a mile in any of his races. In fact, out of 39 starts, he fell 40 times – 41 if you include a non-horse related incident. He explained this to interviewers:

I rode a horse at Cheltenham one day, fell going out the straight, I caught him, remounted him, fell at the half-mile and I fell out the ambulance coming to hospital.”

https://www.punters.com.au/news/the-worlds-worst-jockey_136520/

Les himself told people that out of his 18 year career, he believes he spent 12 of them in the hospital, also saying that Adelaide Hospital used to get a bed reading in advance whenever they saw he had a ride. Les used to ride out many horses each weak and was totally fine, however when it came to a race he just couldn’t stay on.

It got to a point where his wife, alongside a packed lunch, would pack him some pyjamas and anything he would need for a couple of days in hospital whenever he went to a race. In fact it got so bad that whenever he was the jockey, his horse would be 100/1, regardless of how good the horse was due to him being on board.

However Les Boots became a national hero with his jokes and sense of humour with lines such as:

I went to a picnic one day and they even barred me from the merry-go-round – said it wasn’t safe”

https://www.punters.com.au/news/the-worlds-worst-jockey_136520/

A dream of Les’ was always to take part in the English Grand National, he later explained why this never happened:

I never did realise my life’s ambition to ride in the English Grand National at Aintree. My wife cancelled my passport, she reckoned I’d be the first jockey to drown at the water jump.”

https://eu.thespectrum.com/story/sports/mesquite/2019/09/02/worst-jockey-history-had-great-sense-humor/2187365001/

Les Boots lived to be 80 years old and it’s good to see he never lost his sense of humour. Les will go down as one of the worst jockey’s in the history of horse racing, but also someone who will never be forgotten due to the fact he laughed the whole way through his career and although he ended up spending the majority of his time in hospital it was clear to see how much he loved horses and racing.


I thought this was so interesting to read, I had never heard of Les Boots so I really wanted to share. I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will see you all Saturday morning when I have a look at the history of the Irish Derby ahead of this years renewal.

Richard Johnson – Years at the Top – Happy Retirement!

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. After the news a couple of weeks ago that Richard Johnson was retiring from the saddle I have decided to have a look at some facts and figures of his career so I can compile them all into this post for you all. As many people know by now, Richard was the first person within racing to give up his time and allow me to interview him (twice) and has always supported me and helped me with anything I’ve ever needed, which I appreciate more than anyone realises. The day I first interviewed him, he knew it was the first one I was doing and he knew I was nervous, so he took his time, didn’t rush me and he allowed me to make mistakes, he then spoke to me after the interview and gave me encouragement and support to continue doing what I loved and that’s exactly what I did and I am so glad I did! If you missed my interviews with Richard you can read them here… 2017: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and 2019: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/an-updated-interview-with-champion-jockey-richard-johnson/ . I hope you enjoy those! However, without further ado, I’m just going to jump right into it.


Richard Johnson OBE was born on July 21st 1977 in Hereford, England into a racing family, especially with his mother being Sue Johnson, a horse racing trainer. At 16 years old Richard left school to work for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first win came in April 1994 when he won on Rusty Bridge at Hereford, which turned out to be his only win of the season. However, the following season the 1995-1996 season, Richard rode 56 winners and became the Champion Conditional Jockey at just 18 years old. And he didn’t stop there, the next season 1996-1997 was the first time Richard rode 100 winners in a season ending up with 102 and from that year Richard rode 100 winners every single season (apart from the 2020-2021 season when Richard has retired on 73 winners).

1996 was a pretty good year for Richard, not only did he ride 100+ winners, but those winners also included some pretty big races. Starting with the Towton Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2) at Wetherby on the 11th of January on Mr Mulligan, a 3/1 shot who beat the 11/10 favourite Call It A Day by a massive 15 lengths.

Richard then won again on Mr Mulligan a month later on February 14th in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2), this time as the 9/4 favourite, beating 4/1 shot Nahthen Lad by 15 lengths again.

It was then April 11th when Richard had another big win when winning the European Breeders Fund ‘national hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (Class A Grade 3) at Cheltenham on board Miss Optimist, a 9/1 shot for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first Grade 1 win of many also came in 1996 on April 24th when he won the Heineken Gold Cup on Billygoat Gruff for David Nicholson at 7/1.

Moving swiftly into 1997, we then have another brilliant season for Richard, starting with a win in the Seagram Top Novices’ Hurdle (Class A) on April 3rd on Midnight Legend (11/2) beating the team of Mick Fitzgerald and Nicky Henderson with the 100/30 favourite Sharpical by 2 lengths. The very next day, on April 4th another Class A came along, when Richard won the Belle Epoque Sefton Novices’ Hurdle on board Forest Ivory (11/2) actually beating a rare Aidan O’Brien horse, Private Peace (11/2) in second being rode by Charlie Swan.

Richard then headed over to Ireland and Punchestown where he won the Country Pride Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 2) on the 7/4 favourite Midnight Legend, beating the Aidan O’Brien and Paul Carberry partnership with Whats The Verdict (9/1) by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into the 1997-1998 season, Richard started with winning the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup Chase Limited Handicap (Class A Grade 2) at Exeter on board Viking Flagship (9/1) for David Nicholson, beating stable mate Mulligan (2/1) by 5 lengths.

Richard then won the Bonusprint Bula Hurdle (Class A / Class 1) at Cheltenham on December 13th on board Relkeel for David Nicholson, beating the Martin Pipe and AP McCoy team with the 13/8 favourite Pridwell by 1 and 3/4 lengths. Just 2 weeks later on December 27th, Richard headed to Wetherby with 4/9 favourite Viking Flagship, winning the Castleford Chase (Class A / Class 1).

It was 1998 when Richard would win another Grade 1 when heading to Punchestown on April 30th on board the 2/1 favourite Zafarabad winning the I.A.W.S Champion Four Year Old Hurdle by just a neck. It was almost a year before Richard won another big race, this came on March 18th 1999 when he won the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival on a 40/1 shot Anzum, beating the 2/1 joint favourite Le Coudray who was owned by JP McManus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Charlie Swan by just a neck.

The following month on April 9th, Richard headed to the Aintree Festival and won the Grade 2 Mumm Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Class A) on the 100/30 favourite Spendid – Coincidentally beating a horse trained by who would become Richard’s number 1 trainer, Philip Hobbs with Village King (11/2).

Richard travelled back to Ireland on April 29th where he won the Grade 1 Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Anzum (7/1). Richard had plenty of Grade 2 and 3 success during the year, however his next Grade 1 came on December 18th 1999 at Ascot when he won the Cantor Fitzgerald Long Walk Hurdle (Class A) on again on Anzum (4/1) beating the 4/9 favourite Deano’s Beeno by 17 lengths who was rode by AP McCoy and trained by Martin Pipe.

Moving into the 21st century, Richard won the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Showcase Race Grade 1 in March 2000, on Looks Like Trouble (9/2). He then had many Grade 1, 2 and 3 success over the years including the Tingle Creek Chase and Queen Mother Chase, both with Flagship Uberalles, the County Handicap Hurdle and Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle both on Rooster Booster and many more.

Also want to note that Richard came second on What’s Up Boys in the Grand National in 2002, which turned out to be his best position in the race, also meeting this when coming 2nd again in 2014 on Balthazar King.

The next race I want to mention is the Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) in 2003 when Richard won on 9/2 shot Rooster Booster for Philip Hobbs by 11 lengths. When I interviewed Richard he said this was one of this favourite rides of his career.

I am going to jump ahead a little while now as if I went through every single graded race Richard won I would end up having a post which is about a 3 hour read. So let’s jump to 2012 and on March 13th Richard won the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival on Balthazar King (11/2). In 2014, Richard won the same race on the same horse, this time at 4/1 and in the same year he finished 2nd in the Grand National on Balthazar King at 14/1 which was the closest Richard got to winning the big race (for a secon time) and again, when I spoke to him, he said that was also one of his favourite races in his career.

We also have the Midlands Grand National in 2014 when he won on Goulanes (13/2F). The Peterborough Chase in 2014 with Wishfull Thinking (13/2). The Denman Chase in 2015 on Coneygree (15/8F) as well as the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in 2015 on the recently retired Definitly Red (9/4).

We also have my favourite ever horse, Native River who partnered with Richard when winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup Chase in 2016 and the Welsh Grand National all in 2016, followed by the Denman Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018, the Many Clouds Chase in 2019 and the Cotswold Chase in 2021.

There was also La Bague Au Roi who won the OLBG Mares Hurdle in 2017, Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase and Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2018, Flogas Novice Chase in 2019. As well as Thyme Hill who won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Challow Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 as well as the Long Distance Hurdle in 2020.


Now we’ve had a brief overview, I want to look at Richard Johnson vs AP McCoy because their rivalry ruled the sport for a long while so let’s just have a little look. Overall AP McCoy finished with 4204 British career wins and 144 Irish career wins whereas Richard Johnson finished with 3799 British career wins and 19 Irish career wins.

From the 1995-1996 season until the 2014-2015 season AP McCoy won and retained the Jump Jockey Championship, however Richard was always on his tail and in the 2015-2016 season after AP retired, Richard took over as Champion Jockey and ended up winning it 4 times, before Brian Hughes won it in the 2019-2020 season.


Now, I’ve summed up Richard’s career, but now let’s look at the Big Race Wins. Let’s start with the Cheltenham Festival:

Cheltenham Gold Cup x 2 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000 & Native River – 2018)
Champion Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2003)
Queen Mother Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2002)
Stayers’ Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Triumph Hurdle x 3 (Made in Japan – 2004, Detroit City – 2006 & Defi du Seuil – 2017)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Menorah – 2010)
Champion Bumper x 1 (Cheltenian – 2011)
Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Massini’s Maguire – 2007)
Arkle Challenge Trophy x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase x 1 (One Knight – 2003)
Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1 (Copper Bleu – 2010)
Coral Cup x 1 (Monkerhostin – 2004)
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase x 2 (Balthazar King – 2012 & 2014)
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Flying Tiger – 2017)
Pertemps Final x 1 (Fingal Bay – 2014)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase x 2 (Dark Stranger – 2000 & Young Spartacus – 2003)
County Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2002)

Now let’s look at some notable races in Britain:

Tingle Creek Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2000)
Long Walk Hurdle x 4 (Anzum – 1999, Mighty Man – 2006 & Reve di Sivola – 2012 & 2013
Henry VIII Novices’ Chase x 1 (Fair Along – 2006)
Kauto Star Novices’ Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2018)
Finale Juvenile Hurdle x 3 (Franchoek – 2007, Le Rocher – 2013 & Defi Du Seuil – 2016)
Challow Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Fingal Bay – 2012 & Thyme Hill – 2020)
Ascot Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2014)
Manifesto Novices’ Chase x 2 (Wishfull Thinking – 2011 & Menorah – 2012)
Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Lord Brex – 2000 & Detroit City – 2006)
Betway Bowl x 1 (Escartefigue – 1998)
Top Novices’ Hurdle x 5 (Midnight Legend – 1997, Phardante Flyer – 2000, In Contrast – 2002, Mighty Man – 2005 & Lalor – 2018)
Mildmay Novices’ Chase x 3 (Spendid – 1999, What’s Up Boys – 2001 & Native River – 2016)
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Forest Ivory – 1997 & Saint Are – 2011)
Liverpool Hurdle x 2 (Mighty Man – 2006 & 2007)
Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase x 1 (Sporting John – 2021)

And now a quick look at Irish notable winners:

Irish Gold Cup x 2 (Florida Pearl – 2001 & 2004)
Punchestown Gold Cup x 1 (Planet of Sound – 2010)
Champion Stayers Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Punchestown Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2003)
Ladbrokes Champion Chase x 1 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000)
Dr P. J. Moriarty Novice Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2019)
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle x 1 (Midnight Legend – 1997)
Ryanair Novice Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle x 2 (What’s Up Boys – 2000 & Spirit of Adjisa – 2011)
Champion Four Year Old Hurdle x 1 (Zafarabad – 1998)

Also think it’s so important to note here that Richard Johnson rode in the Grand National 21 times without winning which holds the record for the most rides without a win, the closest he got was 2nd in 2002 on What’s Up Boys and 2014 on Balthazar King. So let’s sim up his 21 rides:

1/21 = Unseated
6/21 = Fell
5/21 = Pulled Up
2/21 = Placed
4/21 = Finished
2/21 = Brought Down
1/21 = Refused


Things to note… Richard Johnson became the eighth National Hunt jockey to ride 1000 winners in April 2003. In December 2009, at Newbury, Richard became the second jockey to hit 2000 winners, only joining AP McCoy. In January 2016, Richard had his 3000th winner and after being runner up 16 times to AP McCoy, he finally became Champion Jockey.

I also want to note, even though everybody knows by now, that Richard Johnson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to Horse Racing. And on April 3rd 2021, Richard Johnson announced his immediate retirement at Newton Abbot.


So there we have it, I know this post was a little bit all over the place, but I hope it all makes sense as it does to me! I hope you all enjoyed.

I will hopefully see you all in my next post on Wednesday at 6pm!

An Interview with Aidan Coleman

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Before we get into today’s post I want to mention Lorna Brooke as this is my first post since hearing about her tragic death. My thoughts are with her family, friends and anyone who knew her personally. It’s a heart-breaking time for the sport and anyone involved in the sport in any capacity. Jockey’s put their lives and bodies on the line every single day and people should appreciate that more than they do.


On to today’s post… I got the chance to speak with the Grand National 100/1 runner up, Aidan Coleman this week and after an incredible effort in the Grand National I am very grateful to get the chance to have a chat with him about all things racing, so let’s just jump right in. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I have!


Me: You’ve rode some incredible horses in some incredible races such as Paisley Park, Put The Kettle On, Epatante and so many more, but what is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Aidan: Erm, I suppose it’s tricky, as I say, you’ve alluded to some great ones there. I suppose any of Paisley’s 3 Grade 1’s were special. Obviously the first one was our first Grade 1 which was brilliant because it took so long to do so that was special. His next one was the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival, he was one of the bankers so that was amazing, then also his last Grade 1 in the Long Walk just before Christmas, that was brilliant for a few different reasons, in the fact he was on a comeback trail after what happened to him in the previous Stayers Hurdle, so it was great and very satisfying to get him back and how he did it as well, he just pulled it out of the fire late on and that was very satisfying and a great thrill to win the race.

Me: The one question I think everyone wants me to ask is how is Paisley Park now after being pulled up at Aintree?

Aidan: Yeah, he’s great. I just looked after him, he ran brilliantly at Cheltenham and although he’d been showing the right signs at home, you never know until you get on the track and he was just feelings the affects of Cheltenham basically, so we looked after him and I have no doubt he’ll come back in great form next year and get back winning again.

Me: And we have to speak about what happened just over a week ago when you came second in the Grand National to Rachael Blackmore, which is brilliant in itself, but how did you really feel knowing you was so close to winning it for the first time?

Aidan: Terrible. Absolutely gutting. I’ve never been so down after a race as I was that. Look, its great to be involved in the race. I rode Henry’s other one and he had the 1-2 so it’s great to be a part of it, delighted for everybody but from a personal point of view to get that close and be doing so well turning in and nearly thinking you’re going to win the National and not, it’s very tough to take.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose and why?

Aidan: Kauto Star. He was just brilliant, from 2 miles to 3 miles 2 Gold Cup and longevity as well. Definitely Kauto Star.

Me: One question I like to raise to the jockey’s that I speak with is the discussion surrounding banning the whip, what are your opinions on that?

Aidan: I think it shouldn’t be a discussion. I can see where people are coming from but it’s not really a whip, it’s foam cushioned, it’s foam padded, it does not affect a horse, there’s no element of pain. It’s used very much as a safety measure. You have a lot of people say about the whole horse welfare thing but I think without the whip you’d have a lot more horse welfare accidents to be honest. I think it’s essential and it does not harm the horses.

Me: You’re now Olly Murphy’s number 1 stable jockey, can you tell us a little bit about how that partnership came to be?

Aidan: I suppose, Richard Johnson was his number 1 jockey, he didn’t have a stable jockey then over the years he’s built up a really exciting team and an ever growing team as well and it was getting to a stage where he needed a little bit more continuity. I think it was a hard decision for him because it was nothing to do with Richard – it was the opposite – it was nothing to do with Richard’s riding, he just had too many commitments basically. His team and the quality of horses he was building, he needed some more consistency. And as Richard was so popular and so good, that wasn’t always the case, so he needed someone more available.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Aidan: Erm, well it would always be Richard Johnson to be fair so if we did this a couple of weeks ago it would be easy. But look, I have a lot of respect for everybody who does the game over a long period of time. I think Richard was the ultimate professional and ultimate role model and I think especially with how things are these days with young lads – they don’t really understand it all. They’re very nice kids but it’s just a different generation, they don’t really get what it takes to do the job over a period of time. I think anyone who rides over jumps deserves a lot of respect but the years they ride and the more they ride, the more respect they get because they’ve done the hard graft. The more you do it, the more respect you deserve because it’s not easy.

Me: And on from that a little bit, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another jockey, trainer or owner?

Aidan: I suppose it’s not really advice for racing, it’s just advice in general… Just work hard and try your best, I think that’s the same in any walk of life and racing is the same. You get out what you put in, if you work hard and conduct yourself in the right way in any walk of life, the rest will fall into place.

Me: What is the one race you haven’t won that you would love to?

Aidan: The Grand National. Very very easy. The Grand National.

Me: If you could choose a horse to watch for the next season or two, what horse would you choose?

Aidan: That’s a good question. But if you’re watching it then you want to be riding it if you get what I mean? So I’m going to have to dodge that question I think Zoe.

Me: You’ve rode for some massive owners within racing including JP McManus in the famous green and gold silks, do you ever feel more pressure when you’re riding in silks like those that are so well known within the sport?

Aidan: No, simple as. Look its great to ride any good horse in any race and every owner is very important and the riding fee is the same so they all deserve for us to go and try our best. But on the other side, when you’re riding for owners like JP that you mentioned and some other big owners, these people have been in the game so long that ultimately, it’s not less pressure because you still have to go out and try your best but if things go wrong, they have been there and it’s happened and they’re very very understanding and you know, it’s almost, they’ve just been in the game so long and understand what can go wrong.

Me: What’s your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Aidan: I suppose it has to come to Cheltenham because it’s one of those places where it really matters, the Festival is magic. I suppose if you’re going midweek, I really like Uttoxeter, I do quite well around there. There’s not many tracks I don’t like, I’m quite happy to go to most of them, there’s a few that I won’t name that I’d happily never go to again, but because it’s nothing personal, nothing against the tracks or those that run them I won’t name them, it’s more that I just don’t like riding around them, but most tracks are very well run and as long as you’ve got good rides then you’re happy to go.

Me: And obviously over the past 12 months there hasn’t been any crowds allowed, personally have you found it easier or harder?

Aidan: I suppose at first it was a bit odd and we had to get used to it, but we’d just came back from 3 months without racing so we were just happy to be there and that was fine. I suppose after that you just get used to it like you get used to anything else in life don’t you? But we will welcome them back and we can’t wait for them to come back.

Me: With the end of the season being so close and the Jockey Championship being so competitive this year, who do you think will be crowned this weekend, Harry Skelton or Brian Hughes?

Aidan: Look, it’s very important for Brian to have a good Perth, it’s up north, he’s got 3 days at Perth to hopefully have a few winners. It’s very hard, I get on well with the both lads, they’re both top class. I’m being very diplomatic here, but it is very hard and I’ll be gutted for whoever loses because they don’t deserve to lose, whoever that may be Harry or Brian, there’s gonna be one of them… A draw would be fantastic to be fair, that would be the ultimate. It would be fantastic to be fair but it’s not usually how these things work, so yeah, it’s gonna be hard for whoever doesn’t win. Look, Brian’s been champion before, this will be Harry’s first go, but I don’t think Brian Hughes will only be Champion Jockey once in his career, I think he’ll have a few more championships before he retires and probably the same for Harry as well.

Me: What is your best advice for a young person with a passion they want to follow whether that be in racing or otherwise?

Aidan: I think it goes back to the best advice I’ve been given… Just go for it. Work hard and try your best and conduct yourself in the right way. You need to have a good attitude and try your best and you’ll get something out of it.


As always, I want to thank Aidan for taking time out of his day to speak with me. He was very honest, open and informative during our call and that makes my job as an interviewer so much easier. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Aidan and getting a real insight to all things racing through his eyes and it is always brilliant to hear a horse like Paisley Park is okay and healthy back home. I have the upmost respect for jockeys, they put their bodies on the line every single day for the sport and I think we all take that for granted when we shouldn’t.

I will see you all Saturday morning at 11am for my next post!

The History of the Scottish Grand National

Good Morning!

Welcome to an additional 3rd post of the week here at zoelouisesmithx.com. If I’m doing an extra post then this means something big is happening of course, so today I am looking into today’s Scottish Grand National where I will include the history, some facts, figures and trends, essentially as much as I can possibly research ready for the big race. So let’s just jump into it!


The Scottish Grand National is a Grade 3 National Hunt Steeplechase which is open to horses aged 5 years or older and first took place in 1867. The race is held at Ayr Racecourse over a distance of 3 miles, 7 furlongs and 176 yards (6397 metres) and 27 fences are jumped.

Initially a race known as the West of Scotland Grand National was run in 1858, which consisted of 32 jumps which were mainly stone walls and was ran at a course near Houston, Renfrewshire, however from 1858 to 1866 the races were not classed as the Scottish Grand National and therefore the winners are not classed as Scottish Grand National winners. It was in 1867 that the Free Kirk leader in Houston objected to the race so it was moved to Bogside Racecourse near Irvine. The race was initially around 3 miles and then 13 years after the initial race, in 1880, the race was officially changed to its known title of the Scottish Grand National and was extended to 3 and 7/8 miles.

In 1965 Bogside Racecourse closed so therefore in 1966, the Scottish Grand National was transferred to its new home at Ayr Racecourse and at this point, the race was extended to the 3 miles, 7 furlongs and 176 yards that it is now.


Now looking at some winners in the race, the first winner in 1867 was called The Elk and was owned by the Duke of Hamilton. The first winner after the race being extended in 1880 was Peacock and the first winner when the race moved to Ayr in 1966 was African Pistol.

Some early winners include Couvrefeu II who won in 1911, 1912 and 1913. Southern Hero who won in 1934, 1936 and 1939. And finally Queen’s Taste in 1953, 1954 and 1956.

Some other notable winners to mention was Red Rum who won in 1974 for Brian Fletcher and Donald ‘Ginger” McCain and to this day is the only horse to win the English Grand National and Scottish Grand National in the same year. Barona who won the race in both 1975 and 1976 for Paul Kelleway and Roddy Armytage. It was then 1984 and 1985 when another horse won twice in 2 years and that was Androma for Mark Dwyer and Jim Fitzgerald.

In 1992 Peter Scudamore won on Captain Dibble for Nigel Twiston-Davies who won it again as a trainer 2 years later in 1994 when Earth Summit won for jockey David Bridgwater. Another notable horse to mention was the 1995 winner Willsford who was 12 years old for jockey Rodney Farrant and trainer Jenny Pitman. In 1997 the Champion Jockey AP McCoy won on Belmont King for Paul Nicholls.

Moving into the 21st Century there were winners such as Take Control for Ruby Walsh and Martin Pipe in 2002, Hello Bud for Paddy Brennan and Nigel Twiston-Davies in 2009, Beshabar for Richard Johnson and Tim Vaughan in 2011.

The next I want to mention is duel winner Vicente who won in 2016 and 2017 for Sam Twiston-Davies and Paul Nicholls. In 2018 we had Joe Farrell for Adam Wedge and Rebecca Curtis and in 2019 Takingrisks for Sean Quinlan and Nicky Richards with no race in 2020.


Some facts, figures and records now. Let’s start with the most successful horses in the race. Three horses have won the race 3 times and those are:

Couvrefeu II – 1911, 1912, 1913
Southern Hero – 1934, 1936, 1939
Queen’s Taste – 1953, 1954, 1956

So who are the leading jockey’s? The all time leading jockey is Charlie Cunningham who won 4 times: Bellman (1881), Wild Meadow (1885), Orcadian (1887), Deloraine (1889). Then the leading jockey since the race being at it’s current home at Ayr is Mark Dwyer who has won 3 times: Androma (1984, 1985), Moorcroft Boy (1996).

We have a couple of leading trainers, these are all time both with 5 wins

Neville Crump – Wot No Sun (1949), Merryman II (1959), Arcturus (1968), Salkeld (1980), Canton (1983)
Ken Oliver – Pappageno’s Cottage (1963), The Spaniard (1970), Young Ash Leaf (1971), Fighting Fit (1979), Cockle Strand (1982)

And since being at Ayr we have Ken Oliver with 4 of his 5 victories being at Ayr: The Spaniard (1970), Young Ash Leaf (1971), Fighting Fit (1979), Cockle Strand (1982)


Now let’s have a look at some winning trends. I have looked at the last 20 winners of the race since 2000 and researched some very interesting trends, so therefore I apologise if anything is incorrect, but I have done all of the research myself using multiple sources so I hope you all find them as interesting as I do.

3/20 have been 7 years old
6/20 have been 8 years old
4/20 have been 9 years old
4/20 have been 10 years old
3/20 have been 11 years old

10/20 have carried less than 10-6
8/20 have carried between 10-6 and 11-6
2/20 have carried more than 11-6

7/20 won last time out before the Scottish Grand National
6/20 finished 2nd or 3rd last time out before the Scottish Grand National
6/20 finished outside the top 3 last time out before the Scottish Grand National
1/20 fell last time out before the Scottish Grand National (This was 2017 winner Vicente who fell in the English Grand National)

5/20 last raced within 20 days before the Scottish Grand National
5/20 last raced between 20 and 30 days before the Scottish Grand National
3/20 last raced between 31 and 40 days before the Scottish Grand National
4/20 last raced between 41 and 50 days before the Scottish Grand National
3/20 last raced over 50 days before the Scottish Grand National (The longest being 2014 winner Al Co who’s last race came 104 days before with the Scottish Grand National also being his first race for a new trainer)

2/20 were favourite or joint favourite

5/20 were priced at less than 10/1
7/20 were priced between 10/1 and 18/1
8/20 were priced at 20/1 or higher (Including 2 x 20/1, 2 x 25/1, 2 x 33/1, 1 x 40/1 and 1 x 66/1)


So there we have it, plenty of facts, figures and trends that may help you pick your winner this afternoon. Good luck with whatever horse you choose to bet on and enjoy today’s racing!

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for a brand new post!

Rachael Blackmore – The Best Female Jockey We Have Ever Seen?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. After the incredible few days racing at Aintree last week, I thought it was only fitting this evening that I looked into the first female jockey to ever win the Grand National and that is of course Rachael Blackmore. I was lucky enough to interview Rachael at the beginning of the year which you can read in full right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/23/an-interview-with-rachael-blackmore/. We spoke about all things racing including interestingly how her partnership with Grand National winning trainer Henry De Bromhead materialised. However, today’s post is all about Rachael’s career this far. She has started breaking records within the sport and proving that females can compete in an even field with the men and personally, I think that is so important for young girls who may want to get into the sport. So without further ado, shall we just jump straight in? Before we start, this post was written on April 10th and 11th 2021 therefore does NOT include Rachael’s rides at Fairyhouse on the 13th of April 2021.


Rachael Blackmore was born on the 11th of July 1989 in Killenaule, County Tipperary in Ireland, making her currently 31 years old. Rachael’s first ride came on the 28th of January 2010 where she competed in the DBS/EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Commonly known as a bumper) at Ffos Las on board Pilsudski Rose for trainer A J Kennedy where unfortunately they only managed an 11th place at 66/1. It was actually a whole 13 months before Rachael managed to find her first winner, which came on the 10th of February 2011 when she rode Stowaway Pearl to victory at Thurles at 10/1 for trainer John Hanlon in the Tipperary Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle as an amateur jockey.

Just over 4 years later in March 2015, Rachael turned professional and on September 3rd of the same year, she rode her first winner as a professional when she won on the 11/2 shot Most Honourable in the Woodrooff Handicap Hurdle at Clonmel, again for John Hanlon.

Just 2 years later on March 12 2017, Rachael won her first ‘big’ race when she won the Download The Ladbrokes Exchange App Leinster National Handicap Chase (Grade A) at Naas on Abolitionist, a 12/1 shot for Ellmarie Holden. That same year, Rachael became the first woman to win the Conditional Riders’ Title for the 2016/2017 season.

A fact that may surprise some is that Rachael actually also rode on the flat, with her first winner coming on May 16th 2017 at Killarney in the July Racing Festival 17th-20th 2017 Race for Denise O’Shea on Supreme Vinnie at 14/1.

One month later, on June 21st 2017 Rachael rode her 60th racecourse winner at Wexford in the Oulart Maiden Hurdle, where she rode out her claim. She ended up winning on the 4/1 shot Sweet Home Chicago for trainer Colin Bowe by a massive 16 lengths.

We swiftly move into 2018 and on July 22nd at Tipperary, Rachael rode her first ever treble when she partnered up with Henry De Bromhead to win on Theatre Dreams (10/1) by 8 and 1/2 lengths, Monbeg Chit Chat (9/4F) by 2 and 3/4 lengths and Classic Theatre (5/4F) by a head.

Rachael followed that up on February 16th 2019 with another treble when she won on Star Max (5/2) for Joseph O’Brien by 1/2 length, followed up with her first Grade 2 win of her career when winning on Monalee (EvensF) in the Red Mills Chase for Henry De Bromhead by 2 lengths with her third win of the day coming on Smoking Gun (4/1F) for Joseph O’Brien again. Just the next day on February 17th, Rachael would go on to win her second Grade 2 when winning by just 1/2 length to the 5/4 favourite Champagne Classic in the Ladbrokes Acca Boosty Ten Up Novice Chase on Chris’s Dream (5/2), again for Henry De Bromhead.

Moving ahead just one month, we head into the Cheltenham Festival 2019. This was the year that Rachael rode her first Festival winner when she rode 5/1 favourite A Plus Tard to victory in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase by a massive 16 lengths for Henry De Bromhead. It was also this festival that brought Rachael her first ever Grade 1 when she rode the massive 50/1 outsider Minella Indo to victory by 2 lengths to the 4/1 favourite Commander Of Fleet in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This victory made Rachael the first female to ride a Grade 1 winner over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival.

Just one month after her very successful Cheltenham Festival, on April 21st, Rachael had her first Grade 1 success in Ireland when she rode 6/4 favourite Honeysuckle to victory by 5 and 1/2 lengths at Fairyhouse in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.

Proving to be a woman of many talents, on June 17th 2020, Rachael guided Oriental Eagle to victory at Limerick in the Martin Malony Stakes for Emmet Mullins. This being Rachael’s first Listed winner on the flat.

Heading into 2021, Rachael took the Cheltenham Festival by storm, ending up being the first female to be leading jockey with six winners. The six winners including Honeysuckle in the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle, Bob Olinger in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Sir Gerhard in the Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Allaho in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase, Telmesomethinggirl in the Grade 2 Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Quilixios in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle. As well as a second place in the Grade 1 WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on board A Plus Tard (100/30).

Then onto the day that pushed me into finally producing this post, the Grand National. Rachael had the leg up on the 11/1 shot Minella Times for her regular trainer Henry De Bromhead carrying 10-3. Rachael went clear at the last and stayed on to win by 6 and 1/2 lengths to 100/1 shot Balko Des Flos in second. This victory made her the first female to ever win the Grand National and what a victory it was.

I think the Grand National 2021 will be one that is spoken about for weeks, months, even years because of what Rachael has achieved. Many years ago, we had women cutting their hair to try and get a ride in the Grand National because they looked like a male. But over the years things have changed dramatically with the likes of Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh, Lizzie Kelly, Bryony Frost and now Rachael Blackmore carving the way for females to become jump jockeys at the highest level and I love to see that!


Next, let’s sum all of those up and go through some of Rachael’s major wins in her career, starting with the UK and the Cheltenham Festival:

  • Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle x 1 ( Minella Indo – 2019)
  • Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1 (A Plus Tard – 2019)
  • David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle x 1 (Honeysuckle – 2020)
  • Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Bob Olinger – 2021)
  • Champion Bumper x 1 (Sir Gerhard – 2021)
  • Champion Hurdle x 1 (Honeysuckle – 2021)
  • Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Telmesomethinggirl – 2021)
  • Ryanair Chase x 1 (Allaho – 2021)
  • Triumph Hurdle x 1 (Quilixios – 2021)

Also in the UK:

  • Grand National x 1 (Minella Times – 2021)

Next, let’s look at some major wins in Ireland:

  • Racing Post Novice Chase x 1 (Notebook – 2019)
  • Paddy’s Reward Club Chase x 1 (A Plus Tard – 2019)
  • Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final x 1 (Honeysuckle – 2019)
  • Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle x 1 (Minella Indo – 2019)
  • Arkle Novice Chase x 1 (Notebook – 2020)
  • Hatton’s Grace Hurdle x 2 (Honeysuckle – 2019 & 2020)
  • Irish Champion Hurdle x 2 (Honeysuckle – 2020 & 2021)
  • Slaney Novice Hurdle x 1 (Bob Olinger – 2021)

What I want to look at now is some interesting facts and figures that I have managed to find. Please bare in mind that this post was wrote on the 10th of April 2021 so a few figures may be a few days behind if Rachael has anyway winners in between the day of writing and the day of posting which is the 14th of April. With that in mind, let’s get right into these.

First things first, the trainers that Rachael has ridden for. Now the first one may not come as a surprise, but they trainer Rachael has ridden the most for is Henry De Bromhead. She has ridden 921 times for him, being victorious in 173 including 15 Grade 1’s and 11 Grade 2’s as well as placing in 218 races. This means that Rachael has won 18.78% and placed in 23.67%. So overall Rachael has won or placed in 42.45% of the rides she has had for Henry. I also found that roughly, she has won $8,350,189 AUD, which at the time of writing this (10th April), converts to £4,643,673.71 for Henry alone.

The next trainer is John Hanlon, Rachael has ridden 390 times for him with 28 victories and 62 places. Meaning Rachael has won 7.18% and placed in 15.9% meaning the overall percentage of wins and places is 23.08%. Winning $518,168 AUD which is the equivalent to £288,161.52 in prize money for John.

Third is Miss D O’Shea who Rachael has ridden for 100 times, winning 14 and placing in 20. Meaning she has won 14%, placed in 20% with an overall win/place percentage of 34%. She has won a total of $299,385 AUD which converts to £166,492.79 in prize money.

We then have Ellmarie Holden who Rachael has ridden for 62 times, winning 13 times and placing 23 times. With a win percentage of 20.97%, a place percentage of 37.1% with an overall win/place percentage of 58.07%. In terms of prize money, Rachael has won $418,210 AUD for Ellmarie, which converts to £232,573.27.

The fifth trainer in the list is Willie Mullins. Rachael has ridden 71 times for Willie, including 12 victories and 15 places, which works out to 16.9% wins, 21.13% places with an over all win/place percentage of 38.02%. She has also won $874,981 AUD for Willie, which equals £486,590.93.

Other notable trainers Rachael has ridden for is Joseph O’Brien who she has ridden for 67 time, winning 11 (16.42%), placing in 17 (25.37%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 41.79%. Mouse Morris who Rachael has rode for 54 times, winning 6 (11.11%), placing in 12 (22.22%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 33.33%. Also Gordon Elliott, who she has rode for 46 times with 6 victories (13.04%) and 12 places (21.74%) so an overall win/place percentage of 34.78%. And finally a mention to Noel Meade, who Rachael has rode for 13 times, winning 4 (30.77%) and placing twice (15.38%) with an overall win/place percentage of 46.15%.

Now I’m going to focus on where those wins came. This list is in order of where the most victories have came and so on. When I interviewed Rachael back in January, she told me her favourite track was Leopardstown, however the figures show that Leopardstown is not even in the top 3 of the Irish tracks that Rachael has achieved great things at. In fact Leopardstown is 13th in the list with Rachael riding 157 times, winning 13 times (8.28%) placing in 30 (19.11%) meaning overall the win/place percentage is 27.39%.

So let’s look at the courses where Rachael has done the best so far in her career. (These are all based on most wins.) First up, let’s look at the Irish courses and the first one which is Punchestown, where Rachael has ridden 235 times, winning 37 times (15.75%) and placing 49 times (20.85%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 36.6%. Secondly is Fairyhouse where Rachael has rode 233 times, winning 25 (10.73%) and placing 46 times (19.74%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 30.47%. The third course on the list is Clonmel where Rachael has rode 131 times, winning 23 times (17.56%) and placing 30 times (22.9%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 40.46%.

Moving on to the UK courses now. First up is Cheltenham, Rachael has had 66 rides, winning 10 (15.15%) and placing in 7 (10.61%) meaning an overall percentage of 25.76%. Secondly, which surprised me actually is Huntingdon where Rachael has had 4 rides, winning 3 (75%) and placing in 1 (25%) meaning she has a win/place percentage of 100% here. Thirdly, another surprise to me is Cartmel, here Rachael has rode 11 times, winning twice (18.18%) and placing 3 times (27.27%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 45.45%. Finally I wanted to look at the fourth course, where Rachael famously broke the record of being the first female to win the Grand National and that is of course Aintree. Rachael has only had 13 rides here, winning twice (15.38%) and placing twice (15.38) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 30.76%.

The next thing I wanted to look at is the horses Rachael has had the most success on. The first horse I want to mention is Honeysuckle who Rachael has ridden 11 times and won 11 times meaning a 100% win record. Another with a 100% win record is Abbey Magic who Rachael has ridden 4 times and won 4 times on. Next is a mention to Bob Olinger, they have partnered together 4 times, winning 3 times (75%) and placing once (25%) meaning a win/place percentage of 100%. Another 100% win/place record is A Plus Tard who Rachael has ridden 10 times, winning 3 times (30%) and placing 7 times (70%). Another couple of noticeable mentions goes to Supreme Vinnie who Rachael has ridden 27 times, winning 7 times (25.93%) and placing 7 times (25.93%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 51.86%. A quick mention also to Minella Indo, they have partnered together 10 times, winning 5 times (50%) and placing 3 times (30%) giving an overall win/place percentage of 80% an finally a mention to Notebook who Rachael has ridden 15 times, winning 6 (40%) and placing in 5 (33.33%) meaning an overall win/place percentage of 73.33%).


Overall, from the research I have done, you can see Rachael is a ridiculously talented jockey and at 31 years old, we potentially have many more years left of her riding at the highest level and she could go on to achieve more and more each year. I have met Rachael multiple times and was lucky enough to interview her earlier this year and each and every time she has been incredible, she is welcoming, she speaks to everyone and some of the stories I have seen on social media this week have shown how classy she is. Not only is she super talented, she’s also an incredible ambassador for the sport in every single way. I, for one, am so grateful I am alive at the same time as Rachael Blackmore and able to witness the greatness she has brought to this sport.

One of the 100’s of reasons I absolutely love racing is because women can compete with men on an even playing field at the highest level and be just as good. Racing is a male dominated sport, we all know that, but seeing so many women come through at the highest level is incredible to see and Rachael is one of those paving the way. I love watching Rachael and I hope we have many more years to come of being able to watch her.

I really hope you have all enjoyed reading this post, as much as I loved researching more into Rachael. I shall see you all in my next post!

The History of the Grand National

Good Morning!

Happy Grand National Day! Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. With the Grand National just hours away, today’s post is all about the history of the Grand National. Here, I go through the history of the race as well as some key facts and figures I have found. At the very end of this post you can also find some winning trends, maybe this will help you choose a winner today!

Before we get into it, as some of you may or may not know, I am an official partner blogger with Careers in Racing and this week I got to sit down and speak with Clerk of the Course at Aintree Sulekha Varma on their behalf. We discussed how she is the first female Clerk of the Course to take charge of the Grand National, how different this years Festival has been, protocols in place, what happens to the fences after the Grand National plus much more. You can read the interview right here:

Part One: https://www.careersinracing.com/sulekha-varma-talks-aintree-with-zoe-smith/

Part Two: https://www.careersinracing.com/i-think-its-a-buzz-and-theres-a-real-shot-of-adrenaline-throughout-the-whole-experience/

So with that being said, I hope you all enjoy this one and hopefully you all learn something new about the big race! So without further ado, let’s just get right into it!


The Grand National is a National Hunt Race which is ran left handed over 4 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs (4 miles and 514 yards) over 30 fences (16 separate fences jumped multiple times) at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. It is for 7 year olds and over which are rated 120 or more by the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and have been previously placed in a recognised chase of 3 miles or more.

It was first ran in 1839 on the 26th of February and is the most valuable jump race in Europe. It is widely believed that the first running took place in 1836, however the 1836, 1837 and 1838 races were all disregarded as it is believed that they took place at Maghull and not at Aintree. The 1839 Grand National – which is believed to have been the ‘real’ first Grand National – was won by Lottery who was rode by Jem Mason. Interestingly, it was not until 1843 that the Grand National was made into a handicap, by Edward Topham who was a respected handicapper at the time and held a great influence over the National, for the first 4 years it had been a ‘weight for age’ race.

During the First World War, from 1916 to 1918, Aintree Racecourse was taken over by the war office so an alternative race took place at Gatwick Racecourse – which is now land that is occupied by Gatwick Airport. In 1916 the race was called the Racecourse Association Steeplechase, in 1917 and 1918 the race was called the War National Steeplechase. However, these three races are not classed as ‘Grand Nationals’ and the results of these three races often get left out of the winners list.

During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1945, no Grand National was run as Aintree Racecourse was used by the armed forces for defence use. So the Grand National did not return until 1946 where it was ran on a Friday. However it was only in 1947 that it was moved to a Saturday as the Home Secretary James Chuter Ede thought it would be better for a wider audience of working people, from then on, it has been ran on a Saturday each year.


Moving on to some key winners of the Grand National. The first ever winner, as mentioned above, was in 1839 and it was a horse called Lottery for jockey Jem Mason, trainer George Dockeray and owner John Elmore. He was the 5/1 favourite and carried 12 stone where he won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The first horse to win multiple Grand National’s came in 1850 and 1851 when Abd-El-Kader won in 2 consecutive Grand Nationals. In 1850, he won carrying 9 stone 12 pounds for jockey Chris Green, trainer and owner Joseph Osborne in a time of 9 minutes 57.5 seconds. He then won again, in 1851, this time for jockey Tom Abbott carrying 10 stone and 4 pounds.

We then move forward to 1868 where The Lamb won the race at 9/1 for jockey George Ede, trainer Ben Land and owner Lord Poulett carrying 10 stone 7 pounds, he then retained his title in 1871 where he won for jockey Tommy Pickernell and trainer Chris Green for the same owner Lord Poulett, this time at 7/2 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds. In the 2 years during his two wins, they were both won by a horse called The Colonel, in 1869 he won carrying 10 stone 7 pounds at 100/7, then he won again in 1870 carrying 11 stone 12 pounds this time as the 7/2 favourite. Both times for jockey George Stevens and trainer R. Roberts.

In 1908, the race was won by Rubio who I wrote a post about earlier this year, you can read this right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/03/rubio-the-retired-grand-national-winner/

In 1928, the record for the fewest finishers in a Grand National was set, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

I am now going to jump forward a little bit to the 1950’s. Here, trainer Vincent O’Brien won 3 consecutive Grand National’s with 3 different horses. In 1953, he won with Early Mist who was carrying 11 stone 2 pounds, being rode by Bryan Marshall at 20/1 for owner Joe Griffin. In 1954, he won with Royal Tan who carried 11 stone 7 pounds again rode by Bryan Marshall at 8/1, again for owner Joe Griffin. In 1955, he won with Quare Times who carried 11 stone with Pat Taaffe riding at 100/9 for owner Cecily Welman.

The next noticeable winner is Foinavon who won at 100/1 in 1967, this is such a noticeable win as you may recognise the name as a fence in the Grand National is named after this horse. In 1967, the rest of the field fell, refused, were hampered or brought down at the 23rd fence, which led 100/1 shot Foinavon to winning the race. So in 1984, that exact fence was named after Foinavon.

We then move into the 1970’s, which were totally dominated by the incredible Red Rum. My midweek post just gone was all about Red Rum and his career so if you haven’t already, then do go and check that out! Red Rum won the race in 1973, 1974 and again in 1977 all for trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain and owner Noel Le Mare. In 1973, he was rode by Brian Fletcher as the 9/1 joint favourite, in 1974, he was again rode by Brian Fletcher at 11/1 and in 1977 he was rode by Tommy Stack at 9/1.

1981, we had Bob Champion win on Aldaniti, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, you can read that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/06/1981-grand-national-bob-champion-the-greatest-comeback/

In 1993, the race was declared void, you can read that whole story right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/06/1993-the-grand-national-that-never-was/

And in 1997 there was a delay in proceedings and the race didn’t take place until the following Monday. The full story plus insights from someone who was in attendance is right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/20/1997-the-postponed-grand-national/

We then move into the new millennium where we have winners such as 16/1 shot Monty’s Pass for Barry Geraghty, Jimmy Mangan and Dee Racing Syndicate in 2003, 7/1 favourite Hedgehunter for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Trevor Hemmings in 2005 and 100/1 shot Mon Mome for Liam Treadwell, Venetia Williams and Vida Bingham in 2009.

In 2010, we have Don’t Push It who gave 20 time Champion Jockey AP McCoy his first and only Grand National as the 10/1 joint favourite for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus.

We then have some big prices come into play, with Neptune Collonges winning at 33/1 for Daryl Jacob, Paul Nicholls and John Hales in 2012 followed by 66/1 winner Auroras Encore in 2013 for Ryan Mania and Sue Smith. In 2014 we have Pineau De Re at 25/1 for Leighton Aspell and Richard Newland followed by another 25/1 shot, Many Clouds again for Leighton Aspell, this time for Oliver Sherwood in the Trevor Hemmings colours. In 2016 we are followed up by Rule The World at 33/1 for David Mullins and Mouse Morris in the famous Gigginstown House Stud.

Now onto the last three runs of the Grand National. In 2017, 14/1 shot One For Arthur won for jockey Derek Fox, trainer Lucinda Russell and owners Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung. The next two years were both won by Tiger Roll for jockey Davy Russell, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud. In 2018 carrying 10 stone 13 pounds at 10/1 and in 1029 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds as the 4/1 favourite.

The 2020 renewal of the Grand National was cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.


Next up, let’s move onto the fences. There are 16 fences on the Grand National course, all 16 are jumped on the first lap and then on the final lap the runners bear to the right onto the run in so they avoid The Chair and the Water jump. Here is a summary of the fences and their heights:

Fence 1 & 17: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 2 & 18: 4 feet 7 inches (1.40 metres)

Fence 3 & 19: Open Ditch – 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch

Fence 4 & 20: 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres)

Fence 5 & 21: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 6 & 22: Becher’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with landing side 6 inches (15cm) to 10 inches (25cm) lower than the takeoff side

Fence 7 & 23: Foinavon – 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 8 & 24: Canal Turn – 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 9 & 25: Valentine’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 metres) brook

Fence 10 & 26: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 11 & 27: Open ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch on the take off side

Fence 12 & 28: Ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inch (1.68 metres) ditch on the landing side

Fence 13 & 29: 4 feet 7 inches (1.4 metres)

Fence 14 & 30: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 15: The Chair – 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 metres) preceded by a 6 feet (1.83 metres) wide ditch

Fence 16: Water Jump – 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 metres)


Let’s jump into some records for the Grand National!

Leading Horse:

Red Rum – 1973, 1974 and 1977

Leading Jockey:

George Stevens – 1856 on Freetrader, 1863 on Emblem, 1864 on Emblematic and 1869 an 1870 on The Colonel

Leading Trainers:

George Dockeray – 1839 with Lottery, 1840 with Jerry, 1842 with Gaylad and 1852 with Miss Mowbray

Fred Rimell – 1956 with E.S.B, 1961 with Nicolaus Silver, 1970 with Gay Trip and 1976 with Rag Trade.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum and 2004 with Amberleigh House

Leading Owners:

James Octavius Machell – 1873 with Disturbance, 1874 with Reugny and 1876 with Regal

Noel Le Mare – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum

Trevor Hemmings – 2005 with Hedgehunter, 2011 with Ballabriggs and 2015 with Many Clouds

Gigginstown House Stud – 2016 with Rule The World and 2018 and 2019 with Tiger Roll


The fastest run Grand National was in 1990 when Mr. Frisk won in a time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. The slowest was the first running of the Grand National in 1839 when Lottery won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The oldest winner was in 1853 when 15 year old Peter Simple won. The youngest horses to win have all been 5 years old and they are Alcibiade in 1865, Regal in 1876, Austerlitz in 1877, Empress in 1880 and Lutteur III in 1909.

The oldest jockey was 48 year old Dick Saunders who won in 1982, the youngest being Bruce Hobbs who won in 1938 when he was just 17 years old.

The biggest priced winners were all 100/1 when they won and we have a few, these are Tipperary Tim in 1928, Gregalach in 1929, Caughoo in 1947, Foinavon in 1967 and Mon Mome in 2009. With the shorted priced winner being 11/4 Poethlyn in 1919.

The biggest Grand National was in 1929 when 66 horses ran, the smallest being in 1883 when only 10 horses ran.

The most horses to finish a Grand National was in 1984 when 23 horses finished, the fewest being in 1928 when only 2 horses finished, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

The jockey who has had the most rides in the Grand National is Richard Johnson who was had rode 21 times and is still yet to win the race. After his retirement being announced this past weekend, Tom Scudamore who rides the favourite Cloth Cap this afternoon is the jockey who has rode the most times without a victory with 18 rides in the race.

The first female jockey to enter the race was Charlotte Brew in 1977 who rode 200/1 shot Barony Fort.

The first female jockey to complete the race was Geraldine Rees on Cheers in 1982.

The best result for a female jockey was in 2012 when Katie Walsh finished 3rd on the 8/1 joint favourite Seabass.

The female jockey with the most rides in the Grand National is Nina Carberry who rode in her 5th in 2010.

There has been 4 female trainers who have won the race. Jenny Pitman in 1995 with Royal Athlete, Venetia Williams in 2009 with Mon Mome, Sue Smith in 2013 with Auroras Encore and Lucinda Russell in 2017 with One For Arthur.


Onto some other interesting facts to note… In the 70 races of the post war era (not including the 1993 void race) the favourite or joint favourite have only won the race 10 times, these were:

1950: Freebooter at 10/1

1960: Merryman II at 13/2

1973: Red Rum at 9/1 JF

1982: Grittar at 7/1

1996: Rough Quest at 7/1

1998: Earth Summit at 7/1

2005: Hedgehunter at 7/1

2008: Comply or Die at 7/1 JF

2010: Don’t Push It at 10/1 JF

2019: Tiger Roll at 4/1


Only 13 mares have ever won the Grand National and all of these were prior to 1951:

Charity in 1841

Miss Mowbray in 1852

Anatis in 1860

Jealousy in 1861

Emblem in 1863

Emblematic in 1864

Casse Tete in 1872

Empress in 1880

Zoedone in 1883

Frigate in 1889

Shannon Lass in 1902

Sheila’s Cottage in 1948

Nickel Coin in 1951


Only 3 greys have ever won the Grand National and these are:

The Lamb in 1868 and 1871

Nicolaus Silver in 1961

Neptune Collonges in 2012


Now onto international winners. There have been 2 French trained horses who were Huntsman in 1862 an Cortolvin in 1867.

There has only ever been one Welsh trained horse who was Kirkland in 1905 and 2 Scottish trained winners who are Rubstic in 1979 and One For Arthur in 2017.

There has been 16 Irish winners since 1900, which includes 9 since 1999, these are… Ambush II in 1900, Troytown in 1920, Workman in 1939, Caughoo in 1947, Early Mist 1953, Royal Tan in 1954, Quare Times in 1955, L’Escargot in 1975, Bobbyjo in 1999, Papillon in 2000, Monty’s Pass in 2003, Hedgehunter in 2005, Numbersixvalverde in 2006, Silver Birch in 2007, Rule The World in 2016 and Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019.


Now onto some interesting winning trends. I have sat and collated this information myself via the Racing Post website and created the different trends, so I apologise if I have got anything slightly incorrect, but I have tried to verify this information as best as I possibly could but as you can imagine sitting with a pen and paper trying to work this out isn’t the easiest of tasks! These are all based on the last 20 runs since 2000.

4/20 have been 8 years old
6/20 have been 9 years old
5/20 have been 10 years old
4/20 have been 11 years old
1/20 has been 12 years old

2/20 have carried 10-6 or less
17/20 have carried between 10-6 and 11-6
1/20 has carried 11-6 or more

10/20 had their previous run between 20 and 30 days before
5/20 had their previous run between 31 and 40 days before
3/20 had their previous run between 41 and 50 days before
2/20 had their previous run over 51 days before (2017 winner One For Arthur having his previous run 84 days before making him the one with the longest break between his final run before the Grand National)

16/20 had previously ran at Aintree
8/20 had previously ran in the Grand National
20/20 had ran 3+ times in the season leading up to their Grand National win

5/20 won last time out before the Grand National
7/20 finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th last time out before the Grand National
6/20 finished outside of the top 4 last time out before the Grand National
1/20 fell last time out before the Grand National
1/20 pulled up last time out before the Grand National

4/20 were favourite or joint favourite

One thing I also wanted to mention is that the owner of current favourite Cloth Cap, Trevor Hemmings won the Grand National in 2005, 2011 and 2015. The years ending with 5 and 1, so could 2021 be his year again?


So there we have it, I have tried my best to include as much detail as I possibly could into this post with plenty of facts ad figures and some winning trends which may or may not help you choose a Grand National winner today. Who are you backing? Let me know over on my Twitter: zoelouisesmithx.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you all enjoyed this one and I hope you all pick a few winners today, including the Grand National winner. I hope to see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for my next post!

Red Rum: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today is another part in my What Makes a People’s Horse series and with the Grand National fast approaching there is no better time to write this post! This one is a horse I wanted to look into, because let’s be honest, he will always go down as one of the greatest there ever was and that is, of course, the absolute legend that is Red Rum. So without further ado, let’s just get right into it.


Red Rum was foaled on May 3rd 1965, by Quorum, out of Mared. He was bred in Ireland by breeder Martyn McEnery at Rossenarra Stud in Kells, County Kilkenny. He was named Red Rum when Martyn McEnery took the last three letters of his dam and sire, respectively. Red Rum was sold as a yearling at the sales in Dublin for 400 guineas.

Initially, Red Rum was bred to win one mile races, little did anyone know, he would end up winning over the longest distance he could. He started his career running in a five furlong flat race at Aintree Racecourse (Oh the irony), where he dead heated. As a two year old he ran another 7 times including a win over 7 furlong at Warwick Racecourse. In his early career he was ridden twice by Lester Piggott. Another interesting fact, comedian Lee Mack was a stable lad at the time and he had his first ever riding lesson on Red Rum. (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/lilyallen/celeb_leemack.shtml)

Very early in Red Rum’s career, disaster struck when he was diagnosed with Pedal osteitis – a debilitating, incurable bone disease.

Red Rum was passed around trainer to trainer to trainer when he became a jumper as he was written off by many. However, Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, who at the time, was running his very modest horse training establishment in Southport behind a car showroom, brought Red Rum at Doncaster for just £6,000. When he got Red Rum home, he actually found that he was lame, at the time worrying that he had wasted Noel Le Mare’s money.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain looked after Red Rum by taking him for therapeutic gallops and swims on Southport beach, this seemed to help treat his pedal osteitis.

We then move onto the 1973 Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, a far stretch from the five furlong sprint he started his career in. Eight year old Red Rum carried a weight of 10-5 starting the race at 9/1 under Brian Fletcher. Crisp, an Australian chaser with Richard Pitman riding led the field practically the whole way round, when he jumped the last fence, he was 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, however Red Rum, with Brian Fletcher on board made up the ground two strides from the finishing post and pipped Crisp on the line by three quarters of a length. They were 25 lengths clear of L’Escargot (11/1) and Tommy Carberry in 3rd. Red Rum won the race in a record time of 9:01.9. – If you have not seen this race then you can watch it right here and I highly recommend you do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCjhsE6kox4

In 1974, Red Rum once again went to Aintree to try and retain his title, this time carrying 12 stone, a whole 23 pounds more than in 1973. At 11/1, Brian Fletcher took the ride again. Where once again, Red Rum won the race, beating last years 3rd place, 17/2 shot L’Escargot with Tommy Carberry on board.

Just a few weeks later Red Rum and Brian Fletcher headed to Ayr, Scotland for the Scottish Grand National, where carrying 11-13 he ended up winning. To this day, he is the only horse to have won both the English Grand National and Scottish Grand National in the same season.

We then move on to 1975, this is where the tables reversed. This time Red Rum, carrying 12 stone for a second time, under Brian Fletcher and starting as the 7/2 favourite, finished 15 lengths behind L’Escargot and Tommy Carberry who carried 11-3 as a 13/2 shot.

In 1976, Tommy Stack took the ride as Brian Fletcher had angered trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain by telling the press that Red Rum no longer felt ‘right’ after a defeat. This time Red Rum carried 11-10 and started at 10/1. However, he was held off by Rag Trade (14/1) and John Burke, carrying almost a stone less, 10-12.

Moving swiftly into 1977, Red Rum was thought to be ‘too old’ at the age of 12 to win the Grand National again, for a third time. He had started the season poorly, winning at Carlisle before seeming lacklustre in the next four races. At the time, people said that trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain had lost all confidence in him, however he redeemed himself in his final race before Aintree, seemingly back in fine form. Initially Red Rum was given the top weight for the Grand National, however it had dropped to 11-8. He started the race as the 9/1 joint favourite under Tommy Stack, and breaking all records, he won the race to Churchtown Boy (20/1) and Martin Blackshaw in second place. To this day, Red Rum’s record of winning 3 Grand National’s still stands.

In 1977, Red Rum also visited the BBC Studios to appear on Sports Personality of the Year. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/sports-personality/25316270) where he delighted viewers when he recognised the voice of jockey Tommy Stack who was appearing via a video link.

Also in 1977, Red Rum helped open the Steeplechase Rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach as well as switching on the Blackpool Illuminations.

Now a three time Grand National winner, in 1978, Red Rum was entered to run again, however the day before the Grand National took place he had a canter at Aintree Racecourse and he was declared out of the race due to a hairline fracture, however he was still allowed to lead the post race parade. It was at this time that it was decided Red Rum would be retired.

The evening of Red Rum’s retirement, he was the lead story on every news channel as well as front page news for every newspaper the following day.

After retiring from racing, Red Rum became a national celebrity, he would lead the Grand National parade every year up until the 1990’s, but not only this, he also opened supermarkets, appeared on playing cards, paintings, jigsaw puzzles and more. He had many books wrote about him as well as a song called Red Rum by a group called Chaser, written by Steve Jolley, Richard Palmer and Tony Swain.

On October 18th 1995, at the age of 30, Red Rum sadly passed away. He was buried at the winning post of Aintree Racecourse. The epitaph reads ‘Respect this place, this hollowed ground, a legend here, his rest has found, his feet would fly, our spirits soar, he earned our love for evermore.’ I was lucky enough to visit Red Rum’s final resting place and the feeling you get whilst standing there is one I cannot describe, he was a very special horse, one I could only have wished I was around to see.

In the early 1970’s, the future of the Grand National was uncertain, however Red Rum’s record breaking few years ensured huge public support for the fund to buy Aintree Racecourse and put it in the hands of the Jockey Club.

20 time Champion Jockey AP McCoy later said of Red Rum:

Red Rum’s feats, of three Nationals and two seconds, are legendary. They will never be equalled, let alone surpassed. They say records are there to be broken, but Red Rum’s at Aintree is one which will stand the test of time.”

Later, a life sized statue of Red Rum was put up at Aintree Racecourse as well as a smaller bronze statue inside Wayfarers Arcade in Southport.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/8775130/Tony-McCoy-jump-jockeys-owe-Ginger-McCain-a-huge-debt-for-saving-the-Grand-National.html

On September 19th 2011, Red Rum’s trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain passed away aged 80.

Red Rum had 100 runs, 24 wins, 15 seconds and 23 thirds, earning him £146,409.80.


Overall, I don’t think I even need to say anything. Red Rum is a legend within horse racing, but also to people who don’t even support the sport. In 2006, 11 years after his death, a survey found that Red Rum was the not only the best known racehorse, but also the best known equine animal, with 45% of Britons naming him and 33% naming Black Beauty. This to me is enough proof that Red Rum is a people’s horse. Personally, I was not even alive when Red Rum was, but I know who he is, I have watched his races and I have loved him just as much as those who did witness his greatness first hand. If new generations know him and love him, this furthers the proof that he is a people’s horse.

With Tiger Roll being pulled out of the 2021 Grand National, it may be many years until a horse wins 3 Grand Nationals to equal Red Rum’s record and even longer for a horse to come along and beat it – If it ever is beat.

I loved this post, there is not much information on Red Rum’s smaller victories, most of the articles and pages I have read focus on his Grand Nationals, English and Scottish, but not much else. I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will hopefully see you in my next post!

Synchronised: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I bring to you another post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series and I am focusing on Synchronised. Thank you to @Robster2337 on Twitter for the suggestion. Let’s just jump straight into it!


Synchronised was foaled on 7th March 2003 by Sadler’s Wells out of Mayasta. He was bred in Ireland at the Martinstown Stud in County Limerick by Noreen McManus, the wife of his owner J. P. McManus. Synchronised went into training with Jonjo O’Neill.

Synchronised started his career on 14th February 2008 at Chepstow when he took part in a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles 11 yards. He started the race at 33/1 under Richie McLernon, who at the time was claiming 7 pounds. He surprised everyone, when he actually placed and finishedsecond behind Osolomio (20/1). After a decent enough start to his career, Synchronised then headed to Towcester for another Maiden Hurdle on the 23rd March 2008, again under Richie McLernon (7), this time with a lot shorter odds of 9/2. This time he went one better and beat the 5/4 favourite Debauchery by 3/4 of a length.

Synchronised then took a 228 day summer break, before returning to Towcester on 6th November 2008 for a Handicap Hurdle. He started the race at 4/1 under Richie McLernon (7), however was very disappointing when finishing 10th out of 12, 34 and 1/4 lengths behind the 15/2 winner Character Building. He then took an 84 day break before returning in 2009, on the 29th of January at Wincanton for a Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Again under Richie McLernon (6), he started the race at 5/1 and although blundering the last fence, he ended up winning by 3 1/2 lengths to Cashel Blue (6/1) in second.

A year to the date of his first ever run, on the 14th February 2009, Synchronised then headed to Haydock for a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier over 3 miles 1 furlong. He started the race as an 11/1 outsider, this time under Richie McGrath. He ended up beating Tazbar (8/1) by just a neck. Synchronised then headed to the Cheltenham Festival and on the 12th of March he was declared for the Listed Race, Pertemps Final. He started the race at 9/1 under Richie McLernon (5) and was one of many of the J. P. McManus horses to run. He was hampered on the bend after 2 out and was midfield when he fell at the last hurdle.

After his first fall of his career, Synchronised took a 251 day summer break before returning on the 18th of November 2009, this time at Market Race for his first attempt over the bigger obstacles in a Beginners Chase. This time, Champion Jockey AP McCoy to the ride, with Synchronised starting as the 7/4 favourite, his shortest odds to date. He impressively won by 2 lengths to Richard Johnson on 9/4 shot Bluegun. Synchronised had clearly not let the first fall of his career effect him and seemed to enjoy the bigger obstacles.

Just two weeks later on the 5th December 2009, Synchronised headed to Chepstow for a Novices’ Chase. Here he started as the 7/2 joint favourite under Richie McLernon (5), impressively winning by 4 1/2 lengths to Giles Cross (8/1). Synchronised then took a 51 day break.

Heading into 2010, on the 25th of January, Synchronised headed to Fontwell for a Novices’ Chase over 2 miles 5 furlong. Here he started at 9/4 under AP McCoy, however this time the partnership could only manage a third place behind winner Over Sixty (7/1) and Penn De Benn (22/1). After a 54 day break, Synchronised then headed to Uttoxeter on March 20th 2010 for the Midlands Grand National over 4 miles, 1 furlong and 92 yards over 24 fences, a massive step up from the races he had previously had. He started the race at 15/2 under AP McCoy, finishing the race very tired, Synchronised ended up winning by 3/4 of a length to Daryl Jacob on L’Aventure (12/1).

After a tough race, Synchronised had a 244 day break, before starting the new season on the 19th of November at Exeter where he took part in a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier. Starting at 9/1 under Richie McLernon (3), however he could only manager a 5th out of 6 finishers. He then headed to Cheltenham on the 10th of December for a Handicap Hurdle where under AP McCoy at 14/1 only finished 6th out of 11 finishers.

Swiftly moving into 2011, on the 8th of January, Synchronised headed to Chepstow for the Welsh Grand National over 3 miles, 4 furlong and 98 yards over 22 fences as a 5/1 shot under AP McCoy. Here, he won by 2 3/4 lengths to Harry Skelton on Giles Cross (12/1). Synchronised then took a 70 day break before heading to Uttoxeter on the 19th of March for his second shot at the Midlands Grand National over 4 miles, 1 furlong and 92 yards over 22 fences, with 2 omitted. He started as the 9/2 favourite under AP McCoy, however unfortunately he could only manage a third place this time round behind winner Minella Four Star (25/1) and second place Ballyfitz (16/1).

Synchronised then headed across the Irish Sea to Fairyhouse on the 25th of April for the Irish Grand National. He was rode by Alan Crowe as a 25/1 shot, unfortunately being pulled up before 6 out where the jockey said he was never travelling.

Synchronised then took a 181 day break before heading to Aintree on the 23rd of October 2011 for a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier, here he was a 50/1 shot under Mr A J Berry (3), where he finished 7th out of 13 finishers. On the 19th of November, he then headed to Haydock for a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle under AP McCoy as a 25/1 shot. Here he finished 3rd behind winner Dynaste (7/1) and Benny Be Good (20/1) in second.

HIs last race in 2011 came on the 28th of December when he crossed the Irish Sea once again, this time for the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Here he started at 8/1 under AP McCoy, winning impressively by 8 1/2 lengths to Rubi Light (9/4) in second and 13/8 favourite Quito De La Roque in third.

After a 79 day break, Synchronised then headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival and on the 16th of March 2012 he was declared for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He started at 8/1 under AP McCoy. He made a couple of mistakes throughout the race, but these did not stop him from winning by 2 1/4 lengths to Tom Scudamore on 50/1 shot The Giant Bolster.

The next race for Synchronised, and sadly, unknown to everyone, would be his last ever, would be the Grand National at Aintree on the 14th of April 2012. He started at 10/1 under AP McCoy, however fell at the 6th fence, Becher’s Brook. AP McCoy suffered a soft tissue injury, however Synchronised did not look injured and continued to run rider-less until attempting to jump the 11th fence where he incurred a fractured tibia and fibula in his right hind leg, meaning racecourse vets had no choice but to euthanise him.

Synchronised was sadly put to sleep at just 9 years old.

Three days later, J. P. McManus issued a statement where he said he felt ‘deep sadness and sense of devastation’ at the death of Synchronised and explained that ‘losing any horse is very sad but one as brave as Synchronised is a very big loss for all involved’. He also revealed that the horse had been buried at Jackdaws Castle. (Source: https://archive.vn/20120910053035/http://www.racingpost.com/news/horse-racing/j-p-mc-manus-synchronised-aintree-cheltenham-mcmanus-we-feel-deep-sadness-and-devastation/1017222/top/)

A few weeks later, AP McCoy said that:

Synchronised is a horse that I won’t ever forget. It is one of those terrible things that you wish will never happen.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/horse-racing/17917755

In 2015, when AP McCoy retired, he described Synchronised as his favourite horse to have rode in his career, saying:

The mother of Synchronised, Mayasta, was my first winner for JP (McManus) in 1996 and Synchronised gave me the greatest day in racing. JP spent his whole life trying to buy a Gold Cup horse, and his wife bred one for him. He was a bit like I am as a human being. He probably wasn’t the greatest horse I’d ridden but he had the greatest will to win. As a jump jockey I’ve seen the human side of horse racing be really tough, but in equine terms what happened to Synchronised was the worst day I’ve had in racing. When he fell I can distinctly remember him galloping off. I remember being in pain but thinking at least the horse is all right. Afterwards when he was loose he managed to get injured. I was very sore, but I cried for days afterwards. That affected me more than any other horse. It’s personal and that’s why he’s number one.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/31737340


Regularly in these posts I would now go through the figures of a horses career, but on this occassion, for me, AP McCoy summed it up perfectly. Synchronised was a horse that was all heart, he had the will to win and he truly wore his heart on his sleeve. I will include Synchronised’s race record below so you can look at it and break it down for yourselves, but I, personally, think the words of AP McCoy was enough to end this post on the fact that he was loved, not for his facts and figures, but for his heart.

Synchronised Race Record:
21/011F/1131/5613/P7311F/

I want to thank you all for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it as always and I will see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Eoin Walsh

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. I hope you all had a brilliant final day of Cheltenham yesterday! Today I am super excited to bring to you an interview with Eoin Walsh. He has recently returned from a pretty serious injury, so I caught up with him about all things racing, including his recovery and the importance of the Injured Jockeys Fund. Let’s jump right into it!


Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Eoin: My favourite race would have to be when I won on Zeeband at Thirsk for Roger Varian. It wasn’t the biggest race in the world, but I rode him out every morning since I started at Roger’s and he wasn’t the most straight forward in the mornings, he’s quite a difficult ride. To actually get on him and to get a win on him was fantastic and it meant a lot to me.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Eoin: I think I’d have to go for a horse from the past. I think I’d pick Frankel. The way he won the Guineas was phenomenal and every other race he won was breath-taking. He was just a freak. I’d have loved to have had a go on him.

Me: What are you opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Eoin: My opinion on banning the whip is absolutely ridiculous. The whip is out there as a corrective measure and an encouragement method. It’s not there to harm or hurt the horse. All of us in racing love our animals, there’s nobody who’s out there to hurt the horse. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, so what would you eat on a regular day? Are there any periods across the year where you can actually just eat everything and anything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Eoin: For me, I struggle with my weight quite a lot. I’m one of the heavier, taller jockeys in the weighing room. A typical day for me in the summer whilst I’m racing would probably be have a coffee in the morning, a coffee at lunch time and if I’m lucky, get home and have some dinner. Other than that, I wouldn’t eat a lot. In my off time, I tend to let myself go and enjoy myself but I do have to pay the price for it when I come back.

Me: So you’ve recently came back from quite a bad injury, how hard is it to return to the sport that put you into that position?

Eoin: I’ve never really thought about retiring from this injury. It’s more of a case of wanting to, I’ve got a good job at Roger Varian’s so I just felt the quicker I got back, the quicker I got going again. We’re coming into the flat season so I didn’t want to be joining the string half way through the season when all the jockey’s key positions were already filled. I wanted to get back before the turf so I could get fit and I’ll be available when wanted for the flat season.

Me: On from that, horse racing is one of the very few sports to have a charity who do the work the Injured Jockey’s Fund do, how important are they to jockeys and the sport as a whole?

Eoin: The Injured Jockey’s Fund are absolutely phenomenal. They are a great bunch of people and a massive help to all of us jockeys and we could not thank them enough.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Eoin: With the world hopefully returning to normal fairly soon, I hope that in a down time I’d be able to travel to Thailand with friends, Callum Shepherd, Kieran O’Neill and Stefano. We like to get away for a couple of weeks, let our hair down and make the most of our time off.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Eoin: I would probably look up to the likes of Adam Kirby and James Doyle the most. They’d be my two favourites, they’re very good jockeys, very good horsemen and two nice people.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Eoin: When it comes to a race I’d love to win, I’m not going to be fussy. I’ll take any race, I’m just happy when I’m crossing the line in front. There’s no particular race I’d want to win at this stage. Just every winner matters to me, so yeah, any winner, any horse I can ride that wins.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Eoin: My overall goal the next couple of years would be to establish myself as one of the main riders for one of the big yards in town. I’d love to hope it’ll be Roger Varian’s but I’ll hopefully get my opportunity somewhere.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Eoin: I’d once again have to go for my old favourite Zeeband as a horse to follow. I think he’s gonna be a very, very nice four year old this year. I thought, personally, anything he did last year would be a bonus towards this year. I think he’s rated near the 90’s now and I think he’ll improve further. I think he could be a class act this season over the longer distances.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Eoin: I love riding at either of the Newmarket Racecourses. Mainly because I don’t have to travel far but because they’re just such prestigious courses and riding a winner there last season was absolutely amazing even though there was no crowd.

Me: With the Grand National coming up and it being announced Tiger Roll won’t run, do you fancy anything at the moment?

Eoin: I really hope Bristol De Mai wins the Grand National. It would be lovely for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He’s a very good trainer and I just love the horse as well, he’s just an absolute legend of the game.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Eoin: I can only answer for kids coming into racing, but my one bit of advice is just keep your head down, ask as many questions as you can, learn as much as you can from the older lads that have been around and just keep yourself to yourself and try and stay out of trouble. Coming into racing is very difficult for anyone, it’s not easy leaving home but you just need to get yourself around a good group of people and hopefully you can bring yourself forward.


I want to thank Eoin for his time to answer some questions, I know how busy he is now he’s returning to the saddle so I appreciate his time. For me, I think it’s incredible how strong jockeys are, mentally and physically. If I had been hit with an injury as severe as Eoin’s, I don’t know if I could come back and have the mindset that Eoin has but also other jockeys have too. I think it’s a testament to their strength when jockeys can come back and normally they’re better and stronger than ever when they do so.

I have had a busy two weeks on my website with 9 posts in 12 days and I have absolutely loved it, I hope you’ve all enjoyed the past 2 weeks posts and I will see you all on Wednesday evening at 6pm for my next one!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all a brilliant final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Today I am super excited to bring you an interview with Richard Pitman. I had the honour of speaking to Richard this week about all things racing including that race Crisp vs Red Rum. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Richard and I hope you all enjoy!


Me: You obviously won some incredible races in your career, but what was your favourite race, win or lose?

Richard: I’m afraid it’s pretty obvious, but it was 40 years before you were born, it was Crisp in the 1973 Grand National finishing second to Red Rum. And the reason being, Aintree is just a magical cauldron and for him to have made the running and jump the fences as if they were hurdles, until all the steam ran out… He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase which is run at the Cheltenham Festival and he won by about 20 lengths and then just to nearly win the national, it was an amazing ride.

Me: The one question I wanted to ask about that Grand National was how did you feel at the time when you got beat by Red Rum and did those feelings change over the years when you realised just how special Red Rum went on to be?

Richard: Well, that’s a good question. You see, the good Champion jockey’s… I was second in the jockey Championship twice but didn’t win it… The good Champion jockey’s, McCoy, Francome, Scudamore, Dunwoody, Dicky Johnson – Their tunnel vision, like Usain Bolt in running races. But I was more of a cavalier, I just enjoyed riding so although it was devastating to be caught – and I could hear him coming, it was fast ground so you could here his hoofed feet and he was a high blower so every time he exhaled his nostril flaps, so it got louder and louder but it was only the last two strides that he swept past me. So utter devastation but only a minute to recover and be elated because it was a ride money couldn’t buy, I had earnt it and it was my ride. Okay, I’ll be blamed for being beaten for many many things. Going on was one of them but that was our plan. He was such a bold jumper, in behind 40 horses he’d have jumped on someone else’s back so that’s what we had to do. I made a wrong decision taking my hand off the reigns to give him a whip half way up the running. You know, he was a big horse, tired, gone… I should’ve kept hold of his head, but there you are, you can’t go back. I remember every blade of grass in that race but I admire Red Rum… So much, you couldn’t not. I rode him for the BBC, I used to do lots of stunts afterwards around Aintree in the build up to the National, so I rode Red Rum with two other horses on the flat track there and Ginger McCain who was a larger than life, micky taking man, said “now then Pitman, you seen his backside in 73, you can look through his ears now lad” and gave me the leg up.

Me: Another question following on from that, I wanted to ask was how did you feel when history essentially repeated itself when your son Mark Pitman got beat on Garrison Savannah by Seagram in a similar fashion in the 1991 Grand National?

Richard: Yeah, good question! Well Mark was heavier than me, I was always a chubby little fella who had trouble with my weight, but Mark was taller and had more trouble. He used to be in his sauna from 5am to 7am in the dead of winter in his garage and then go out and ride 5 or 6 lots on the gallops in the freezing cold, it was really hard work and he was a good jockey. His mother would have hated it but he and I did discuss how to do things and I’m sure she would have done with him many times. And he asked for my advice and I said “Mark you won’t believe how quickly horses lose their petrol up the running if stamina comes into play.” And at elbow he hadn’t gone for Garrison Savannah and I put my coat on as I was working for the BBC and Bill Smith was with me, I said “Bill the replay is yours I’m going to see Mark come in” and as I got my coat on he said “you better turn around, the picture has changed” and as he got to the elbow, again he just flattened out. Once they go at that distance and lose their stamina, they just walk. He was beaten by Seagram who was very cleverly rode by Nigel Hawke coming wide and not challenging close up so not to galvanise Garrison but Garrison had gone. But he rode a great race.

Plus, he had won the Gold Cup 3 weeks before and two hours later was in Cheltenham general hospital with internal injuries and a fractured pelvis, but rode 3 weeks later in the National. But that was nothing to do with him getting beat because he was on plenty of pain killers, but I was so proud of him… I still am.

Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training now, who would you choose and why?

Richard: Aw, there are so many aren’t there? I think Cloth Cap is the biggest certainty we’ve seen in the National for years, providing nothing goes wrong. If you look at the previous videos of McCoy on Clan Royal going down to Becher’s for the second time, five or six clear, on the bridle, two loose horses run across him and force him into the wing of the fence. I mean… It’s such a race where you don’t know what’s going to happen. But Cloth Cap at Jonjo’s, I love the way he jumps, he goes on the ground, he gallops with his head quite low, not overly low, but quite low – which I love. It means a horse is looking at the bottom of the fence, rather than head up, fighting the jockey. So Cloth Cap for me, is the one horse I’d love to ride.

Me: And from your point of view, you retired many years ago, but how do you feel about the discussions to ban the whip? And how important was the whip for yourself when you were riding?

Richard: Right, now… I should not have used my whip on Crisp half way up the running at Aintree, it unbalanced him, I took my hands off the reigns. I think it did more harm than good. And I challenge anyone, anywhere to come up with a video showing me where the use of a whip has stopped a horse from running out or being the aide it’s meant to be. Of course, it’s meant to be used to encourage, but to me it puts a lot of horses off. That’s why I love watching the flat as well, the ground is so much better and there is a lot less use of the whip. I’d agree, let them carry it, but only give them a slap down the shoulder for encouragement, I would not want them to take their hand off the reigns or give them one behind the saddle. I am very strong on that and yet people say to me “but you used it” – Yes I used it, but not in excess. Fred Winter, my trainer would always say “you can give them two, but don’t give them three.”

Me: What was your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Richard: Probably Cheltenham because I was born there. I could always see the course and I have a field with my sister now on Cleeve Hill looking down into the racecourse. Cheltenham really grabs me and I rode a lot of winners there. I got beaten and should’ve won two gold cups but didn’t, so… Cheltenham is really mine.

Me: A lot of jockey’s don’t go into the TV side of things, what made you make the decision to do so?

Richard: Well, I’d been offered the job as a paddock commentator for the BBC 2 years before I retired but then I had 5 of the best horses in the country, now you wouldn’t give 5 horses up for anything. I didn’t care what the future was. But two years later I was offered the job again and if I turned it down a second time, it wouldn’t be available so I went to Fred Winter on the muck hill, where we were making the muck hill tidy in the morning, and I said to him this is the situation and he said for the first time ever John Francome shared the job with me, he was 10 years young and he was good but I was welcome to ride half the horses as long as I wanted to. But there was only 2 of my good horses left by then and I said to him would you run one in the Grand National, he said no his legs are dodgy so he wouldn’t subject him to it. So I said “well in that case, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me” I shook his hand and joined BBC.

Me: What was your favourite or most memorable moment whilst working with BBC?

Richard: Well, I was involved for 35 years so there was so many. But Bob Champion and Aldaniti was a fairytale that will be hard to match. And if Aldaniti hadn’t won that day, the second was ridden by John Thorne who was 54 years old, he owned the stallion, owned the mare, bred it, trained it and rode it. So that would have been another fairy story. Another was the void race for two false starts and then of course the one that was put off due to the bomb scare and ran on the Monday.

But the two false starts one was just incredible, I finished my build up to the race, handed over to Peter O’Sullevan and then there’s these two false starts and a group of horses carried on going. The producer said to me ‘Pitman get off your backside and get out there and find out what can happen’ so I ran out of my little pod in the paddock, slipped on the scaffolding boards and I was winded, but we had floor managers so my guy, a great big ex rugby player, picked me up with one hand and pushed me through the crowd, knocking people out of the way as I was trying to get my breath back. I said to the starter “Keith, the whole world is watching, Hong Kong, Australia, America… What can happen?” and he said “I can tell you exactly what will happen. Only the 9 that didn’t fall or complete one circuit can run.” So we’d got the news. I thought I’d done a good job, so I was wondering back and the producer said “okay Pitman that was good but find a steward.” The stewards area that day was an area four ladders high up on some scaffolding and at the bottom was a soldier with a sword and big feathery hat on. He said “you can’t come up here son, it’s stewards only” and I said “I’m sorry, we’re BBC and they’ve asked us to come up to give us the news.” Well when we got one camera and sound man up there and knocked on the door of the porter cabin, out came Patrick Hibbert-Foy who was the stewards secretary he said “yes Pitman what do you want?” and I said “well Patrick, the whole world is watching and we need to know because the next race in Hong Kong can’t run until we’ve got the result of this one.” And he said “You will be told when the people on the racecourse are announced and told first. They’re the paying customers.” And I said “we’ve got 600 million people around the world” and he said “You’ll be told.” And that’s how they viewed it in those days. It was quite an amazing race, I won’t go through it but it had to be stopped. It was the second false start and it had to be stopped. And they put cones across the front of the chair fence which is the 15th and one of the officials stood in the middle of the fence in the cones and waved his arms trying to stop them, but the 9 guys who had carried on thought it was anti’s trying to make a demonstration and they galloped over the chap and through the cones and went around again. And of course once you had gone around once you couldn’t go again if it was raced later on. But it was so exciting.

And the bomb scare, well that was hairy. We kept losing TV positions one by one as they evacuated us along with everyone else and the last man standing was Jim McGrath commentating from a scaffolding very very high down by Becher’s Brook and he spoke for 28 minutes without drawing breath whilst mayhem was going on up in the stands.

Me: How much do you think racing has changed ssince you were riding?

Richard: Oh 360 degrees! I mean, we didn’t ride on Sunday’s, we didn’t have evening racing, we had 2 months off in the summer to recuperate. The styles have changed, we rode longer, we had some pretty good stylists in our day but before that they rode full length, the style has changed. The quality of racing has changed, we’ve had plenty of Gold Cup winners run in the Grand National, but the depth has changed. When I rode Crisp I had 12 stone, top weight, along with L’Escargot (Tommy Carberry) who had won two Cheltenham Gold Cup’s. But we were giving 25 pounds away to Red Rum. You know, it was a few at the top and a great void down the bottom and horses were running off 8 stone 9, they had to carry 10 stone, therefore you had to be rated 110 to get in the race. Now you have to be rated 140 and you still might not get in. So the general overall figure of the horses running at Aintree has improved tremendously. I just love it. I think jockey’s, we were cavaliers in our day, now they’re professionals. They’ve got drivers, nutritionists, people who look after your minds, psychiatrists. You know, like golf and tennis, they are top sportsmen.

Me: And on from that, how much do you think social media and new technology has changed racing?

Richard: Well, it’s very very good to come home and look at your races as a jockey and see what you’ve done wrong. I mean, (AP) McCoy was the most brilliant because he would come home having won 4 races and look to see why he hadn’t won the 5th but also look back at the 4 races he had won and thought should I have done anything different in that race, not to win further, maybe win easier. It’s a tremendous tool, accept with social media it allows people to be anonymous and be absolutely vile, are they called trolls? Now, that isn’t very fair and mentally it pulls people down. My answer to that is, if you’re being targeted by idiots, don’t look at it. Turn it off. It’s a hard enough game mentally, the weight loss, the travelling, the riding is great, but it’s a hard enough game without being pillared on social media.

Me: You mentioned AP McCoy there, do you think there is any current jockey riding who will come close to or beat his records?

Richard: Be very difficult, because Brian Hughes has been around a while, Dicky (Richard) Johnson won’t be going long enough to do it, I think if Dicky (Richard) Johnson’s body holds up, because he’s young, he’s fit, he doesn’t have the weight, no he’s not young sorry, he’s forty something now, his body is trim, he doesn’t have weight which is a huge advantage, but the falls have been taking it’s toll over the last few years on him. He could actually ride more winners than AP rode in history, as long as his body holds out. But we’ve got some great young jockey’s, but again for Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Aidan Coleman, there’s a stack of very very good jockey’s, have they been riding long enough to get into the same mode as AP… He was Champion Conditional and then for the next 20 years Champion Jockey so right from that early start before he lost his allowance he was champion. You know… It’s going to be a very difficult thing to do.

Me: And talking about Champion Jockey’s, this year we have Harry Skelton, Harry Cobden and Brian Hughes all very close at the top, who do you think will get the edge?

Richard: Well, that’s difficult, I think Brian Hughes will because it matters to him, for example, he’s freelance, he can go anywhere, he’s popular, he’s the go to jockey. For instance, the first two days of Cheltenham he rode in the North so that means he wants winners, not particularly quality winners. In fact, the trainers he rides for don’t necessarily have these top ones. Whereas Cobden will have to go where Paul Nicholls wants him to go for the big races. And the Skelton’s have been amazing haven’t they? How they’ve come on in such a short time, quality and quantity.

Me: And for the final question, what is your best piece of advice for a young person who wants to follow their passion?

Richard: Right, you’ve got to be dedicated of course, but you’ve also got to enjoy it. If you enjoy a job, it isn’t work. Even though in stables it is hard graft and being a jockey, you know, I used to get up very early in the cold and drive with the sweat suit on to lose even more weight, you know it’s a hard old graft but the passion has got to be there, you’ve got to want it. My advice to any young person who goes to riding school is to look at the trainers and see who gives a chance to young people and go to them and make sure they’re not a 10 horse trainer because with a big trainer the crumbs off the table are big enough to feed you because if a senior jockey gets hurt then you come in and get your chance.


So there we have it, I want to say a massive thank you to Richard for his time, it was an honour speaking with him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I hope everyone else has too! I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone for the support this week, I am so grateful to anyone who’s taken time out to read my work this week and I will hopefully see you all tomorrow at 11am for my final post in my 7 in 7 days series which is an interview with Eoin Walsh which you do not want to miss!