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!

An Interview with Ed Chamberlin

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. I hope you have all been enjoying the extra posts here this week and are starting to feel excited for the Cheltenham Festival. I will have 5 more posts after this one in the week to follow, they will be going up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all at 6pm and on Saturday at 11am. Today’s post, I am very excited for. I got to sit down and talk to someone I look up to in the industry and that is of course Ed Chamberlin, who you all may know as the face of ITV Racing. We spoke about all things racing, including him being the ambassador for WellChild – a charity who will be working closely with the Cheltenham Festival in the week ahead and the work they do and why they are so important. I will leave a link at the bottom of the interview to their website so you can read more and look at ways you can support them. Ed was very supportive and offered me a lot of helpful advice which I am super grateful for. I really enjoyed this one so I hope my readers will too!


Me: For the first question, I am going to throw you straight into the deep end and ask if you could own any horse currently in training, what horse would you choose and why?

Ed: Gosh, good question. It would be… either… there’s three and they’re all novice chasers. It would be one of Envoi Allen, Monkfish and Shishkin. The Gold Cup is the race I’d love to win more than any other, so that rules Shishkin out, as brilliant as he is. And I think, I’d go for Monkfish. I think Monkfish is an extraordinary looking animal. I’m no judge of a horse and I’ve referred to him a couple of times on ITV as a monster but actually when you see him in the flesh he’s not. He’s tall but he’s also quite thin. He’s like a ballerina at his fences, he’s just the most brilliant athlete who’s obviously got stamina to burn. And if ever… A bit like lego, if you were ever to put together a Gold Cup winner, I think you would probably put together like Monkfish. And look Envoi Allen might have more brilliance than him and might be more mercurial than Monkfish, but they don’t always win Gold Cups. It’s a really tough question, but I’m going to go for Monkfish.

Me: What are your first memories of racing?

Ed: The first memories would be as a 7 year old with my Grandfather who lived in Somerset. He was mad about racing, to such an extent that my mother’s 18th birthday present was a Tote credit account. My Grandfather loved it. His passions in life were cider and betting on the Grand National was his favourite thing and I just got caught up in that. The first race I can remember was the 1981 Grand National where, he always let me have a couple of quid on a horse and I had it on Spartan Missile who finished second in that Grand National and I was gutted. I had no idea that this was the greatest racing story of all time with Bob Champion and Aldaniti winning the Grand National. And from that moment I was hooked! I took on the huge responsibility of being in charge of the family sweepstake. And I start looking forward to the Grand National weeks in advance, I always remember sleeping better as a small boy the night before Christmas than I would the night before the Grand National because my excitement was just off the charts for the Grand National. And yeah, I was just totally consumed by it and once you get into something like that, it just snow balls and racing very quickly became a passion of mine.

Me: Following on from that, what is your favourite race to watch back?

Ed: To be honest the 1981 Grand National is right up there. There’s so many, I love going back down memory lane on Racing TV and I love all the high profile ones, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid’s Gold Cup. And lots of flat racing since we’ve covered the sport. Crystal Ocean against Enable is one that leaped off the page, Big Orange beating Order of St George in the Gold Cup as well was just a great battle. We’ve been very lucky to have some great performances. But my favourite horse of all time, it’s a bit random to be honest, Dublin Flyer was my favourite horse ever. There were two performances he put in, one was over the Grand National fences and he jumped them as good as any horse you’d see jump them in the John Hughes Memorial but my favourite race of his, it was called the Mackeson then, now the Paddy Power Gold Cup when he rallied to get up and beat Egypt Mill Prince, I think that’s my favourite race of all time.

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

Ed: You are horrible asking that question! Oh goodness, that’s so difficult! The best thing about my job is every week – well not at the moment – but in normal times every week is different. Going to a different track every week is so exciting because they’re all so different and so cool in so many different ways. I’m not going to sit on the fence, but the ultimate buzz to present is the Grand National because obviously it’s to around 10 million people in this country and hundreds of millions worldwide so that gets the adrenaline going more than any other. But I also love doing the smaller days at Kelso and my local track Wincanton, I love those days. But the big festivals are just fantastic to present. Cheltenham Festival, Glorious Goodwood, York, Royal Ascot and everything that goes with that. Royal Ascot is the hardest to present because I have to be on top of everything from the Royal Procession through to the singing on the bandstand and the races in between. I think my single favourite day to present is Derby day. Because it’s the one day, just to sum it up, that I have to wear two ear pieces so I can hear my director, it’s that noisy. It’s like a cauldron and it’s the closest I get with the way that, the straight at Epsom, with the crowd on either side, the open top buses, it’s the closest I get with my old job which was presenting football at old fashioned grounds like Anfield and the old White Hart Lane which just used to have an intensity that’s very hard to describe because you were just so close to the action and the crowds felt on top of the pitch. And you get that at Epsom. And on Derby day, I get moved to the front of the stands for the classic, the Derby, and that is just unbelievable, it really is. And that would be my favourite experience of a normal year. The year gone by sadly, it was probably the worst experience I’ve had on a racecourse just because I love it so much. I actually didn’t present the Derby very well in 2020. If I could have another go at one race it would be the Derby. It was just so, it was a really depressing day with marshals guarding the fence, not to let people in. A Derby run in silence was a pretty desolate experience.

Me: At the beginning of the year I interviewed Mick Fitzgerald who spoke very highly of you, telling me how you aim to get the best out of everyone you work with and that’s why people love working with you. What do you enjoy most about being a part of the ITV Racing team?

Ed: It’s a very good question Zoe. Gosh, that’s very kind of Mick Fitzgerald. I feel like I want to be the referee, I don’t want anyone talking about me. When you’re the presenter, it should never be about you. I never offer an opinion on much because I’m there to get the best out of other people. And the one thing I’ve tried to install since joining ITV in 2016 to start in 2017 was to try and create a team ethic. I always wanted us working as a team and the first thing I did was to introduce a rule where everyone had to get together the night before a meeting at 6 o’clock. Obviously that’s difficult now, but we’ll do it for Cheltenham next week. And I wanted to create an environment where we’re in it together, whether you’re Anthony McCoy or the runner that makes cups of tea, I wanted us all to be working together. I wanted us to have a production meeting together, eat, drink, laugh as a team. And I think we’ve really go that ethic which hopefully shines through on screen because we obviously have our disagreements but we are one big family on ITV Racing across the board, everyone behind and in front of the camera, we all work together. Summed up by last week, which was a very tricky week, you know, we were… various whatsapp’s, zooms and we really stuck together and worked together and I think that’s really important in any walk of life – working as a team. And I really do love the team dearly and I hope that comes across on screen. And Mick is such a big part of that, I’m surrounded by a lot of really good team players and that’s what I wanted when I started.

Me: Since working with ITV Racing, what’s been your favourite moment to present?

Ed: Lots of ups and downs. Day 1 didn’t go to plan, I remember that, January the 1st 2017 – That was the hardest. There’s been lots of lows and lots of highs. We learn from the lows and we keep the highs in perspective. If I was to say one, Tiger Roll obviously was the closest to my heart, when he won the Cross Country and the Grand National, I was very emotive. It was a bit like presenting a Southampton win in my old job in Premier League football, it’s very hard to keep your emotions in check. That horse, I just became very close with him. But if I have to say one hour that suck out, I’ll always say the best moment I’ve had in television is when Manchester City won the Premier League with the iconic Agüero goal and Martin Tyler’s commentary. But the hour at Cheltenham a couple of years ago when Bryony Frost won the Ryanair on Frodon which had us all choking up because her interview was so good. It was a very emotive experience. And then immediately to have that followed by Paisley Park winning for Andrew Gemmell, Emma Lavelle, Barry Fenton, Aidan Coleman and just this warrior of a horse in Paisley Park, honestly it was… I remember being praised in the newspapers afterwards for being a bit like Des Lynam in not saying much, I let the pictures breath, which is a very important skill for a presenter. But that wasn’t a choice by me, that was because I found the whole thing emotional and I wasn’t capable of speaking even if I wanted to. Because Emma is one of my favourite people and to see Andrew Gemmell who’s been blind since birth getting such a thrill and enjoyment out of Paisley Park winning was just an extraordinary bit of sport. We called it the golden hour, it was magical and that’s what we need next week. We need stories like that to show just what a magnificent sport this is and how wonderful the horses are and get racing back on the back and front of the newspapers for the right reasons. Stories that only racing can write.

Me: Before you moved over to ITV, you worked for Sky, how did you find the transition from football to horse racing?

Ed: I found it really really difficult. Incredibly difficult. Switching sport is not something I’d recommend to any young presenters out there. I still don’t find it easy now, but I got it very wrong at the time, I thought… When I left football Leicester had just won the Premier League and I thought I needed to know everything about racing, because you know, I’d been in football nearly 20 years and I thought I needed to know absolutely everything. I went everywhere trying to learn every aspect of racing, but in hindsight, that was a mistake because in my job you don’t need to know everything. It helps to have it stored away but you don’t need to use it because as I said earlier, you’re there to get the best out of other people. And ITV Racing, I very quickly learnt that the real racing fans, there aren’t very many. The large bulk of our audience… Like Cheltenham next week, we’d like to think we’ll get well over a million each day, and only in the tens of thousands of those are the real racing fans, the rest are generally just sports fans who like to dip into racing. We are part of the entertainment industry and it’s got to be entertaining and I quickly learnt you can’t please everybody every show we do. People say ‘we need to see more of the horses’ or ‘we need something else’ or ‘we need more betting’ or ‘we want more social stable’ and you have to accept you can’t win and you need a thick skin to stick to what we’re doing. I’ve learnt a lot in the four years and trying to get that balance right is very difficult and we’re never going to get it 100% right, of course we’re not but the way we’ve grown our audience over the four years is very satisfactory because it’s been nice to prove people wrong. There are a few articles last week, where one journalist said jump racing was in danger of extinction, well more people are watching jump racing now than they have in a very long time. We’ve obviously got a challenge to keep those people, but it’s very popular right now on ITV and during lockdown that’s obviously accelerated dramatically with people watching so that’s quite satisfying for me, but I want to keep doing that. I want to keep getting people to enjoy what I think is a brilliant sport. Our mantra has always been since day one to make racing accessible to as many people as possible and that’s something I’m passionate about and will continue to do.

So to answer your question, it was a lot harder than I expected it to be and a lot more challenging but I’ve learnt rapidly and hopefully the viewing figures back up the way we’ve done it.

Me: I think it’s important because with ITV Racing it is presented in such a way that you don’t need to be an avid racing fan to truly understand what’s happening.

Ed: The key thing there, to any presenter watching, television is very subjective. Everyone has a different opinion on television but the media training I do, the key thing as a presenter is to make people feel welcome, to make people feel warm and a part of the show. Particularly now when a lot of people suffering and a lot of people are fed up, give them an escape for a couple of hours, feel part of our coverage, make people feel welcome to it – That’s always what we’re trying to do. Make racing welcoming to everybody.

Me: That always comes across when you are watching ITV Racing.

Ed: I always say, people sometimes like to compare us to racing channels, you don’t need to do that. My ethos is if I can get people into racing and enjoying it and they then take out a subscription to Racing TV then I’ve done my job. That’s what I want to happen.

Me: With Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, what would you say is the best bet of the week?

Ed: Best bet of the week… There’s a few I fancy actually. I think Soaring Glory will go very well in the opener, the Sky Bet Supreme. But I think if I had a bet of the week, I’d love Paul Nicholls to have a winner at the Festival because he’s so good for the game and I just hope the love is shared and Willie Mullins doesn’t just win absolutely everything… So I think I’ll go for Bravemansgame in the Ballymore. Challow Hurdle winners at Newbury have got an awful record in the race, but hopefully he can break that because his owner is a good friend of mine in John Dance and I just think Bravemansgame has got something very special about him. And he’ll go off at a decent price because on the preview circuit their talking about Bob Olinger as if he’s absolutely past the post already so that’s going to make the price for Bravemansgame, so I’ll go with him.

Me: And in terms of the Festival, WellChild have been announced as an official partner, you’ve worked with them for many year as an ambassador, can you tell us a little bit more about what they do and how important they are and what partnering with the Cheltenham Festival will do for them?

Ed: I’m so pleased you’ve asked that because… I find it very emotional to talk about actually. For me, it’s very surreal. I’m looking at the Cheltenham Festival magazine here supporting WellChild and when I first starting working with WellChild 10 years ago they were just a very small charity in Cheltenham. They just struck a note of something that meant the world to me, someone who was very ill 10/11 years ago and seeing a children’s cancer ward was like no experience I’ve ever gone through or ever want to see again. It was much worse than the experience I was going through in the ward next door. And, I said to myself then, if I can come through the other side of this, if I can do anything to help get children out of hospital and looked after at home. The sight of a young child in hospital just broke my heart and what WellChild does is it looks after and nurses seriously ill children and it nurses them at home which I think is the most important thing. So things like my annual golf day, WellChild awards, marathon runners – that type of thing, helps fund the nursing at home. There are some desperately sad stories, yes. But there are also some of the most inspiring young people you’ll ever meet. We’ve got them drawing pictures for this year and this is the biggest boost for WellChild at a really difficult time. They’ve had a torrid year, when you think that all their fundraising events have been cancelled. My golf day – cancelled. London Marathon – cancelled. WellChild Awards- cancelled. And they’ve really suffered, then suddenly this idea came about.

The local community in Cheltenham is one of the things we’re really going to support this year, it’s the theme of the first day, we’re doing a theme each day. Day 1 is local community and WellChild ticks that box as well as B&B’s, hotels, taxi firms in Cheltenham. And for WellChild, the exposure and hopefully fundraising is just going to make the wold of difference to a lot of WellChild families and a lot of seriously ill young children. Which I just find emotive and surreal and incredible what Cheltenham and the Jockey Club have done here. And again, it just shows how awesome racing is.

It’s given everybody who works for the charity a huge boost, it’s given the nurses a huge boost and I just hope the families get a real buzz out of it. I had to do a judging of the pictures the young kids had drawn. With kids as young as 5 drawing picture of horses and Gold Cup’s… How am I supposed to pick the top 3? I wanted to pick all of them! I can’t give too much away for next week but there’s going to be some very clever signage and little touches to support the kids. Which again, I might go a little bit quiet on ITV and you doing this interview you’ll know why I’ve gone quiet. It just means the world to me.

The Jockey Club and Cheltenham have got so behind the cause and you’ll see what they’ve done at the racecourse just how much they’ve committed to it. Because some people say ‘it’s ridiculous, a charity shouldn’t be spending money at Cheltenham’ but actually, they’re not spending any more. This is all the Jockey Club and Cheltenham supporting the charity.

Me: Beyond the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand National, with it being announced Tiger Roll won’t be running, who do you fancy now to take that crown from him?

Ed: I fancy one quite strongly actually. I think after what Cloth Cap did the weekend, he’ll take the world of beating, he was on springs around Kelso, he will absolutely love jumping those fences. And I would absolutely love to see Trevor Hemmings win the Grand National for the 4th time. If he doesn’t warm people’s hearts and boost spirits, nobody will. His enthusiasm is infectious at his ripe young age. But from a betting point of view, I think Secret Reprieve. Now I, it sounds like he’s definitely going to bypass Cheltenham and it sounds like from Evan Williams quotes, even though he’s not committing him, it sounds like the Grand National might be the plan. And off 10-1 after his performance in the Welsh Grand National he’s going to be absolutely running free. And that day, he just looked like a Grand National winner, the way he jumped and he obviously has stamina in abundance. The Grand National these days is a race where they go pretty quick and stamina now is more important then ever, you’ve got to stay every yard. You’ve got to look for a horse that stays and Secret Reprieve we know he stays, he’s off a great weight clearly and he’s made for the race. The owners have gone so close in the National before, it would be great for them to win it and I think Secret Reprieve stands out a mile.

Me: Another thing I wanted to touch on was social media, you worked in TV before social media was really a thing, how much would you say it has changed your job, the industry and sport as a whole?

Ed: I think it’s changed the world a lot, I wouldn’t say it’s changed my world. I’d be someone that says as a presenter if you listen and broadcast to social media then turn out the lights and give up the game because it’s a dangerous thing to do. I used to really embrace social media, I enjoyed it and I’m talking about Twitter here primarily, but I feel very differently about it now. I worry about it, not for myself, it doesn’t bother me, but I worry about it for young people like yourself because it can be a horrible, horrible place. And some of the messages I have to receive and to be fair, most of them I am old and uglier enough to just laugh at but, come on, why can’t people post under their real identity? I just don’t understand that. I’ve seen you upset on there few times, I’ve seen other people upset on there and it really worries me. I have two kids and I don’t want them growing up having to listen to some of the stuff and I don’t want them to read the stuff about their daddy. People need to think before they post, they need to be kinder and they should have their name on their profile. I spend very little time on their now. It can be a very good information source, it’s got lots of brilliant people, but the last week… Lee Mottershead, it sums it up. The reaction to Lee Mottershead to what he said on Sunday, fine don’t agree with him, I didn’t particularly agree with what he said, but the vile, horrendous stick he had to take just makes me despair. 24 hours after I had said the lesson of this whole episode is that racing needs to listen and we need to be better at listening, accepting criticism, learning from criticism and then that happens and I just despair sometimes. As I said, I’m old enough and uglier enough, it doesn’t worry me and I don’t spend a lot of time on there. But then things like Instagram I absolutely love, it’s great fun! You must not get too caught up in it because Twitter does not reflect real life, I promise you. I listen to everything, I read everything but most of the stuff I just laugh at. I used to react to it, but I try not to do that anymore because it’s just not worth it.

Me: What would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion they want to follow?

Ed: Go for it. Be determined, you just… In life you need a bit of luck but when you get that bit of luck, take advantage. So my lucky break was one of the senior executives at Sky was watching Bloomburg Television one day, I think one man and his dog watches Bloomburg Television, but I used to go on there to do a sport preview show and they saw me there. I had no interest in working in television at the time, I was a journalist. And that was my lucky break and when I got my lucky break and was invited into Sky my attitude was take advantage. The door had opened for me, it was up to me to barge my way through it and then really make the most of it and that’s what I did. Then I had another lucky break when I became the face of Premier League football on Sky when Richard Keys and Andy Gray left sky, again the door opened for me and I took advantage. That’s the way to do it. But these days it’s very different to when I started. For someone like yourself, you’re doing exactly what I recommend to people. Get yourself out there with interviews, blogs, podcasts – there’s so many things you can do now to get yourself out there and get yourself seen an I know it’s a cliché, but it only takes one pair of ears or one pair of eyes to see what you’re doing and think ‘that’s good’ and then you might get an opportunity and take advantage. So if you’re interested in the media, if you’re interested in writing, journalism holds the key. So, I would be very disappointed if anyone that does a role similar to mine turned down an interview from a young person like yourself. And you’ve just got to have that initiative and that determination to do it, which you’ve clearly got in spades and I’m full of admiration for that. So my advice to young people is be brave, get yourself out there and work damn hard.

Me: Just to finish the interview, I’ve been asked to ask you by my friend Kian Burley, if he can still have your job with ITV Racing when you decide to step down?

Ed: Bit worried about my mortgage at the moment so he might have to give me just a few more years yet. And I’m rather enjoying what I’m doing at the moment – The question I get asked more than any other in supermarkets and garages is why did I leave Premier League football and they also asked me when will I go back to Premier League football. To which my response is I’m in no hurry whatsoever, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So you’ll have to tell him, I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

Me: That’s everything from me, I want to thank you for taking your time outto speak with me, I really appreciate it.

Ed: Honestly, to see someone showing a bit of initiative like you are, I’m all in favour of supporting. I turn down lots of things as you can imagine, but I will never say no to something like that. You can tell hopefully from my ethos and attitude. But you have to promise me one thing… Don’t get too upset by people on social media.


After the interview ended, Ed spoke with me about everything I was doing in more detail and gave me so much advice and support and I just want to say a huge thank you to him, I understand totally how busy he will be in the run up to Cheltenham but for him to give up his time to sit and speak with me on a lengthy phone call and give me some support and advice also, meant a lot to me, especially as he’s someone I look up to in the industry.

As I mentioned at the top of the page WellChild are an incredible charity and I am so glad I got to speak to Ed about the work they do. There website is: https://www.wellchild.org.uk/ – I urge everyone to check out their website where you can find out more about the work they do and also donate if you can afford to.

I am really grateful I got to speak with Ed and I really hope everyone enjoyed this one as much as I did! Leading into the Cheltenham Festival I have a post Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening’s at 6pm and another next Saturday morning at 11am so a very busy week ahead on my website and I hope to see you all back here for all of those!

Thank you so much for reading, I will see you tomorrow at 6pm for my next post: The History of the Champion Hurdle.

1981 Grand National: Bob Champion – The Greatest Comeback

Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rubio: The Retired Grand National Winner

Good Evening!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1997: The Postponed Grand National

Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1993: The Grand National That Never Was

Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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