Friday, March 25, 2011
BACKSTAGE (FR) FACTFILE
b g Passing Sale (FR) - Madame Nathalie (FR) (Dreams To Reality (USA))
9-10-12 Form: 0F3/64313/223/28/71123138UP-570 Owner: MPR & Capranny Syndicate
Trainer: Gordon Elliott IRE Breeder: Ecurie Passing Jockey: Davy Condon
Originally trained by Jehan Bertran de Balanda, Backstage failed to shine in five starts over hurdles in France and was third on his chasing debut at Clairefontaine in July, 2006. He was sent over to Britain shortly afterwards by then owner Sir Robert Ogden and made a winning start for trainer Evan Williams that October when easily accounting for his five rivals in a novices’ chase at Cheltenham. He was tailed off on his next appearance in an Aintree novices’ chase the following month and missed the rest of the season. Sent over hurdles for the 2007/08 season, Backstage went down by a head in a handicap at Leicester but he once again failed to progress when beaten in novice hurdles at Warwick and Wincanton. His final appearance for Ogden and Williams came when second in a Utttoxeter novice hurdle in May, 2008. He was sold for 13,000 guineas at Doncaster shortly afterwards. He made a winning debut for new connections, Irish-based trainer Gordon Elliott and a syndicate made up of his stable staff, easily landing a point-to-point at Castletown-Geoghegan in October, 2008. Backstage continued to thrive between the flags, winning three of his five subsequent starts, and he ran a fine race on his first attempt over the Grand National fences, coming home eighth in the John Smith’s Fox Hunter’s Chase at the 2009 John’s Smith’s Grand National Meeting. After taking seventh in the Punchestown Champion Hunters Chase, Backstage scored impressively in a three-mile handicap chase on good to firm going at Perth at the end of May. He won and was second in novices’ hurdles at the Scottish course in July and was third in a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen in August. He posted a superb victory in a valuable extended three-mile handicap chase at Ffos Las just six days later. With all roads leading to the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National, Backstage did not make a racecourse appearance until February, when he took third in a novices’ hurdle at Musselburgh in the colours of Middleham Park Racing, who had purchased a 50 per cent share in the horse just before Christmas. He warmed up for Aintree by taking eighth in a two and a half mile Grade Three chase at Navan in March, but unseated at the 20th fence in the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National. He disappointed in his next four starts under Rules between April and July and was then put away until reappearing with a 10-length victory in a Kirkistown point-to-point on February 12 and continued his low-key Aintree prep with a seven-length success in another point-to-point at The Pigeons on March 6.
Race Record (under Rules): Starts: 26; Wins: 4; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 6; Win & Place Prize Money: £77,169
Middleham Park Racing & Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate
Backstage will carry the colours of Middleham Park Racing in the John Smith’s Grand National after the syndicate bought a 50 per cent share in the horse from the Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate in a deal brokered by former jump jockey Tom Malone just before Christmas, 2009. Middleham Park Racing (MPR) was set up in 1995, starting out with two syndicates, and has established itself as one of the main syndication companies in the UK, enjoying more than 300 winners. Notable horses to have carried the MPR silks to victory include prolific all-weather winner China Castle, Beverley Listed scorer Exceptional Art, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival hero Junior, and Dhaular Dhar, who has made the frame in heritage handicaps at Ascot on five occasions. The Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate is made up of employees from Gordon Elliott’s Capranny Stables in Co Meath, Ireland, including all of Backstage’s work riders, travelling head lads Sarah Parsons and Jordan 'Sparky' Chalmers, vet Eduardo Martinez, chief yardman Jimmy Smith and head lad Simon McGonagle, who partnered Backstage to four of his point-to-point victories. Each member put in 100 euros to purchase Backstage and the horse has more than repaid his supporters with nine victories between the flags and under Rules, including when netting £31,310 for winning the inaugural Freebets.co.uk Handicap Chase at Ffos Las in August, 2009.
John Smith’s Grand National record: 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)
Gordon Elliott IRE
Born on March 2, 1978, in Summerhill, Co Meath, Gordon Elliott was a very successful point-to-point rider, who also partnered winners under Rules. He started his racing career while still at school, working at Tony Martin's stable in County Meath, Ireland. From there, he moved to Britain, joining Martin Pipe's in 2002, and during his spell in Somerset his six rides as an amateur included one winner. Elliott then returned to Ireland for another term at Martin's stables. In 2004, Barry Callaghan, head of the Dun Doire syndicate, bought Capranny Stables at Trim in County Meath. When Elliott started his training career, early in 2006, those stables became his base. Elliott’s first runner under Rules came at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, when Brandon Mountain was pulled up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle. He continued to send runners over to the UK and enjoyed almost instant success, most notably with Arresting, who notched up four victories between May and July, 2006. Elliott’s John Smith’s Grand National victory with Silver Birch in 2007 was remarkable not only because he was only 29 at the time, but also because he had yet to saddle a winner in his native country. The winners in Ireland soon followed and Elliott enjoyed big-race success with the former Epsom Derby fifth Salford City, who won the Grade Two Tipperary Hurdle in October, 2007, while he also continued to send horses to the UK. He soon gained a reputation as a shrewd judge of horses. Elliott is particularly fond of having runners at Perth and has sent out 54 winners (up to March 16) at the Scottish venue. Further afield, Elliott saddled Salford City to finish third in a Grade Two chase at Saratoga, USA, in August, 2008, and the gelding also contested the Grade One New York Turf Writers Cup Chase at the same course three weeks later. Last season’s leading performers included juvenile hurdler Carlito Brigante, who recorded a Grade Two victory at Leopardstown and was fourth in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010. Elliott’s first Cheltenham Festival success came with Chicago Grey in this year’s National Hunt Chase, while Jessie’s Dream, winner of the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase, was runner-up in the Grade One RSA Chase a little over an hour later. His second Festival win came on the same day with Carlito Brigante in the Coral Cup. The trainer has also enjoyed major Flat success with Dirar in the 2010 Ebor at York.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 SILVER BIRCH (WON); 2009 Silver Birch (Fell 22nd); 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)
Davy Condon, whose father Mick was a leading amateur and point-to-point rider, was born on December 3, 1984. He started his career in 2000 as a 15-year-old apprentice Flat jockey with Willie Mullins, had his first winner the next season and ended that year with five successes from 95 rides. In the next three seasons, he took his win tally up to 75 (it has since gone into three figures) and his most notable association was with the Mullins-trained Holy Orders, whom he rode in 30 races across both codes, including when well beaten in the 2003 Melbourne Cup. As Condon’s weight increased, he looked to the National Hunt world and rode his first winner over hurdles in November, 2004. He had his first, and so far only, Cheltenham Festival success aboard Ebaziyan in the 2007 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the following year moved from Ireland to become stable jockey to Nicky Richards’ Cumbrian yard following Tony Dobbin’s retirement, winning the 2008 Peterborough Chase on Monet’s Garden and 2009 Scottish Champion Hurdle on Noble Alan. He returned home for the 2009/10 season and rode mainly for Noel Meade, striking up a good rapport with Go Native on whom he won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton although he missed out on his share of a potential £1 million bonus when the horse was beaten in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He also won two Grade One novice chases in December, 2009 aboard the Meade-trained Pandorama, while the Michael Smith-trained Orsippus gave him a further top level victory in the Matalan 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s 2010 John Smith’s Grand National meeting. This season, he rode Realt Dubh and Fully Funded to Grade Two successes and partnered Benefit Night to win the Leinster National on March 6. Condon is a cousin of fellow rider Paul Townend. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Homer Wells (PU 22nd), 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)
BALLABRIGGS (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Presenting - Papoose (IRE) (Little Bighorn)
10-11-00 Form: 50220/6S22F212/0/3111-112 Owner: Trevor Hemmings
Trainer: Donald McCain Breeder: Mrs S Jackson Jockey: Jason Maguire
John Brady paid £IR12,000 for Ballbriggs as a foal at Goffs in December, 2001, and sold the youngster on to Highflyer Bloodstock for 32,000 euros at Tattersalls Ireland the following November. Ballabriggs made a low-key racecourse debut for trainer Donald McCain and owner Trevor Hemmings when fifth in a Uttoxeter bumper in May, 2006 and was 10th of 14 on his hurdles bow at the same course that December. The gelding contested four more hurdle races before switching to fences, finishing runner-up twice, but failing to win. He slipped up on the bend on his first chase start at Bangor in December, 2007, and subsequently posted three seconds and a first fence fall before breaking his duck in a soft ground extended three-mile beginners’ chase at Bangor in March, 2008. He followed that with another runner-up finish at Ayr in April, behind subsequent Scottish Grand National hero Merigo. After a below-par effort at Haydock in November, 2008, Ballabriggs was off the course until returning with a third-place finish in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter in December, 2009. He then proceeded to string together three straight wins over fences, the third of those being the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival. That was his final start of the campaign and, with the John Smith’s Grand National firmly on the agenda, he made a belated return to action this season with two novice hurdle triumphs at Wincanton and Ayr in January. His final start before Aintree came in the extended two and three quarter-mile totesport.com Premier Chase at Kelso on March 5. The 10-year-old finished a length and three quarters second to Skippers Brig, to whom he was conceding 4lb. Race Record: Starts: 21; Wins: 6; 2nd; 7; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £72,980
Trevor Hemmings, who was born on June 11, 1935, boasts a classic rags to riches story. Born in Woolwich Arsenal, south east London, where his father worked at the Royal Ordnance factory, Trevor was sent to Lancashire as a five-year-old during World War II and began life as a bricklayer’s apprentice after leaving school aged 15, before rapidly worked his way up the Pontins holiday business to the extent that he was able to sell it on to Scottish & Newcastle in exchange for a significant share holding in S & N (1989). He bought Pontins back in 2000 but retained a stake in S & N, which netted him £218 million when the company was sold in January, 2008. His main holding company is the Northern Trust Group, whose net assets fell to £132 million in 2010. He is also a major shareholder in Arena Leisure Plc, which owns Folkestone, Lingfield, Southwell, Wolverhampton and Windsor racecourses and manages Doncaster and Worcester. Arena is also a major shareholder in broadcaster At The Races that owns some of British racing’s media rights. Hemmings sold Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens to the North West resort’s town council for £40 million in March, 2010. He also owns a share of Preston North End FC and is chairman of the TJH Foundation, a charity which makes grants to organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Relief, St John Ambulance, Crimestoppers Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Association, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and Racing Welfare. In 2010, the Sunday Times estimated Hemmings’ wealth at £500 million, a recession-busting rise of £200 million on the 2009 figure. Hemmings fulfilled one of his greatest ambitions when Hedgehunter carried his colours to victory in the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National. After years of trying, Hemmings had finally emulated his mentor Fred Pontin, owner of the 1971 National hero Specify, with his 13th Grand National runner. His first winner came on the Flat in 1985 but Hemmings now brings on young jumping stock at Gleadhill House Stud, near Chorley, Lancashire, managed by former trainer Mick Meagher, and at his Monymusk Stud in Co Cork. He first tried to win the John Smith’s Grand National with the Stan Mellor-trained Rubika, who finished 14th in 1992. Hemmings, who was made an honorary Jockey Club member in December, 2006, resides on the Isle of Man and is said to have paid £12 million for the Ballavodan estate on the island. He enjoyed a double at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival with Albertas Run (Ryanair Chase) and Ballabriggs (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase). Albertas Run added a second Ryanair Chase victory in 2011 to go with his Festival triumph in the 2008 RSA Chase and a further Grade One win in the 2010 John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree. As well as those mentioned, his best horses have been Trabolgan, Burton Port, Young Kenny, Blue Shark, Cloudy Lane, Afsoun, Turpin Green, Arctic Jack The Last Fling and Simply Supreme. His best season numerically came in 2007/08 when his horses triumphed in 51 races in Britain and Ireland.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1992 Rubika (14th); 2000 The Last Fling (7th); Esprit De Cotte (Fell 22nd); 2001 The Last Fling (UR 5th), Esprit De Cotte (UR 11th); 2002 Goguenard (Fell 1st), Beau (UR 14th); 2003 Southern Star (14th), Chives (PU bef 12th); 2004 Arctic Jack (Fell 1st), Southern Star (PU bef 9th), Hedgehunter (Fell 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON), Europa (20th); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd), Juveigneur (Fell 1st), 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Billyvoddan (PU bef 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Hedgehunter (13th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Battlecry (16th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th).
Donald McCain Jnr
Born on March 13, 1970, Donald McCain Jnr is the son of Ginger McCain, trainer of the legendary Red Rum, the only horse to win the John Smith’s Grand National three times (1973, 1974 and 1977) and also Amberleigh House, the 2004 victor. Donald learnt to ride on his sister Joanne’s pony Gambol and rode in his first race on the Flat aged 15 (his father told a few white lies so he could ride) at Haydock Park. He subsequently became a jump jockey, firstly as an amateur and then a professional, riding around 40 winners under Rules. He rode several times over the Grand National fences, finishing fifth aboard Harley in the 1992 Fox Hunters’ Chase and 17th on Sure Metal in the 1996 Grand National. He also spent time working in the stables of Luca Cumani, Sir Michael Stoute and Oliver Sherwood. Donald subsequently became assistant trainer to his father at Bankhouse Stables at Cholmondeley in Cheshire and played a significant role in Amberleigh House’s Grand National victory in 2004. He was expected to take over the licence from his father at the start of the 2006/7 jump season, but had to wait until June, 2006, before he was able to train in his own name as he needed to complete the appropriate British Horseracing Authority courses. Donald’s first winner as a licensed trainer came with Bearaway in a handicap chase at Newton Abbot on June 8, 2006. He secured his first Cheltenham Festival triumph with Cloudy Lane in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in 2007 and enjoyed 40 winners in his first campaign. In the 2007/08 campaign he had 58 successes and a second Cheltenham Festival success with Whiteoak in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle while the 2008/09 haul of 62 winners included Cloudy Lane’s victory in the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase. Last season brought further success with a double at the Cheltenham Festival thanks to Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and Ballabriggs in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and a career best 88 winners. He already has 89 winners on the board this term (as of March 22). Peddlers Cross landed the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle and was a gallant runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, while Overturn took the Northumberland Plate on the Flat in June and added the Galway Hurdle a month later. McCain is also the trainer of Smithy The Horse, owned by the John Smith’s Racing Partnership which offers John Smith’s drinkers the chance to own a share in a racehorse.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Idle Talk (UR 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th);
Jason Maguire, who was born on April 13, 1980, is the nephew of former top-jockey-turned-trainer Adrian Maguire. He started out in Irish pony races and partnered his first British winner, the Tony Martin-trained Search For Peace, at Cheltenham on November 12, 1999. He began riding for Gloucestershire trainer Tom George shortly after coming to Britain and enjoyed a seven-year partnership that yielded a Cheltenham Festival victory in 2002 when Galileo took the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle. Maguire's working relationship with George, which was never contractually formalised, ended in January, 2007, and he is now attached to Donald McCain’s Cheshire stable. Maguire has had eight John Smith's Grand National rides, with his best placing coming when finishing sixth on joint-favourite Cloudy Lane in 2008. He took the valuable Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in 2003 on Non So and captured the 2007 John Smith's Midlands Grand National on Baron Windrush. He had a second Cheltenham Festival success in 2008 on Whiteoak in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle and added a third last season with Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, who he went on to partner to victory in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and into second place in the 2011 Champion Hurdle. Maguire also rode Barizan to win the Grade One Four-Year-Old Hurdle at Punchestown in April, 2010. He enjoyed his best season in 2009/10 with 108 winners and already has 84 this season (up to March 22).
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2001 No Retreat (PU bef 17th); 2002 Birkdale (10th); 2003 Tremallt (9th); 2005 Europa (20th); 2006 Lord Of Illusion (PU bef 17th); 2007 Idle Talk (UR 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th).
BIG FELLA THANKS (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Primitive Rising (USA) - Nunsdream (Derrylin)
9-11-01 Form: 112/322U136/2U14-2F44 Owner: Crossed Fingers Partnership
Trainer: Ferdy Murphy Breeder: R J Wilding Jockey: Graham Lee
Big Fella Thanks
Big Fella Thanks was named by his former part-owner Harry Findlay after his favourite greyhound, who won the National Coursing Derby at Clonmel in 1999. The Primitive Rising gelding made two appearances in Irish point-to-points for Liam Burke, beating Herecomesthetruth in a Carrigtwohill maiden in February, 2007, and coming a neck second in a winner of one at Ballyragget the following month. He joined Paul Nicholls soon after and made his UK debut in a maiden hurdle at Chepstow in January, 2008, when he beat Buck The Legend by 10 lengths. He followed up with another convincing success later the same month at Taunton and finished his first campaign with a good second in an Ayr handicap hurdle in mid-April. Big Fella Thanks began the 2008/09 season in a beginners’ chase at Chepstow in October, making most of the running until headed near the line by Wichita Lineman and West End Rocker. He tired in the closing stages on his next appearance at Cheltenham in November when second to Ballyfitz, and the application of blinkers appeared not to have the desired effect in a beginners’ chase at Taunton the following month, when Big Fella Thanks was collared near the line by Itsa Legend. Further disappointment followed in a handicap chase at Kempton’s Christmas meeting, as he unseated Christian Williams at the third last. Big Fella Thanks finally opened his account over fences in the Listed Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January, 2009, when he produced a far more confident round of jumping to win by 11 lengths. Big Fella Thanks then took third behind Nacarat in the Grade Three Racing Post Chase and finished sixth to Mon Mome in the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National. Second behind Carruthers in a graduation chase at Newbury in December, 2009, he unseated Ruby Walsh two out in a similar event at Kempton in February and regained the winning thread when landing a Grade Three handicap chase over two and a half miles at Newbury. He was then a good fourth in the John Smith’s Grand National to Don’t Push It. He joined Ferdy Murphy’s stable for the current season. After a second to Hey Big Spender at Carlisle in November, he fell in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. A distant fourth to Riverside Theatre in the Grade One Ascot Chase in February was followed by a close fourth behind Fine Parchment in the Grade Three Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury on March 5.
Race Record: Starts: 18; Wins: 4; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £186,747
Crossed Fingers Partnership
On March 23, just 17 days before this year’s John Smith’s Grand National, trainer Ferdy Murphy revealed that Harry Findlay, who runs his horses under the name of his mother, Margaret, had sold Big Fella Thanks to the Crossed Fingers Partnership, consisting of Max Fawbert and Nick Williamson. Findlay had decided to sever his ties with the sport after becoming angry at being found guilty of laying his own horse, Gullible Gordon, and handed a six-month BHA ban the previous year. Findlay turned down bigger offers that would have taken the horse away form Murphy. The Crossed Fingers Partnership already has horses in training, all with Murphy, including Desperate Dex, who was the partnership’s first winner when scoring at Uttoxeter in November, 2006. The syndicate started out with trainer Graham Smith, who saddled Desperate Dex and the unsuccessful Beam Me Up. Smith’s services were dispensed with before the 2008/09 season when Viel Gluck became the partnership’s first runner with Murphy, but it was the old favourite Desperate Dex who cemented the new arrangement when returning from a long lay off with back-to-back winner at Sedgefield and Huntingdon in the 2009/10 season. Also successful that term was Kellystown Lad and the ownership group has had five individual runners out of Murphy’s North Yorkshire base this term for three victories.
No previous John Smith’s Grand National Runners.
Born November 6, 1948, Ferdy Murphy was originally apprenticed to Phonsie O’Brien, younger brother of Vincent, in Ireland and became stable jockey and head lad to Paddy Mullins during a 16-year riding career that resulted in more than 100 winners. He later acted as private trainer for five years to the Durkan brothers, at the time of the great two-mile chaser Anaglogs Daughter. In September, 1985, he came over to Britain to be private trainer to the late Geoff Hubbard at Woodbridge in Suffolk and assumed the licence in 1990. He later set up on his own in Somerset before moving to Middleham to train at Sir Robert Ogden’s stable, an association that was short-lived. He is now based at West Witton, just outside Middleham. Murphy’s best horses include Sibton Abbey who, running from 21lb out of the handicap and ridden by Adrian Maguire, won the 1992 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury, the brilliant French Holly, winner of the 1998 Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle, and third to Istabraq in the 1999 Champion Hurdle, Paddy’s Return, winner of the 1996 Triumph Hurdle, the 2000 Scottish National winner Paris Pike and Ballinclay King, winner of the 2001 John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree. Other Grade One winners include Carlys Quest, winner of the 2005 Punchestown Champion Stayers’ Hurdle, 2007 Swordlestown Cup winner Another Promise and Kalahari King, victorious in the 2009 John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase. He also sent out Truckers Tavern to finish second to Best Mate in the 2003 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, while Joes Edge secured Murphy a second Scottish Grand National in 2005. In 2009 he saddled the Mary Durkan-owned L’Antartique to win in the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and the Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open. This year, Divers won the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, his 10th success there.
Grand National Record: 1999 Addington Boy (4th); 2000 Addington Boy (5th); 2001 Addington Boy (UR 2nd), Paddy’s Return (Fell 3rd), 2002 Streamstown (9th), Birkdale (10th), Paris Pike (Fell 1st), Ackzo (PU bef 20th); 2003 Ballinclay King (PU bef 15th); 2004 Luzcadou (Fell 1st); 2005 Europa (20th); 2006 Joes Edge (7th), Haute de Gamme (Fell 20th); 2007 Joes Edge (PU bef 20th)
Irishman Graham Lee enjoyed his first John Smith's Grand National ride in 2003 when partnering Amberleigh House into third behind Monty's Pass, but he did even better in 2004 when Amberleigh House's victory over Clan Royal gave him the biggest moment of his career. He rode Amberleigh House into 10th in 2005 and the pair pulled up in the 2006 John Smith's Grand National. That race proved to be the final outing for the then 14-year-old. Born on December 12, 1975 in Ireland, Lee rode in pony races and left school aged 15. He had his first winner under Rules aboard the Dessie McDonogh-trained Blushing Pearl in a handicap hurdle at Navan on November 7, 1992. He had always wanted to be a jockey and had five rides for Noel Meade before joining McDonogh's County Meath stable. Still only 17, Lee travelled to England in 1993 to join Mary Reveley's Cleveland yard, on the recommendation of Ger Lyons. He broke a leg in a fall at Sedgefield in February, 1996, and, having lost a lot of weight, decided to try his luck riding on the Flat. He didn't enjoy the experience of riding on the level and went on a high-protein diet to regain weight. However, he regrets not sticking to the Flat. He was stable jockey to the top northern jumping stable of Howard Johnson from 2003 until the spring of 2006. While at Johnson's, he enjoyed three winners at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival on Arcalis, Inglis Drever and No Refuge and was the top jockey at the meeting. After parting company with Johnson, he became stable jockey to Ferdy Murphy's North Yorkshire stable and had a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2007 on L'Antartique (Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase) while the duo landed the Grade One John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree in 2009 with Kalahari King. Lee and Murphy teamed up for further Cheltenham Festival success in 2011 with Divers (Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase). He also partnered the Donald McCain-trained Overturn to win the 2010 Galway Hurdle. Lee has two children with his wife Becky. His fitness regime has included training with Middlesbrough football club.
John Smith's Grand National Record: 2003 Amberleigh House (3rd); 2004 AMBERLEIGH HOUSE (WON); 2005 Amberleigh House (10th); 2006 Amberleigh House (PU bef 21st); 2007 Joes Edge (PU bef 20th), 2009 Kilbeggan Blade (PU 21st), 2010 The Package (UR 19th)
DON’T PUSH IT (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Old Vic - She´s No Laugh Ben (USA) (Alleged (USA))
11-11-10 Form: 3/11/1211F5/1F0/P02201/423P1-P000 Owner: J P McManus
Breeder: Dominick Vallely Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill Jockey: Tony McCoy
Don’t Push It
Don’t Push It began his career in the 2004/05 season, finishing a promising third in a Warwick bumper, and duly won on his only two starts the following season in a Market Rasen bumper and a Haydock novices’ hurdle. Sent over fences in 2006/07, he got off the mark at Southwell before finding only the mighty Denman too good in a novices’ chase at Cheltenham in November, 2006. Further wins at Cheltenham and Chepstow followed and he was still in contention when falling two out in the 2007 Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He took advantage of his lower hurdles ratings when landing the Listed Silver Trophy at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance in the 2007/08 season, but disappointed on his two subsequent outings that term. The 2008/09 season started disappointingly, but he progressed to take second behind Big Buck’s in a hurdle race at Cheltenham in the January, and rounded off the campaign with a fine victory in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase over three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay course at Aintree on John Smith’s Grand National day. He began the 2009/10 campaign by taking fourth in the Grade Two Old Roan Chase at Aintree and then stayed on to take second to Galant Nuit in a Grade Three handicap chase at Cheltenham in November. A bad mistake at the last cost him all chance of success in a handicap chase at Warwick in December. He disappointed when pulling up in the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but bounced back to give trainer Jonjo O’Neill, owner J P McManus and jockey Tony McCoy each a long-awaited first John Smith’s Grand National victory as 10/1 joint-favourite. This term he has shown little in four hurdle starts, most recently when 10th behind Buena Vista in the Pertemps Final at The Festival on March 17.
Race Record: Starts: 27; Wins: 8 ; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £653,390
J P McManus
Few people have enjoyed a closer association with jump racing in the last 30 years than John Patrick ’J P’ McManus, who was born on a farm in Co Limerick on March 10, 1951 and attended the Christian Brothers School on Sexton Street, Limerick. He left his father’s plant hire business at the age of 20 to become a racecourse bookmaker, but then took the less well-trodden route of gamekeeper-turned-poacher when becoming a professional punter. McManus recalls one of his first bets as being on Merryman II in the 1960 Grand National when he was just nine, but the bet that changed his life was £4 on Linden Tree in a Newmarket maiden in 1970, the horse winning at 100/8. He had another £4 on when Linden Tree won the Observer Gold Cup at 25/1, and £5 each-way at 33/1 for the Derby, when the horse beat all bar Mill Reef. The amount he wagered grew rapidly and he is still one of the highest-staking punters on the racecourse. Dubbed “The Sundance Kid” by journalist Hugh McIlvanney after a number of major gambles in the ring during the 1970s, he is also the biggest jump owner in terms of numbers in Britain, Ireland and France(some 300 horses spread over 50 trainers ran for him last season) after he purchased his first racehorse, Cill Dara, at the age of 26. He has a host of business interests including dealing in financial markets from his Geneva base and part-ownership of the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, where he also has a house. With John Magnier, he bought a 28.7% stake in Manchester United through the Cubic Expression company before subsequently selling out to US tycoon Malcolm Glazer in 2005. He was in the news shortly after that because of his stake in the pub and restaurant operator Mitchells and Butler. In 2010, the Sunday Times estimated McManus’ wealth at £481 million, making him the 11th richest person in Ireland. Since Mister Donovan landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, he has enjoyed 32 Cheltenham Festival successes, headed by the great three-time Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq and the brilliant Baracouda, who landed the 2002 and 2003 renewals of what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. In 2010, he won a fourth Champion Hurdle with Binocular. He does a lot of work for charity and his Pro-Am golf tournament, which takes place every five years, has raised over 95 million euros. McManus is also a keen backgammon player and a big hurling fan. He owns Jackdaws Castle, the Gloucestershire yard that Jonjo O’Neill trains from, and has invested heavily in improving facilities since purchasing the property in 2001. He was British champion owner for the 2005/6, 2006/7, 2008/9 and 2009/10 seasons. A full 28 years after his runner in the race, McManus finally achieved a long-held ambition when Don’t Push It won the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National. He often has multiple entries in the race; five runners in 2004, six in 2005, four in 2006, two in 2007, four in 2008, four in 2009 and four in 2010. Prior to Don’t Push It’s success, Clan Royal went close when second in 2004, was carried out when in the lead at Becher’s second time around in 2005 and was third in 2006, while King Johns Castle filled the runner-up spot in the 2008 contest. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1982 Deep Gale (Fell 1st), 1988 Bucko (PU bef 27th), 1992 Laura's Beau (3rd), 1994 Laura’s Beau (Fell 6th), 1996 Wylde Hide (UR 24th), 1997 Wylde Hide (UR 22nd); 1998 Gimme Five (5th), 2002 Spot Thedifference (UR 27th); 2003 Youlneverwalkalone (PU bef 13th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd), Spot Thedifference (5th), Risk Accessor (UR 6th), Le Coudray (Fell 22nd); 2005 Innox (7th), Spot Thedifference (18th), Shamawan (21st), Clan Royal (CO 22nd), Le Coudray (PU before 21st), Risk Accessor (UR 2nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th), Innox (Fell 1st), First Gold (UR 23rd); 2007 L’Ami (10th), Clan Royal (11th); 2008 King Johns Castle (2nd), L’Ami (Fell 2nd), Bob Hall (PU bef 19th), Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th), Reveillez (BD 3rd), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th), L’Ami (PU bef 30th); 2010 DON’T PUSH IT (WON), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 8th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th), King Johns Castle (refused to race)
Jonjo O’Neill (born April 13, 1952) was a highly successful jump jockey and has established himself at the top of the training ranks. In spite of an appalling list of injuries, he was champion jockey twice (1977/78 and 1979/80), and he set a then record for a season of 149 winners in his first championship year. The most sensational moment of his riding career came when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Dawn Run in 1986 as the mare became the only horse to win that trophy after having previously taken the Champion Hurdle (1984), again with O’Neill in the saddle. He also won the Gold Cup on Alverton in 1979, though he had a dreadful record in the Grand National, in which he never completed the course in spite of having eight rides. He retired from the saddle at the end of the 1985/86 season and, having survived lymphatic cancer not long after that, started training near Penrith, Cumbria, in 1987. He forged a reputation with horses such as Vicario Di Bray, winner of the 1989 Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, and Legal Right, who landed the Grade Three Tripleprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 1999 and went on to capture the BGC Silver Cup at Ascot as well as the Grade Two Tommy Whittle Chase. He moved to his present base at Jackdaws Castle in Gloucestershire, not far from Cheltenham, when the yard was bought by owner J P McManus in 2001. In 2010, he finally broke his Grand National duck when saddling Don’t Push It to victory for McManus, who had been trying to win the race since 1982. A P (Tony) McCoy rode the gelding, gaining a first success at the 15th attempt. O’Neill’s other victories at the Aintree Festival as a trainer include Quazar in the John Smith’s Anniversary 4YO Novices’ Hurdle in 2002, Clan Royal in the 2003 John Smith’s Topham Chase, Iris’s Gift (2003) and Black Jack Ketchum (2006) in the Citroen C5 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, Iris’s Gift in the 2004 John Smith’s Liverpool Long Distance Hurdle, Exotic Dancer (2007) in the totesport Bowl and Albertas Run in the Melling Chase (2010). His 18 Cheltenham Festival victories include five wins in the National Hunt Chase, the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Spectroscope, the 2004 Ladbrokes World Hurdle with Iris’s Gift and the three victories of Albertas Run in the RSA Chase (2007) and the Ryanair Chase (2010 & 2011). John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2003 Carbury Cross (7th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd), Joss Naylor (PU bef 19th); 2005 Simply Gifted (3rd), Shamawan (21st), Native Emperor (UR 9th), Clan Royal (CO bef 22nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th); 2007 Clan Royal (11th); 2008 Bob Hall (PU bef 19th), Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th), Reveillez (BD 3rd), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th); 2010 DON’T PUSH IT (WON), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 8th)
Born in Moneyglass, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland on May 4, 1974, Tony McCoy is the greatest jump jockey of his era and many would argue of all time. He is the son of Peadar McCoy, who bred the 1993 County Hurdle victor Thumbs Up. McCoy started out with Billy Rock, riding out from the age of 12, before trying his luck as a Flat jockey with Jim Bolger and rode his first winner on Legal Steps at Thurles on March 26, 1992. Since growing too heavy and turning to jump racing, he has not looked back. He partnered his first British winner, Chickabiddy, at Exeter on September 7, 1994 and was champion conditional rider in Britain in 1994/5 with a then record 74 winners when attached to Toby Balding's Hampshire yard. He took his first senior title the following season with 174 wins. His domination has brought 15 consecutive jump jockey's titles and he is currently well on course for number 16 this season. McCoy broke Peter Scudamore's record of 221 wins in the 1997/8 season with 253 successes and broke his own record for the fastest 200 winners in the 1999/2000 season, ending up with 245 successes. In 2001/02 he beat by 20 the record of 269 winners in any season set by Flat jockey Sir Gordon Richards. He has passed the double century mark five times and reached the 3,000 winner mark at Plumpton in February, 2009. He had a fairytale 1997 Cheltenham Festival, recording a rare double on Make A Stand for his then boss Martin Pipe in the Champion Hurdle and Mr Mulligan in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. McCoy added a second Champion Hurdle when successful on Brave Inca in 2006 and a third last season with Binocular. In total, he has partnered 25 winners at The Festival. In April, 2004, he left Martin Pipe's stable after accepting a reportedly huge retainer from J P McManus and rides for the owner’s principal trainer in Britain, Jonjo O'Neill. He scored a long-awaited victory in the Grand National aboard Don’t Push It in 2010. That win helped towards him being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year that December. McCoy also rides regularly for Nicky Henderson. His wife Chanelle gave birth to their daughter Eve late in 2007. McCoy was made an MBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List and his achievements were recognised with a reception at Stormont, the seat of government in Northern Ireland, in August, 2009. In the 2010 Birthday Honours List he was made an OBE. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1995 Chatam (Fell 12th), 1996 Deep Bramble (PU bef 2 out); 1998 Challenger Du Luc (Fell 1st); 1999 Eudipe (Fell 22nd); 2000 Dark Stranger (UR 3rd); 2001 Blowing Wind (3rd), 2002 Blowing Wind (3rd), 2003 Iris Bleu (PU bef 16th); 2004 Jurancon II (Fell 4th); 2005 Clan Royal (CO 22nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd); 2007 L’Ami (10th); 2008 Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th): 2010 DON’T PUSH IT (WON)
HELLO BUD (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Jurado (USA) - Orchestral Sport (IRE) (Orchestra)
13-10-05 Form: 0609/P004/4073111P/116P11/735U875P-1P
Owner: Seamus Murphy Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Breeder: Peter Casey Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies
Trained at Guiting Power in Gloucestershire by Nigel Twiston-Davies, Hello Bud’s Scottish National triumph in 2009 was gained under stable jockey Paddy Brennan, but the trainer’s son, Sam, took over in the saddle when the gelding was fifth to Don’t Push It in the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree in 2010. The now 13-year-old warmed up for Aintree last year by unseating in the Coral Welsh National and then finishing unplaced in the Blue Square Gold Cup at Haydock and Cheltenham’s Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase. After his Aintree exertions in 2010, Hello Bud was pulled up in the Sandown Gold Cup and began his 2011 John Smith’s Grand National warm up with a fantastic effort over the famous course that brought victory in the totesport.com Becher Chase in November. His most recent effort saw him pulled up behind West End Rocker in the totesport.com Classic Chase at Warwick on January 15. Bred in Ireland by Peter Casey, Hello Bud was trained by his breeder when he made his debut in a bumper at Kilbeggan in May 2003. Two more unplaced bumper efforts (when ridden by his trainer/breeder) followed, and a maiden hurdle run was no less successful before Hello Bud disappeared from the racing scene for two and a half years until reappearing in point-to-points in the spring of 2006. He soon made his mark, winning three in succession, and later tried hunter chasing and handicap chasing without success for Casey, until, in November 2007, he had his debut in Britain from the yard of former trainer David Wintle and carrying the colours of current owner Seamus Murphy. Unplaced on that occasion in a handicap hurdle at Towcester, Hello Bud subsequently won three handicap chases for his new handler, and maintained the winning momentum after being transferred to Twiston-Davies following Wintle’s retirement at the end of the 2007/08 season. He won three more handicap chases before going to Ayr for his biggest success.
Race Record: Starts: 32; Wins: 8; 2nd: -; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £249,535
Seamus Murphy has been owning horses since 1974 and has a long-standing relationship in Ireland with trainer/breeder Peter Casey, who trains at Stamullen, Co Meath, close to the Co Dublin border and the town of Balbriggan, where Murphy is based. Amongst the horses that Casey currently trains for Murphy are Jack The Bus and Fingal Rock. It was Casey who bred Hello Bud, selling him to Murphy early in 2006. Murphy, incidentally, also owned a greyhound called Hello Bud. The horse had some success in Ireland, winning three point-to-points, but in the summer of 2007 Murphy transferred the horse to David Wintle’s stable at Naunton in Gloucestershire. Even at that stage, the ambition was a place in the John Smith’s Grand National. Hello Bud won three successive handicap chases while with Wintle, but in 2008 the trainer retired, recommending that Murphy transfer the horse to the nearby stables of Nigel Twiston-Davies. The agreement was made by phone and although the horse won three of his first five outings after the change of stables, Murphy did not meet his new trainer until the Scottish Grand National in April 2008. Hello Bud’s victory that day - with £114,000 winning prize money - remains Murphy’s most significant win. Murphy, who has two businesses - sand & quarrying and environmental services - travelled to Aintree to watch Hello Bud finish fifth in the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2010 Hell Bud (5th)
Nigel Twiston-Davies initially combined training as a permit-holder with his farming interests throughout the 1980s, having his first winner with Last Of The Foxes at Hereford in March, 1982, before the agricultural recession prompted him to make training his full-time profession. He took out a full training licence in 1989, recording his first win as a public trainer in December of that year with Babil at Newbury. He has since gone on to register more than 1,200 successes. Born on May 16, 1957, as an amateur jockey Twiston-Davies rode 17 winners under Rules and gained a further 17 point-to-point victories, and served as assistant trainer to Richard Head and Fred Rimell. A childhood neighbour and friend of Peter Scudamore, he went into partnership with the former champion jump jockey to set up stables at Grange Hill Farm, Guiting Power, Gloucestershire, although Scudamore is no longer involved in the venture and currently assists Lucinda Russell. Twiston-Davies adopted and developed the pioneering techniques of Martin Pipe, such as interval training and regular blood tests for his string, enabling him to rapidly raise his profile among the training ranks. He is the only current trainer to have won the Grand National more than once, saddling Earth Summit to victory in 1998 and Bindaree four years later. The 2001/2002 campaign had been relatively quiet by Twiston-Davies' high standards before Bindaree provided him with his second John Smith's Grand National success. Afterwards he revealed that he had been intending to give up training, but despite "having a bigger debt than Argentina" after buying out Scudamore, the Aintree victory made him have a change of heart. Twiston-Davies has had 13 successes at the Cheltenham Festival, gaining three victories on the final day of the 2010 Festival, with Imperial Commander showing his best form to win the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, Baby Run capturing the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase under 17-year-old son Sam and Pigeon Island taking the last race, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase. This followed a double with Imperial Commander in the Ryanair Chase and Tricky Trickster in the National Hunt Chase in 2009. Imperial Commander went on to win the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock in November but was pulled up in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Other big-race successes include the bet365 Gold Cup with Beau, the Hennessy Gold Cup with King's Road, the Scottish Grand National with Captain Dibble (1992), Earth Summit (1994) and Hello Bud (2009), and the Welsh Grand National with Earth Summit (1997) and Bindaree (2003). His best season numerically before this current campaign was in 2007/08 when the stable enjoyed 87 victories. John Smith's Grand National Record: 1994 Young Hustler (BD 11th); 1995 Camelot Knight (Fell 21st), Dakyns Boy (UR 10th), Young Hustler (UR 3rd); 1996 Young Hustler (5th), Captain Dibble (11th); 1997 Camelot Knight (3rd), Dakyns Boy (8th), Grange Brake (Refused 27th); 1998 EARTH SUMMIT (WON); 1999 Earth Summit (8th), Camelot Knight (BD 22nd); 2000 Camelot Knight (15th); 2001 Beau (UR 20th), Spanish Main (Fell 1st); 2002 BINDAREE (WON), Frantic Tan (UR 5th), Beau (UR 14th); 2003 Bindaree (6th); 2004 Shardam (UR 3rd), Bindaree (UR 6th); 2005 Bindaree (11th), 2006 Baron Windrush (UR 3rd); 2007 Knowhere (UR 8th); Naunton Brook (PU bef 23rd), 2008 Fundamentalist (Fell 3rd), Ardaghey (Fell 4th), Naunton Brook (PU 19th), Knowhere (UR 25th); 2009 Battlecry (16th), Ollie Magern (Fell 2nd), Fundamentalist (PU 21st), Knowhere (PU 25th); 2010 Hello Bud (5th), Beat The Boys (PU 19th), Ballyfitz (Fell 22nd), Ollie Magern (PU 28th)
Born October 15, 1992, Sam Twiston-Davies was still studying for AS-level exams at school in Gloucestershire, when he had his first Cheltenham Festival winner and Grand National ride as one of racing’s most accomplished amateur riders. The son of trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and his estranged wife, Cathy, (who both rode as amateurs), Sam was successful in pony racing before starting in point-to-points in the 2008/09 season when becoming eligible at the age of 16. Within a few weeks, on December 28, 2008, he rode his first winner between the flags, taking a race at Cottenham in Cambridgeshire on Grenfell, trained by his mother. At Ludlow on February 18, 2009, he scored his first success under Rules when partnering Baby Run, owned and trained by Nigel, to victory in a hunter chase. A career that was bound to flourish gained added lift through Baby Run, for he and Sam went on to finish third in the following month’s Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival and later gained one of the season’s biggest prizes when teaming up for victory in the Champion Hunters’ Chase at the Punchestown Festival. They capped that in March, 2010, when returning to Cheltenham and running out easy winners of the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase. Sam then went to Aintree and partnered Hello Bud into fifth on his John Smith’s Grand National debut. He turned professional shortly afterwards. Sam has a younger brother, Willie, who took over on Baby Run in the 2011 Christie’s Foxhunter, only to be unseated when leading at the second-last fence. Sam partnered Hello Bud to victory in the 2010 totesport.com Becher Chase over the Grand National course at Aintree in November and that same month gave Little Josh a brilliant ride to land the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
John Smith’s Grand National record: 2010 Hell Bud (5th)
NICHE MARKET (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Presenting - Juresse (IRE) (Jurado (USA))
10-10-13 Form: P/2P41dU44P/31401-03520P-F50 Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Breeder: William Flood Owner: Graham Regan Probable Jockey: Harry Skelton
Niche Market passed the post first on his debut in a maiden point-to-point at Garnons in South Herefordshire in March, 2006, but was subsequently demoted to second after hanging in the closing stages. He made an inauspicious racecourse debut for Karen Waldron that October when being pulled up in a novices’ hurdle at Worcester. Returning to the pointing sphere, Niche Market comfortably landed a maiden at Barbury Castle in January, 2007, before being bought for £20,000 by trainer Bob Buckler at Brightwells Cheltenham April Sale four months later. He made a pleasing start for new connections, taking second in an Exeter beginners’ chase in October, 2007, but failed to win any of his seven subsequent starts, including when being demoted to the runner-up spot for a second time in his career in a novice chase at Exeter. The highlight of his first chasing season came with an excellent fourth behind Old Benny in the National Hunt Chase at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival and he returned to Prestbury Park for his first start of the 2008/09 campaign, coming home third in a graduation chase in November, 2008. The following month, he gamely held off Monkerhostin to triumph in a Listed handicap chase at Ascot but failed to live with Madison Du Berlais, Denman and Albertas Run when fourth in the Grade Two Levy Board Chase in February, 2009. After taking eighth on his second successive appearance in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, Niche Market ended his season with the biggest success of his career so far when beating Church Island by two lengths in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. After finishing eighth in a Listed handicap chase at Wincanton to start the 2009/10 season, he was third behind Denman and What A Friend in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. He returned to the Berkshire course for his next two starts with two contrasting efforts, fading to come home last in a graduation chase in December before going down by a short-head to Tricky Trickster in the Grade Two AON Chase in February. After finishing ninth in the William Hill Trophy at The Festival he was pulled up three out in the John Smith’s Grand National last year. He joined the Paul Nicholls stable for the current campaign and, after falling at Wincanton on November 6, was a decent fifth to Diamond Harry in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury later the same month. His most recent start came at the Berkshire course when a fair eighth in the Grade Three Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase on March 5.
Race Record: Starts: 23; Wins: 2; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 2; Win and Place Prize Money: £232,536
Born and bred in Blackrock, Co Dublin, Graham Regan grew up next to Leopardstown racecourse, which inspired his passion for racing. He moved to London in 1989 to work in the City, making his fortune from derivatives, and now divides his time between the capital and his home in Burrow Bridge, Somerset. Regan made his first foray into racehorse ownership with trainer Paul Webber after a colleague introduced the pair, but the partnership enjoyed a less than fruitful start as Battling Buster was tailed off on his racecourse debut in a Sandown bumper in March, 2002. Regan preferred to have horses trained nearer to his Somerset base and he sent two horses to local handler Simon Burrough, enjoying a first success when No Sam No triumphed in an amateur riders’ handicap at Worcester in August, 2004. Regan switched his horses to Bob Buckler in 2005 and the pair went on to great success, primarily with the 2009 Irish Grand National victor Niche Market. The nine-year-old is currently Regan’s only horse in training and he has reportedly turned down several large offers for his chaser. He moved the horse from Bob Buckler to champion trainer Paul Nicholls before the 2010/11 season.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2010 Niche Market (PU27th)
Paul Nicholls was born on April 17, 1962, and has been training at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset, since taking out a licence on November 1, 1991. The policeman’s son started out in racing as a jump jockey and twice rode the winner of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury - in 1986 on Broadheath and a year later on Playschool, both sent out by Devon trainer David Barons. Nicholls partnered 130 winners between 1980 and 1989, struggling always to keep his weight down, and nominates the best horses he rode as Broadheath, Playschool and Seagram. Between 1989 and 1991, he was assistant trainer to Barons, who sent out Seagram to win the 1991 Grand National at Aintree during that time. He has always trained at Paul Barber's Manor Farm, initially with just eight horses. Having strongly challenged Martin Pipe for the jump trainers' championship over a number of years, most notably when pushing his great rival right to the last day of the 2004/05 campaign, Nicholls claimed his first title the following season, being responsible for 148 winners and gaining over £2.4 million in prize money. He retained the title the next season with 124 successes and nearly £2,950,000 in prize money. The hugely talented Kauto Star was the stable's flag-bearer, with victories in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, Sandown's Tingle Creek Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton, Newbury's AON Chase and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Kauto Star thus became the first horse to land the Betfair Million, the huge bonus then put up by the leading betting exchange for success in the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. In the 2007/08 season, Kauto Star was runner-up in the Gold Cup but Nicholls also trained his conqueror, the mighty Denman, and ended up champion trainer again with 151 winners and over £3.6 million in prize money. In the 2008/09 season, Nicholls was champion again with his best tally yet of 155 winners and just under £3.5 million in prize money. That season, Kauto Star landed a third King George VI Chase and became the first horse to reclaim the Gold Cup when defeating Denman by 13 lengths. Nicholls pulled off the amazing feat of saddling seven winners and three seconds from his 10 runners on Saturday, November 7, 1998, and made history when he became the first trainer to saddle six winners on the same card, at Wincanton, his local track, on Saturday, January 21, 2006. Another high point in his training career came at the 1999 Cheltenham Festival when he captured the major chase on each of the three days - Flagship Uberalles in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase, Call Equiname in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and, best of all, See More Business took the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nicholls has trained 30 Cheltenham Festival winners in total and he was the most successful trainer at The Festival in 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2009, as well as Kauto Star’s triumph, he saddled Master Minded to a second win in the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase, while Big Buck’s captured the staying hurdlers’ crown when winning the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. Other highlights at The Festival so far include Azertyuiop’s victories in The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy and the Queen Mother Champion Chase. His feat in 2009 of saddling the winners of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup had only been achieved once before (by Jim Dreaper in 1975). Last season Denman landed a second Hennessy Gold Cup under top-weight, while Kauto Star became the first horse to win the King George VI Chase for a fourth consecutive year. However, the trainer was unable to land the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Kauto Star falling four out and Denman finishing second to Imperial Commander. Big Buck’s did win a second consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle that year and in 2011 the champion staying hurdler became the first horse to win the race in three consecutive seasons. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1992 Just So (6th); 1996 Vicompt De Valmont (10th), Deep Bramble (PU bef 2 out), Brackenfield (UR 19th); 1997 Straight Talk (Fell 14th); 1998 What A Hand (Fell 1st), Court Melody (Fell 6th), General Crack (PU 11th); 1999 Strong Chairman (15th), Double Thriller (Fell 1st), 2000 Earthmover (Fell 4th), Torduff Express (Fell 13th), Flaked Oats (Fell 20th), Escartefigue (UR 30th); 2001 Earthmover (Fell 4th); 2002 Murt’s Man (PU bef 17th), Ad Hoc (BD 27th); 2003 Montifault (5th), Fadalko (UR 6th), Ad Hoc (UR 19th), Shotgun Willy (PU bef 22nd), Torduff Express (UR 27th); 2004 Exit To Wave (PU bef 9th); 2005 Royal Auclair (2nd), Heros Collonges (8th), L’Aventure (15th), Ad Hoc (Fell 22nd); 2006 Royal Auclair (Fell 1st), Le Roi Miguel (PU bef 19th), Cornish Rebel (PU bef 19th), Silver Birch (Fell 15th), Le Duc (UR 8th), Heros Collonges (UR 15th); 2007 Royal Auclair (Fell 9th), Le Duc (UR 6th), Eurotrek (PU bef 22nd), Thisthatandtother (PU bef 30th); 2008 Cornish Sett (12th), Mr Pointment (PU bef last), Turko (Fell 25th); 2009 My Will (3rd), Big Fella Thanks (6th), Cornish Sett (17th), Eurotrek (PU 17th); 2010 Big Fell Thanks (4th), Tricky Trickster (9th), My Will (Fell 4th), Nozic (UR 20th).
Born on September 20, 1989, Harry Skelton is the son of legendary showjumper Nick, who himself almost became a jump jockey with David Nicholson before going on to represent his country in six Olympics. Not surprisingly, Harry grew up surrounded by horses and he learnt to ride on the same pony as his father, Oxo, and took part in some of the top pony showjumping competitions as a youngster. Skelton enjoyed a summer with Reg Hollinshead when aged 13 prior to a spell at Richard Hannon’s yard after leaving school. He joined Paul Nicholls’ yard, where his older brother Dan is assistant trainer, in October, 2005, but continued to show an interest on the Flat and took part in the Bollinger series for amateur riders in the summer of 2006. After partnering a handful of Nicholls’ runners as an amateur, Skelton took the decision to turn professional on New Year’s Day, 2007, and he partnered his first winner under Rules when scoring on Temper Lad in a conditional jockeys’ selling handicap hurdle at Exeter on October 10, 2007. His first full season as a conditional yielded 14 winners but it was a quick-fire big race double in December, 2008, that saw Skelton rise to prominence in his own right. Just days after guiding Niche Market to success in the valuable BGC Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot, Skelton partnered Nozic to victory in the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby. A superb campaign reached further heights in April, 2009, as Skelton once again linked up with Niche Market to triumph in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. Skelton’s best season came in 2009/10 with 31 winners - his biggest victory of that campaign came on the Nicholls-trained Beshabar, who romped to an eight-length success in the Grade Three Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown. He als had his first John Smith’s Grand National ride aboard Niche Market. He already has 27 wins on the board this term (up to March 24), including a victory in the totesport.com National Spirit Hurdle on Celestial Halo.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2010 Niche Market (PU 27th)
OSCAR TIME (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Oscar (IRE) - Baywatch Star (IRE) (Supreme Leader)
10-10-09 Form: 4243/2123217/23232214F/73152-263 Owner: Robert Waley-Cohen
Trainer: Martin Lynch IRE Breeder: Edmond Coleman Jockey: Mr Sam Waley-Cohen
Oscar Time has only won four of 28 starts but is a model of consistency, having filled the runner-up berth 10 times. The gelding passed through the sales ring for 37,000 euros as a three-year-old at Tattersalls Ireland in August, 2004, with Martin Lynch the buyer. As a four-year-old at Goffs in May, 2005, Emerald Bloodstock paid 40,000 euros for him. The gelding started his racing career at Martin Lynch’s Stepaside yard in the ownership of Navan-based Eamon Kane. Having made his debut with a fourth place in a Roscommon bumper in October, 2006, Oscar Time won at the sixth attempt in that sphere, defeating subsequent Grade One winner Weapon’s Amnesty by half a length at Thurles in January, 2008. A victory over hurdles followed that April but his biggest success to date came over fences when winning the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December, 2009, in which he defeated Siegemaster by seven lengths. In April, 2010, Oscar Time showed his potential for the John Smith’s Grand National when finishing runner-up to Bluesea Cracker in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. Following that effort, Robert Waley-Cohen and Sir Martin Broughton purchased the gelding with Waley-Cohen going on to say: “He was bought with the specific target of going to the National. He was second in the Irish National last year and Sam rides him. He has the perfect profile." Oscar Time has raced thrice this season, each time ridden by Waley-Cohen’s son, the Gold Cup-winning amateur, Sam Waley-Cohen. After finishing second to Rick in the Rock Of Cashel Hurdle at Thurles in November, Oscar Time was then a good sixth in a competitive three-mile handicap hurdle at Leopardstown in December. His latest start came over fences when third in the Grade Two BobbyJo Chase at Fairyhouse on February 23, five lengths behind The Midnight Club.
Race Record: Starts: 28; Wins; 4; 2nd: 10; 3rd; 6: Win & Place Prize Money: £194,237
Robert Waley-Cohen enjoyed his greatest day as an owner in March, 2011, when his amateur rider son Sam Waley-Cohen partnered Long Run to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, trained by long-time friend Nicky Henderson. The gelding, at six the youngest Gold Cup winner since Mill House in 1963, had landed the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December, aged five. Although Robert Waley-Cohen had a few rides in point-to-points, he described himself as an incredibly bad amateur - “Wrong shape, wrong weight, not fit enough - basically, just thoroughly incompetent”. Born on November 10, 1948 and the founder of healthcare giant Alliance Medical, Robert Waley-Cohen is no stranger to big race success at Aintree as his Rustle won the Bumper in 1987 and the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle the following season while Wont Be Gone Long took the Topham Chase in 1990 and Liberthine collected the same race in 2006 under Sam. He trains a few horses himself under permit and sent out Katarino to win the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase in 2005 and 2006 again ridden by Sam. A member of the Jockey Club since 1983, where he has been a steward, he has a small team of around 10 broodmares at Upton Viva in Warwickshire and is also a director of Cheltenham racecourse – he will become Chairman of Cheltenham racecourse when Lord Vestey steps down at the end of this season. He has horses in training with Guillaume Macaire in France as well as Nicky Henderson. His son Tom died of cancer in July, 2004, making Liberthine and Katarino’s exploits even more poignant. Tom’s Ward at Oxford Children’s Hospital is named after him.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2003 Katarino (UR 15th); 2007 Liberthine (5th)
Martin Lynch IRE
Stepaside, County Dublin trainer Martin Lynch is a former jockey who enjoyed his biggest day in the saddle when winning the 1990 Vincent O’Brien Gold Cup on the John Upson-trained Nick The Brief. The Meath native learned his trade as an amateur rider with Clem Magnier and John Fowler, winning the Morgiana Hurdle on Fowler’s Royal Dipper. After turning professional, Lynch won the 1985 Thyestes Chase aboard Seskin Bridge and was second to Rhyme N’ Reason on the same horse in that year’s Irish Grand National. He rode Elfast to win the Mildmay Of Flete at the 1992 Cheltenham Festival before hanging up his riding boots. After taking out a trainer’s licence in Ireland, he leased Bill Durkan’s yard at Glencairn before relocating shortly afterwards to Middleton Park in County Westmeath. As a trainer, he enjoyed the biggest success of his career when Oscar Time landed the 190,000 euros Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December, 2009. He is married to former trainer Suzanne Finn, a herbalist and acupuncturist, who is credited by the trainer with helping prepare the fussy eater Oscar Time for the Paddy Power Chase. He also trained the high-class Colonel Yeager to finish fourth in the 1999 Grade One Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Lynch has never trained more than five winners in a season, which he achieved in the 1995/96 and 1996/97 seasons.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: No previous runners
Mr Sam Waley-Cohen
Sam Waley-Cohen, 28, was born on April 15, 1982. In March of this year, he became the first amateur rider to partner a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner since Jim Wilson in 1981, when triumphing aboard Long Run, on whom he had also won the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December, 2009. His father Robert Waley-Cohen owns Long Run and is a director of Cheltenham Racecourse (soon to be Chairman), permit holder and owner/breeder who has most of his horses in training with Nicky Henderson. Sam studied politics at Edinburgh University and lives in London. He has established his own dental company, Portman Healthcare. He started out on the point-to-point circuit and is now a high-profile amateur rider with several prestigious prizes under his belt. His first success under Rules came aboard Moscow Dancer in an amateur riders' handicap hurdle at Kelso on December 1, 2003. Liberthine gave Sam a first Cheltenham Festival victory in the 2005 Mildmay Of Flete Handicap Chase. His record at Aintree is the envy of many professional riders, with three wins from 10 starts over the Grand National fences. His first triumph over the famous course came aboard his father's Katarino in the 2005 John Smith's Fox Hunter's Chase. The pair followed up in the 2006 John Smith's Fox Hunters' Chase and Sam enjoyed a fantastic double as he also guided Liberthine to victory in the following day's John Smith's Topham Chase over the big spruce fences. His successes over the Grand National course prompted a change in the rules, which prevented riders from participating in the main event if they had ridden less than 15 winners under Rules. Riders are now able to ride in the race, at the discretion of the BHA, if they have partnered 10 winners under Rules. Waley-Cohen took advantage of this new ruling in the 2007 John Smith's Grand National to partner Liberthine around Aintree once more and the pair enjoyed a superb race, leading for much of the second circuit before fading to finish fifth behind Silver Birch. Waley-Cohen returned to Aintree in 2008 to partner Katarino in the John Smith's Fox Hunter's Chase and the 13-year-old, making his first appearance since winning the same race two years earlier, produced a game front-running performance, only to be passed at the elbow by Christy Beamish. Waley-Cohen enjoyed a productive season on both sides of the English Channel in 2008/09, winning an amateur steeplechase at Auteuil just days after partnering Tricky Trickster to victory in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Last season, he enjoyed Grade One success aboard Long Run in the Feltham Novices’ Chase, while he rode Isn’t That Lucky to finish third in the Topham Chase at Aintree, although Little Rocker fell at the sixth fence in the John Smith Fox Hunters’. Waley-Cohen is a close friend Prince William and Kate Middleton and is widely credited with reuniting the pair following their brief break-up in 2007. The future Queen was at school with Sam’s brother, Tom, who died of bone cancer, aged 20, in 2004. Sam is engaged to be married to party planner Annabel Ballin in June.
John Smith's Grand National Record: 2007 Liberthine (5th); 2009 Ollie Magern (Fell 2nd)
QUINZ (FR) FACTFILE
b g Robin Des Champs (FR) - Altesse Du Mou (FR) (Tin Soldier (FR))
7-10-08 Jumps Form: 4651/5FP510-1131 Owner: Andrew Cohen
Trainer: Philip Hobbs Breeder: Michael Blond Jockey: Richard Johnson
A battling victory over Mount Oscar in the Grade Three Racing Post Chase at Kempton on February 26 gave Quinz a third win in four starts this term and boosted his John Smith’s Grand National claims. His only defeat this campaign had come on his previous start when he finished third to the top-class Time For Rupert and runner-up Chicago Grey in an extended three-mile, one-furlong novice chase at Cheltenham in December. Impressive wins at Ascot and Exeter preceded that effort. Quinz began his career on the Flat in France when a short-neck second at Dieppes in July, 2008. Following a decent fourth in a Listed hurdle at Auteuil that September, Quinz moved to Philip Hobbs’ Minehead yard, finishing sixth for owner Andrew Cohen on his British debut behind Pause And Clause in a two-mile, five-furlong hurdle at Kempton in February, 2009. He progressed that spring to defeat Burton Port in a fixed brush novice hurdle at Haydock in April, 2009. That winter saw him switch to fences but he failed to make the frame in his three starts, all at Newbury, that saw him finish fifth, fall and pull up. Returned to hurdles in the spring of 2010, he easily landed a Kempton handicap by 20 lengths before failing to fire in the Grade Three John Smith’s Smithythehorse.com Handicap Hurdle at Aintree in April. This season, his improved form sees him heading back to Aintree as a leading John Smith’s Grand National contender. Race Record: Starts: 14; Wins: 5; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £95,532
Andrew Cohen, 57, left school at 17 to work for his father, selling dresses in Scotland. He made his fortune through Betterware plc, the household goods distributors, of which he was chairman. Cohen bought Betterware from the receiver for £250,000 in 1983, floated it for £30 million in 1986 and sold it to its management in 1997 for £42.7 million. He returned as executive chairman in 2002 and sold his 50% share in the company for around £50 million in 2007. Betterware operates from a warehouse complex in Castle Vale, Birmingham. As well as racehorses, Cohen collects rare film posters - his vintage poster of Fritz Laing’s Metropolis fetched a world record £390,000. His business interests have also included Wood Hall Securities and Glenmore Group. He and his wife Wendy run the Betterware Trust charitable foundation. Cohen has been a major supporter of Jump racing for over 20 years. He formed Uplands Bloodstock in 1994 when he stepped in to financially assist trainer Charlie Brooks at his Uplands Stables. Operating the yard at two-thirds its capacity, the trainer was struggling until gaining support from Cohen. The businessman transferred 20 horses from John Upson’s stables to Brooks’ Lambourn yard, and Uplands Bloodstock was formed as a joint venture between trainer and owner. Simon Sherwood was appointed trainer in 1998 after Brooks gave up training and Cohen subsequently sold Uplands to John and Lavinia Taylor. In 2000, Cohen appointed Alex Hales as trainer at his new base, Woodhall Stud in Hertfordshire. Cohen has about 15 mares at the stud. Cohen’s blue colours with white diamonds were twice carried to second-place in the John Smith’s Grand National thanks to Suny Bay in 1997 and 1998. The grey gelding collected quite a haul of big race wins for his owner: Haydock Grand National Trial (1997), Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (1997), Edward Hanmer Chase (1997 & 1998) and Tommy Whittle Chase (1998). Suny Bay, a former point-to-pointer, was discovered in Ireland by the doyen of bloodstock dealers, Tom Costello. This season, Quinz landed the Grade Three Racing Post Chase in February for Cohen, who has horses with that gelding’s trainer Philip Hobbs, as well as Hales, Sherwood and Emma McWilliam.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1995 Zeta’s Lad (UR 3rd); 1997 Suny Bay (2nd); 1998 Suny Bay (2nd)
Born July 26, 1955, and one of Britain's leading jump trainers, Philip Hobbs first took out a training licence with only nine horses. His first runner, North Yard at Exeter in August, 1985, was a winner and there has been no looking back. He is based at Sandhill near Minehead, Somerset. He tasted big-race success as early as 1986/87 when Bonanza Boy was one of the season's top novice hurdlers. Putting behind him the disappointment of losing that horse to Martin Pipe, he has gone on to take other important prizes with horses such as Joint Sovereignty (1989 Paddy Power Gold Cup), Moody Man (1990 Imperial Cup and County Hurdle), Dreams End (1994 Swinton Hurdle), Dr Leunt (1999 Racing Post Chase), What's Up Boys (2001 Hennessy Gold Cup, 2nd 2002 Grand National), Flagship Uberalles (2001 Tingle Creek Chase and 2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase), Gunther McBride (2002 Racing Post Chase), Rooster Booster (2003 Champion Hurdle), One Knight (2003 Royal & Sun Alliance Chase), Monkerhostin (2004 Coral Cup, 2004 Boylesports.com Gold Cup, 2008 bet365 Gold Cup), Detroit City (2006 JCB Triumph Hurdle, 2006 John Smith's Anniversary 4YO Hurdle, 2006 Boylesports.com International), Menorah (2010 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) and Dream Alliance (2009 Welsh National). His success is even more apparent in numerical terms. He reached a century for the first time in the 1999/2000 campaign, eventually finishing with 118 wins. His highest number of wins came in 2002/03 with 134. This season is the 10th in succession that he has surpassed £1 million in prize money. He has trained 15 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including a double this year with Captain Chris (Arkle Chase) and Cheltenian (Champion Bumper). Hobbs made four appearances in the Grand National as a professional jockey in the 1980s and, although one of the best horses he rode was West Tip, he didn't get the leg up on him in the National, with those four rides resulting in two falls, one ninth place and an 11th. That last performance was in 1986 on Northern Bay in the final weeks of his 160-win career as a jockey, when his much more successful training career was already under way. Hobbs has subsequently saddled two horses to be placed in the John Smith's Grand National - Samlee (3rd) in 1998 and What's Up Boys (2nd) in 2002. John Smith's Grand National record: 1990 Gallic Prince (13th); Joint Sovereignty (Fell 19th); 1995 Gold Cap (13th); 1998 Samlee (3rd); Greenhill Tare Away (UR 27th); 1999 Samlee (10th); Bells Life (PU bef 26th); Mudahim (UR 6th); 2000 Village King (Fell 20th); Stormy Passage (Fell 22nd); 2001 Village King (Fell 8th); 2002 What's Up Boys (2nd); 2004 What's Up Boys (BD 6th); 2005 Double Honour (UR 21st); 2007 Zabenz (PU bef 7th), Monkerhostin (Ref 7th); 2009 Zabenz (Fell 16th), Parsons Legacy (Fell 22nd); 2010 Dream Alliance (PU bef 24th).
Born July 21, 1977, Richard Johnson attended Belmont Abbey school, the alma mater of Peter Scudamore, before leaving at 16 to take a job with then champion trainer David Nicholson. He was born and raised at Madley, Herefordshire, where his parents have a farm. Johnson comes from racing stock as his mother Sue holds a licence to train, while his father Keith, who won the 1982 Midlands Grand National on Bridge Ash, and his grandfather Ivor were both good amateur riders. Johnson is unlucky to be riding in the same era as Tony McCoy as he has finished runner-up to his rival in the jockeys' championship on 10 occasions and appears destined to fill the same position this term. He is one of a few jockeys to make the front page of The Sun (March 2003) when Zara Phillips kissed him after his Champion Hurdle victory on Rooster Booster and also appeared in the pages of Hello magazine (December 2001) alongside his then girlfriend. His first winner came at Exeter aboard Rusty Bridge on April 30,1994, and he has gone on to capture some of racing's biggest prizes, notably the 2000 Gold Cup at Cheltenham aboard Looks Like Trouble and the 2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Flagship Uberalles, as well as Rooster Booster's famous triumph in the Champion Hurdle. Other top-flight winners he has partnered include Florida Pearl, Anzum, Mighty Man, Detroit City, Planet Of Sound, Menorah and Landing Light. He has a good record at Aintree and won the Topham Trophy over the Grand National course in 2001 on Gower Slave. His best finish in the John Smith's Grand National came when What's Up Boys finished second in 2002. The grey looked the winner at the elbow but, like many before him, Johnson's mount was headed in the last 75 yards by Bindaree. At this season’s Cheltenham Festival, he landed the Arkle Trophy on Captain Chris and the Weatherbys Champion Bumper aboard Cheltenian. He also captured the Racing Post Trophy at Kempton on John Smith’s Grand National hope Quinz. In 2007 he married Fiona Chance, daughter of the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Noel Chance.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1997 Celtic Abbey (UR 15th), 1998 Banjo (Fell 1st), 1999 Baronet (Fell 4th), 2000 Star Traveller (Pulled up bef 27th); 2001 Edmond (Fell 15th); 2002 What's Up Boys (2nd); 2003 Behrajan (10th); 2004 What's Up Boys (BD 6th); 2005 Jakari (PU bef 20th); 2006 Therealbandit (PU bef 27th); 2007 Monkerhostin (Refused 7th); 2008 Turko (Fell 25th); 2009 Parson’s Legacy (Fell 22nd); 2010 Tricky Trickster (9th)
STATE OF PLAY (GB) FACTFILE
b g Hernando (FR) - Kaprice (GER) (Windwurf (GER)
11-10-06 Form: 81/5742/411151/164/2560/144/P3- Owner: William & Angela Rucker
Trainer: Evan Williams Breeder: Roland Lerner Jockey: Paul Moloney
State Of Play
Previously owned by Carolyn Waters, State Of Play had eight starts for trainer Paul Webber, winning a Ludlow bumper and a Hereford novice hurdle before being sold for 18,000 guineas at Doncaster Sales in August, 2005. He made an impressive winning debut for his new trainer Evan Williams that October when taking a novice chase at Chepstow and followed up with a comfortable success in a similar contest at Plumpton six weeks later. He was then pitched into Grade One company for the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Sandown on December 26, but he struggled against some top-quality opposition and was tailed off. Given a break, State Of Play returned to action in a handicap chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting over the Mildmay fences, where he made a mockery of his official mark of 128 and was eased down to record a stunning 16-length victory. He surpassed that success on his next appearance, in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury in November, 2006, keeping on well to beat Juveigneur by four lengths. Williams kept his star chaser fresh for an ambitious tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and State Of Play ran a sound race to finish sixth, just over 11 lengths behind the victorious Kauto Star, before a tepid end to his season with fourth behind Exotic Dancer in the Grade Two Betfair Bowl at Aintree on the Mildmay course. State Of Play showed his preference for running fresh with a good second to Ollie Magern on his seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, 2007, but the rest of that season proved a disappointment, with fifth to Denman in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting followed by sixth in the Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January. A confidence-restoring return to handicap company also failed at Aintree in April as State Of Play could only beat one horse home. After a five-month break, he began the 2008/09 campaign with his first victory since his Hennessy triumph as he got the better of Ollie Magern in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November. He returned to the Yorkshire course to contest the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase on December 26, when he came home fourth behind Nozic, Tidal Bay and Cloudy Lane. Rested until the John Smith’s Grand National in April, he ran a sound race to take fourth behind Mon Mome. He made just one appearance before returning to Aintree in April, 2010, pulling up behind Denman in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November. The plan to keep him fresh paid dividends as State Of Play improved on his previous John Smith’s Grand National effort to take third behind Don’t Push It. He heads to this year’s contest without a prep race, having been kept specifically for the John Smith’s Grand National.
Race Record: Starts: 24; Wins: 7; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £375,921
William & Angela Rucker
William Rucker is chief executive of Lazard’s London operations. The bank dates back to 1848 and is one of the world's pre-eminent financial advisory and asset management firms, operating from 40 cities across 24 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Central and South America. William joined Lazard in 1987, having previously qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen. His wife Angela is from a legendary point-to-point family, being the grand-daughter of Major Harold Rushton, who rode 86 winners, and the daughter of Pat Tollitt, who rode 171 winners between the flags and was champion lady rider on six occasions. Angela herself is also a talented rider and trains pointers. The Ruckers are based at Himbleton in Worcestershire and have horses with a variety of point-to-point trainers, including Sheila Crow, who trained their Cappa Bleu to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. Horses that progress to run under Rules are sent to Evan Williams, who has been well supported by Angela’s family since he began training. Major winners for owner and trainer include State Of Play, who won the 2006 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November 2008, while High Chimes landed the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival. State Of Play was also fourth to Mon Mome in the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National and third behind Don’t Push It in the 2010 renewal. John Smith's Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd)
Unrelated to the winning jockey of the 1937 Grand National who bears the same name, Evan Williams was born on April 3, 1971, on his family’s farm in the village of Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan. He used to get up at dawn to milk the cows before going to school. He took over the running of the farm full-time when he was 17, concentrating firstly on dairy farming and then beef when the price of milk dropped. He also started training a few point-to-pointers in 1997 but the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 decimated his herd and restrictions on the movement of livestock wiped out the point-to-point season. Williams sold his cattle at a loss after the outbreak and went to Ireland to buy 18 horses with the proceeds, going on to be champion point-to-point trainer and jockey in 2002. He took out his full training licence the following year and rode his first winner, Cherry Gold, in a hunters’ chase at Chepstow on April 22, 2003. Williams enjoyed his first big-race success at the same course in December of that year, when saddling Sunray to win the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at odds of 40/1. The winners continued to flow and Williams shot to national prominence with State Of Play, who followed up success in a handicap chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting in April, 2006, with victory in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury seven months later. The chaser has since gone on to triumph in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, while other big race success has arrived courtesy of High Chimes, who gave Williams a first Cheltenham Festival winner in the 2008 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase, and Grade Two scorers Deep Purple and Simarian. IN the 2009/10 season, Barizan emerged as a top-class juvenile hurdler, winning a Grade One at Punchestown after finishing second in both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree. Williams is assisted by top amateur James Tudor, who was champion point-to-point rider in 2007 and partnered High Chimes to his Cheltenham success. He is married to Cath who continued to train point-to-pointers after he took out his professional licence, saddling over 50 winners in two seasons including the prolific Cannon Bridge, who chalked up nine wins in a single campaign. Cath and Evan have three children William, Isabel and Ellie. John Smith's Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd)
Paul Moloney formerly shared a house in Newmarket with 2007 champion Flat jockey Jamie Spencer and was born on October 17, 1978, hailing from New Inn, close to Ballydoyle in Co Tipperary. He was heavily involved in both hunting and show jumping and rode his first point-to-point winner at Quin in 1996 for trainer Danny O'Connell. He spent school holidays with Jim Bolger, working alongside Tony McCoy and leading Flat rider Ted Durcan, and later joined Michael Hourigan, for whom he rode his first three winners. His initial success under Rules came on Vain Princess at Clonmel in June, 1995. Moloney was one of Ireland's leading amateurs and shared the 1998/99 title with Philip Fenton. Moloney also spent time with Christy Roche while in Ireland. He came to Britain for tuition from Yogi Breisner before turning professional and relocated to Newmarket during the 2002/2003 season when he rode mainly for Ian Williams. He enjoyed big race success at Aintree in 2006 when he rode State Of Play to victory in the Betfair.com Handicap Chase and teamed up with the same horse to secure the biggest win of his career so far in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury in November, 2006. He has finished fourth (2009) and third (2010) on the same horse in the John Smith’s Grand National. He rides mainly for State Of Play's trainer Evan Williams and his biggest wins include Deep Purple’s victory in the 2009 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and Tiger O’Toole’s victory in the Grade Two Holloways Hurdle at Ascot in January, 2011. John Smith’s Grand National Record:2002 Iris Bleu (Fell 5th); 2004 Royal Atalza (PU bef 29th); 2007 Graphic Approach (Fell 2nd); 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd)
THE MIDNIGHT CLUB (IRE) FACTFILE
ch g Flemensfirth (USA) - Larry’s Peach (Laurence O)
10-10-13 Form: 01113/14F3133-21 Owner: Susannah Ricci
Trainer: Willie Mullins IRE Breeder: Gareth Metcalfe
The Midnight Club
The Midnight Club finished in the frame in each of his five runs in Irish point-to-points between March, 2007 and April, 2008, winning once, before making an inauspicious debut under Rules in May of that year for trainer Gerard Cully. After finishing 14th of 16 on that occasion, he enjoyed a summer break before joining Willie Mullins’ powerful string. The gelding made a winning debut for the yard under Patrick Mullins in a Galway bumper on October 26, 2008. Emmet Mullins took the ride to win on The Midnight Club’s first two hurdle starts at Limerick in December and Fairyhouse in January, before the pair finished a creditable third behind Weapon’s Amnesty in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2009. Victory at Punchestown closed out a successful novice season over hurdles. The Midnight Club switched to fences for the 2009/10 season but it was not until his fourth attempt that he broke his duck, winning a beginners’ chase at Clonmel in February, 2010. That victory booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2010 where he took third for the second year in a row, this time behind Copper Bleu in the Listed Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase. He filled the same berth a month later behind Kempes in the Grade One Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown. The Midnight Club was not seen again until January 28, 2011, when he ran a fine race to finish three quarters of a length second to Siegemaster in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park in the colours of new owner Susannah Ricci. His latest effort brought victory under Paul Townend in the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on February 23, in which he defeated stablemate Arbor Supreme by a length.
Race Record: Starts:14; Wins: 6; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £113,191
Susannah Ricci, 47, is the wife of American banker Rich Ricci, Co-Chief Executive of Barclays Capital and Co-Chief Executive of Corporate & Investment Banking. He is a member of both the Barclays Group and Barclays Capital Executive Committees. Ricci joined Barclays in 1994 and has held several prominent positions and as chief operating officer of Barclays Global Investors, he helped turn the bank’s US-based investment management business into one of the world’s largest asset managers. After gaining his bachelors degree in finance from Creighton University, Ricci held senior positions at the Bank of Boston and the Bank of New England. Although Ricci’s basic salary is reported to be £700,000, in April, 2010, a statement to the stock exchange revealed that Ricci, a close ally of Barclays president Bob Diamond, sold 2.5 million shares in Barclays, worth almost £9 million. Previously, Ricci, also 47, was among 10 directors to have received shares worth a combined £64 million under a five-year performance pay deal. He and his wife have enjoyed notable success on the racecourse since teaming up with Irish Champion trainer Willie Mullins in 2007. Their pink colours with green spots have become a familiar sight at the major Jump festivals. Pomme Tiepy gave them their first victory at Cork in December, 2007 and went on to run up a sequence of four wins, including a pair of Grade Two novice chases in early 2008. The gelding gave them their first taste of the Grand National course at Aintree when falling at the first fence in the 2010 Topham Chase. Mikeal D’Haguene rewarded the Ricci’s with a first Grade One triumph in the Barry & Sandra Kelly Memorial Novice Hurdle in December, 2008, and followed up with an initial Cheltenham Festival victory in the 2009 Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle. The Ricci’s have twice taken the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival with Mikael D’Haguenet (2009) and Blackstairmountain (2010). This season, their 13 individual runners have collected eight victories, including Zaidpour’s win in the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle, while the mare Blazing Tempo collected a brace of Grade Three novice chases and John Smith’s Grand National hope The Midnight Club landed the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase. The Riccis have lived for the past 11 years in an 18th century house in Borough Green, Kent.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: No previous runners
Willie Mullins IRE
Born on September 15, 1956, Willie Mullins was the six-time amateur champion rider in Ireland and his major successes in the saddle included the 1983 John Smith’s Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree on Atha Cliath, before taking out a training licence in 1988. He hails from one of Ireland's most famous racing families, being a son of the late Paddy Mullins, the outstanding all-round trainer whose most famous star was Dawn Run, winner of the 1984 Champion Hurdle and 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Willie Mullins rode and trained Wither Or Which to win the 1996 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, the Cheltenham Festival race in which he has enjoyedsix winners (also Florida Pearl 1997, Alexander Banquet 1998, Joe Cullen 2000, Missed That 2005 and Cousin Vinny 2008). Mullins saddled Rule Supreme to win the RSA Chase at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival and sent out the same horse to win the Irish Hennessy in 2005. His best chaser to date has been Florida Pearl, who was placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups, won the 1998 RSA Chase, the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cups in Ireland as well as the 2001 King George VI Chase and the 2002 totesport Bowl at Aintree. In 2011, he trained the brilliant Hurricane Fly to win the Champion Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, having won the Irish equivalent in January. He was also leading trainer with four successes at that the 2011 Cheltenham Festival where he had 21 winners. Mullins, who began training in 1988, has over 100 horses at his Closutton yard near Bagenalstown in Co Carlow and his first John Smith’s Grand National runner as a trainer, Micko's Dream, fell at the first in 2000, while, as a jockey, his rides included The Ladys Master, who ran out in 1983, and Hazy Dawn, who fell at the sixth the following year. The loquacious Mullins, a former chairman of the Irish Trainers' Federation, also suffered heartache in 2004 when Hedgehunter departed at the final fence in the John Smith’s Grand National when looking assured of a place. Mullins overcame bad luck in the John Smith’s Grand National the following year when Hedgehunter came home 14 lengths clear of Royal Auclair. Hedgehunter was then second in 2006, ninth in 2007 and 13th on his final start in 2008 when stable companion Snowy Morning came third. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2000 Micko's Dream (Fell 1st); 2002 Alexander Banquet (UR 6th); 2004 Alexander Banquet (Fell 18th), Hedgehunter (Fell 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd); 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Homer Wells (PU bef 22nd), Bothar Na (PU bef 29th), Livingstonebramble (UR 6th); 2008 Snowy Morning (3rd), Hedgehunter (13th); 2009 Snowy Morning (9th), Irish Invader (11th); 2010 Snowy Morning (6th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th)