Auroras Encore delivers National glory for Smith
Trainer just the third woman to saddle a winner after 66 to 1 shot ridden by Scotland’s Ryan Mania stays the distance at Aintree
Auroras Encore and Ryan Mania (left) jump into the lead at the final fence on the way to winning the Grand National. Photograph: John Giles/PA
Ryan Mania riding Auroras Encore (right) crosses the line to win the Grand National Steeple Chase at Aintree. Photographh: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Ryan Mania with Auroras Encore, co-owner Jim Beaumont (second right) and Harvey Smith (right) in the winner’s enclosure returns to the winning enclosure at Aintree. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Barry Geraghty and Roberto Goldback block Sunnyhillboy and Richie McLernon (right) at the final fence in the john Smith's Grand National. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire
Beaten just a head in the Scottish National at Ayr a year ago, the 11-year-old had been well beaten in recent starts but came to challenge for the lead jumping the final fence.
While the complexion of the National has changed so many times on the long run-in in the past, the result was scarcely in doubt on this occasion as Auroras Encore galloped all the way to the line under Ryan Mania to score by nine lengths.
Cappa Bleu finished strongly to grab the runner-up spot, with Teaforthree and Oscar Time third and fourth respectively.
Seventeen of the 40 starters completed the course, with all horses and riders reported to have come back safely.
“There’s no words to describe it, I got a dream ride all the way — I couldn’t believe my luck," said Mania. “I couldn’t fault the old horse. He was second in the Scottish National last year and I thought I should stay loyal to him and thank God I did.
“I never really had an anxious moment, he made a couple of mistakes, that’s all.”
Jenny Pitman became the first lady to train a Grand National winner when Corbiere won the race in 1983, and she went on to saddle a second winner with Royal Athlete in 1995.
Venetia Williams struck gold with 100-1 shot Mon Mome in 2009. Since his fine effort in the Scottish National, Auroras Encore had made seven racecourse appearances, failing to complete on three occasions and finishing well out of the frame on the other four starts.
However, clearly lit up by the giant fences, the veteran enjoyed a dream run under a light weight and finished off strongly to give Mania an incredible success on his first ever ride in the race.
Bingley-based Smith said: “It’s unbelievable, he gave him such a good ride. I knew the ground was right for him and hoped everything else was. He stayed down the middle and had a bit of luck in running. He didn’t have a lot of weight and that helped, too.
“He’s such a grand little horse, you can ride him anyway you like. “I just feel sorry for the previous owners, who were wonderful and sold him because of ill health.”
Smith’s husband, former world famous showjumper Harvey Smith, said: “It’s superb, absolutely spot-on. All the horses have come back in one piece. Everyone has worked hard to get it as a safe course and that has proved it today. This race will go on forever, look at the public- it goes out worldwide and you can’t beat it. “This is the best (moment of my career) and let’s hope there’s more to come.”
Mania added: “I knew he was capable, even though he hadn’t been running well. This is always his time of year, but you couldn’t be confident. Two years ago I gave up for six months because the rides had dried up, but Sue and Harvey took me in. I realise this will change my life, but I can’t go too mad tonight because I am at Hexham tomorrow.”
The heavily supported 11-2 favourite was the Ted Walsh-trained Seabass, third 12 months ago and once again partnered by the trainer’s daughter, Katie.
He travelled well for a long way, but could not pick up once straightened for home and eventually completed the course in 13th position.
Walsh senior, who saddled Papillon to win the National in 2000, had a second major challenger in the shape of Colbert Station, but he parted company with Tony McCoy at The Chair (15th fence).
Ruby Walsh, Ted’s son and Katie’s brother, rode another leading contender in the shape of the Willie Mullins-trained On His Own, but he was already retreating when coming down jumping Valentine’s for the second time (25th fence).
Cappa Bleu’s trainer Evan Williams, who has also seen State Of Play go so close in the race, said: “I’m getting closer and if I had to finish second to anybody then to finish second to Sue and Harvey — they are legends in my eyes and I couldn’t think of anyone better to finish second to.
“I think it’s good for the north they’ve won. I’ll get there one day. I can’t say how much it means to people like us to compete in this race.
“Second, third and fourth, they matter. To see everyone come back safe and sound and happy, that’s what matters. We haven’t won, but great people have won. Sue and Harvey Smith are great people for National Hunt racing and great people for the north of England.
“The race went well except that we finished second. I’ll do all in my power to get there, but we will enjoy the race. Of course winning is what we are here for, but I am happy. I can’t knock the horse or the jockey — we’ve finished second.
“Fantastic for Becky (Rebecca Curtis) to finish third (with Teaforthree). She’s had a fantastic season and has really upped the ante as far as Wales is concerned. I’m very proud to be part of it. Hopefully we’ll be back next for another crack. Winning the Grand National is my ambition.”
Aintree Grand National - Final Result
1. Auroras Encore (Ryan Mania) 66-1
2. Cappa Bleu (Paul Moloney) 12-1
3 Teaforthree (Nick Scholfield) 10-1
4 Oscar Time (S Waley-Cohen) 66-1
5 Rare Bob (Bryan Cooper) 16-1
40 ran Also: 11-2 Fav Seabass