Grand National 2018: Guy Disney, Amputee and former soldier, is set to ride in the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase over the Grand National Course at Aintree on the first day of the 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival, Grand National Thursday 12th April.
In doing so, Disney would claim a place in the history books for becoming the first amputee jockey to ride in a race over the famous Grand National fences.
Disney rides with a prosthetic lower right leg after the vehicle in which he was travelling in Afghanistan was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in July, 2009.
In February, 2017, the former Army Captain became the first amputee jockey to win a race under Rules in Britain when gaining victory aboard Rathlin Rose in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown Park Racecourse. Disney and Rathlin Rose teamed up for a repeat success in the same contest this year.
Disney’s ride in the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase comes after he assembled a syndicate, Somerset Racing GD, to buy Gallery Exhibition, trained by Grand National-winning trainer, Kim Bailey. The horse was purchased with the explicit aim of running in the Aintree race for amateur riders.
Speaking to The Jockey Club’s Love The Jumps podcast, Kim Bailey explained: “It will be an extraordinary feat.
“I saw Guy when he was in hospital, in Selly Oak, so I’ve known the story from day one. When he was lying in hospital, all he wanted to do was ride in a race and get back in the saddle and that was his ultimate dream.
“We all thought he had no chance really. And he then rode in a charity race and finished second.
“Since then he’s moved on to prove himself under Rules and in point-to-points. The hours he’s spent with Yogi Breisner and others trying to help him to get back in the saddle and ride and get the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) to agree to let him ride, have been extraordinary. He has been here countless times schooling over my fences.
“Every time he came here he ended up riding Gallery Exhibition, who was a horse owned by four people beforehand. So he has known the horse for a long-time, come here and schooled him again recently, and then the horse has come up for sale because one of the owners died, so the partnership was dissolved. But Guy very quickly got his Somerset Racing team together to buy the horse so that he could ride him in the Foxhunters.”
Unlike his jockey, Gallery Exhibition has raced over the Grand National fences previously, coming fifth in the 2016 Topham Chase.
Bailey continued: “He came from a long way back to finish fifth [on soft ground] and he jumped very well that day. He’s a horse that wants good ground so if it does dry up between now and then it’s going to help him enormously.
“Yes, he is a horse that has got experience around there and Guy hasn’t. Everyone has a dream, everyone has a wish to do something in life and this is Guy’s really. He wants more than anything else to ride around those fences.
“They will have schooled over the [Jockey Club Estates’ Grand National practice] fences at Lambourn by the time he hits the racecourse. He’ll do that several times so we’ll make sure he’s got plenty of practice at it.”
Gallery Exhibition and Disney teamed up for the first time on course at Musselburgh on 3rd February, when finishing a staying-on third to fellow Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase aspirants Wonderful Charm and Winged Crusader in a hunters’ chase.
The Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase is the first race of the 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival that takes place over Aintree’s Grand National fences. It will be staged at 4.05pm on Thursday 12th April, Grand National Thursday.
The Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase is run over two miles, five furlongs and 19 yards, jumping 18 fences. It is restricted to amateur jockeys.
Grand National Thursday also features four Grade 1 races.
Aintree will be supporting the military on Grand National Thursday by providing hundreds of tickets to military veterans and specifically from the combat wounded community.
Grand National Thursday will also feature an Opening Ceremony for the first time, which will include a 40-strong Scots Guards Marching Band, which will move through the crowd to help create a great atmosphere for the start of the three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival.
The Opening Ceremony will also feature a Red Devils display from nine Red Devil parachute jumpers who will carry Randox, Aintree and Union Jack flags. A handover of the Randox Health Grand National trophy will take place on the track by the Red Devils.
There will be Grand National-winning horses parading in the Parade Ring – Bindaree, Silver Birch, Mon Mome, Neptune Collonges, Pineau De Re and Rule The World.
Aintree is also delighted to extend its support to Invictus Games medal winners in the North West, who will feature as part of the brand new Champions Lounge on Grand National Thursday.
Photograph courtesy of Wincanton Racecourse.