Auroras Encore provided a 66/1 shock result to the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National when scoring for West Yorkshire handler Sue Smith and her husband Harvey, the former top international showjumper.
“I should be in tears, like Harvey,” said Mrs Smith, 65. “Ryan [Mania] gave the horse such a good ride. We knew the ground was right, we knew everything else was and it was.
“He had a bit of luck in running but he didn’t have much weight so that helped. But it was no fluke. The horse has plenty of miles on the clock and is very sensible, he’s a brilliant ride.
“I feel sorry for Mr and Mrs Skene, who used to own the horse. They weren’t well so sold the horse because of ill health.
“It’s been the first time for a while (since 2006) since we’ve had runners in the race so the main thing was that we hoped the horses and jockeys would come round in one piece. To finish in the first five would have been marvellous but this is something else.
“He was always travelling through the race and I was standing with [Trevor Hemmings’ racing manager] Mick Meagher and I think it was at three out that I started to dream. He looked like he was going so well.
“I’ve thought for a long time that we’d get in the race because other entries kept dropping away one by one.
“We had been hit hard by the weather this winter, especially in the last fortnight. He’s not an overly big horse and we were able to take him to Wetherby 10 days ago for a racecourse gallop and we schooled over the Grand National fences in Malton. He had a good gallop at home on Turesday and we were ready to come. Harvey is also very positive but I was hopeful coming here.
“Ryan has given the horse a magnificent ride and it was Harvey that sent a messenger to come to join our stable.”
Harvey Smith, husband of the winning trainer Sue Smith, said immediately after the race: “It’s daft because when I was a lad, I broke my arm when I was 11 and they took me to hospital to get it mended. When I woke up, I threw the basin on my head. They said “what are you doing?” and I said “I have just won the Grand National!” It’s taken me 70 bloody years to do it!
“He was killed with weight in the Scottish National but we are here today. It’s superb – I don’t know where my missus is – she’s probably collapsed!
“All of the horses have come back in one piece and that is a bonus. Sue did an interview yesterday and she said that the clerk of the course, Lord Daresbury and the RSPCA have all worked hard to get it as a safe course. They have proven it today that it is safe.
“They have done a first class job, they have tried their best. This race will go on forever – look at the public. People love this race, it goes out worldwide – you can’t beat it.
“This is the best for me and let’s hope that there is more to come, but unfortunately we are all getting older!”
Sue Smith said: “It’s thanks to Harvey because he makes everybody work hard and I think that is the answer to this job.”
Jim Beaumont, one of the three owners, said: “I used to work at the Adelphi Hotel [in Liverpool] where all the jockeys used to stay. That was when I was about 14 so we are talking about 1948 and the Grand National was always a big day.
“I used to come here with my godmother, who was a nun and worked for the archbishop, and she would save all her free tickets and bring us here.”
HARVEY SMITH DELIGHTED
Harvey Smith, 74, scaled the heights over four decades in his career as a showjumper and he was understandably thrilled to have been involved in winning jump racing’s most famous prize.
“We’ve always fancied him for this because he is a lovely horse. He was only beaten a whisker in the Scottish National and he’d been given a lovely weight here,” said Smith, who was congratulated by Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton.
“We’d taken him schooling and for a racecourse gallop and I’d knocked the jockey into shape as well! Ryan’s enjoying life as well now and I don’t think anybody will be nicking him from me.
“People have asked how this compares with showjumping but I like to look forward so this is the best and I hope there’s more to come. I’ll have to keep going to 100 now!
“I had 45 years of showjumping and won my first major championship in 1956, when most people here were not even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. This is conquering England but I conquered the world in that.
“I’ve had a good life with horses. We started messing about with racehorses over 20 years ago and got sucked into it. It keeps you young and I won’t be retiring.
“I was chatting to another trainer the other day and his father always said there’s two chairs that will kill you – the electric chair and the armchair.
“National Hunt racing is far better than the flat stuff and I think racing in the north will come back with a bang after this.”
PRYDE IN NATIONAL WINNER AURORAS ENCORE
Auroras Encore pulled off a 66/1 victory in today’s John Smith’s Grand National, completing a rapid return on investment for his owners Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David Van Der Hoeven.
They bought the horse at Christmas, but kept him in training with Yorkshire-based Sue Smith. Pryde said: “In all my time in horse racing I’ve always wanted to bring a horse to the Grand National, and it’s just very nice to win it.
“I backed him ante-post, not for a lot of money, but at slightly bigger odds than his starting price.
“We bought him at Christmas and his first run for us was in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby, but the plan to run him here was made when we bought him. His form when second in last year’s Scottish National was in our mind and we have just been waiting for this better ground.”
Pryde is an independent financial advisor who has had a number of horses in training over the years – primarily with David Barron on the Flat and Lucinda Russell over jumps – but Auroras Encore is the first he has had trained by Sue Smith. He is 58, married with two young children and is married to Fiona.
ELATION FOR MANIA – THE MAN WHO CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT
John Smith’s Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania quit racing for six months in the winter of 2011, but came back and today landed the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Mania said: “It’s unbelievable – people keep telling me to look happy and I am, but I just cannot believe it’s happened. It’s a dream and you cannot explain what it’s like.
“I was happy with my early position and he jumped really well over the early fences, with just the odd mistake here and there. He was on his head a bit, but he learned from those mistakes and learned to back off the fences a bit. He was always travelling so well.
“I got a blow into him after Becher’s, and having ridden here in November I remembered that I probably kicked on a bit soon then and realised you have to give them a chance to get their breath.
“I was sixth or seventh and had a bit of daylight and a clear run – I was very lucky and that’s what you need in the National.
“My only ambition was to get round, although I knew he stayed the trip. He hasn’t been himself all season and has needed this better ground and sun on his back. He’s not had the sunshine, but he got the better ground and he’s class on his day.
“Coming to the second-last I was delighted because I realised I was going to be placed, and I thought ‘this is great, let’s just jump home’, then the front two [Teaforthree and Oscar Time] stopped in front of me at the last and I said to myself ‘this isn’t happening’. So I got down and gave him a shove and he quickened on past them.
“I heard the commentator say there was a loose horse behind me but I didn’t dare look round and just kept going.”
Mania got into racing after leaving school at 16, and eventually joined up with County Durham yard of Howard Johnson, but after that trainer’s licence was suspended Mania found rides hard to come by and left racing for six months to work as a whipper-in for the Fife Hunt.
Reflecting on his decision to leave racing, albeit briefly, he said: “It was a hard decision but I was unsure what to do and wanted to clear my head and figure out my next move. It was a sabbatical and I thought I’d take a whole year out, but I missed racing after six months. I enjoyed my time with the hunt, but it’s not racing, and then Sue and Harvey took me back and it’s been going great since then.”