‘He proved fairy tales do come true for ordinary people’: Grand National hero dies aged 29

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  • The brilliant racehorse Monty’s Pass, who won the 2003 Grand National with jockey Barry Geraghty, has died at the age of 29.

    The Jimmy Mangan-trained gelding won eight of his 57 races and was placed in dozens more during an impressive career over fences. Among his greatest achievements were winning the Kerry National in 2002 and the Aintree showpiece the following year.

    He retired from the sport in 2005 and lived out his days at the Mangan family’s farm in Cork and was the oldest living Grand National winner until his death last week, shortly before his 30th birthday.

    His regular jockey Barry Geraghty credits Monty’s Pass for giving him one of the greatest moments in his career and he last visited the “brilliant” gelding in September.

    “I couldn’t believe how alert and sharp he was – you’d never think for a second he was getting close to 30,” Barry told H&H. “Unfortunately he just slipped away last week.

    “Jimmy and the whole Mangan family have been great friends of mine over the years so we’d always be chatting about him. We even brought our kids down to visit him in 2019 which was great – even our youngest son got to sit up on him and we got some great photos.

    “He was so well cared for by the Mangan family and the lads on the yard, he’ll be very sadly missed down there.”

    Barry Geraghty and Monty's Pass winning the 2003 Grand National

    The son of Montelimar started out in point-to-pointing before he went chasing, and Barry first took the reins on a seven-year-old Monty’s Pass in 2000. The pair finished fifth in the Mildmay of Fleet Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002 and came second in the Topham Chase over the Aintree fences shortly afterwards, but their standout moment came in 2003 when they won the Grand National by a staggering 12 lengths in the colours of the Dee Racing Syndicate.

    “When you dream of winning the Grand National as a kid, it’s a titanic struggle all the way to the line and you win by a short head, you never dream of winning the Grand National celebrating with 100 yards to go,” said Barry, who was just 23 when he claimed the sport’s most famous race. “The race was just plain sailing for him – it was just ridiculously easy how it all unfolded. It was just magic.

    “The Grand National is the race everyone wants to win, so to win one so early in my career was unbelievable. He was brilliant round there, he was just such a good jumper. The National is all about jumping, obviously, but he was just so neat and nimble, quick and clever, he was an armchair ride for a young jockey at Aintree.”

    Trainer Jimmy Mangan had targeted the 2003 Grand National and, according to Barry, the conditions were ideal for Monty’s Pass that year.

    “The ground was key to him – he needed good ground and the better the ground the better he was,” said Barry. “So once the ground came right for him, with the way he jumped and he had the perfect weight, 10st 7lb, the conditions were ideal so as much as you can fancy a horse for that race, we did.

    “He was fourth in the race the following year with top weight – the ground was probably a bit slow for him – then he retired after the next one.”

    “He also won the Kerry National at Listowel [in 2002] and his jumping was key that day too because there were a good few fallers. But he excelled round Aintree because it’s the ultimate jumping test. I never rode another horse like him round Aintree, he was just so clever. Absolute dynamite.”

    The trainer’s daughter Jane Mangan told RTE on Sunday: “A few days ago my family said goodbye to the horse that made their dreams reality.

    “The day was always going to come, it was always going to be sad, but rather than it be sad, we are grateful to have had him and for him to prove that fairytales do come true for ordinary people.”

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