Auroras Encore, trained in Yorkshire by Sue Smith and her showjumping legend husband Harvey, won the John Smith’s Grand National today at 66-1.
Scottish-born jockey Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the race, brought the 11-year-old home nine lengths in front of second-placed Cappa Bleu. Teaforthree was just a neck behind in third, with Oscar Time fourth and Rare Bob fifth.
“People have asked how this compares to 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!” said Harvey Smith, 74.
Auroras Encore, a son of Second Empire, was bought by his current owners, Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David van de Hoeven, at Christmas time and kept in training with the Smiths. He was a close second in last year’s Scottish Grand National but has not enjoyed the heavy ground this winter, finishing well beaten at Kelso last time.
On much better ground (good to soft) at Aintree he relished the big fences, and Mania, 23, was able to take advantage of tiring horses in front of him at the final jump and Auroras Encore’s light weight of 10st 3lb to kick for home.
“I just cannot believe it has happened,” said Mania. “It’s a dream and you cannot explain what it’s like. 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 the sun on his back. He’s not had the sunshine but he got the ground and he’s class on his day.”
Both the second and third horses were trained in Wales &mdsah; Cappa Bleu (Paul Moloney) by Evan Williams and Teaforthree (Nick Scholfield) by Rebecca Curtis.
“I am pleased for Sue and Harvey Smith as they are proper, proper National Hunt people and to see old Harvey shedding a tear means everything,” said Williams. “If we had to finish second, I could not have asked to finish second to better people.”
Fourth-placed Oscar Time, who gave amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen another thrilling ride at the front of the Grand National field, was the first Irish-trained horse home. He is trained in Co Dublin by Martin Lynch.
The 11-2 favourite Seabass finished 13th under Katie Walsh.
All the horses and jockeys were reported to have come home safely. Only two horses fell — Tatenen (Andrew Thornton) at the 12th fence and On His Own (Ruby Walsh) at the 25th. A further six — Big Fella Thanks, Treacle, The Rainbow Hunter, Colbert Station, Roberto Goldback and Sunnyhillboy — unseated their riders. Seventeen of the 40 starters finished.
Grand National finishing order
1 Auroras Encore
2 Cappa Bleu
4 Oscar Time
5 Rare Bob
6 Swing Bill
9 Saint Are
10 Always Waining
11 Major Malarkey
12 Join Together
14 Across The Bay
15 Balthazar King
16 Quiscover Fontaine
17 Any Currency