The 166th running of the John Smith’s Grand National was blessed with glorious April sunshine, as the waiting field cast long shadows across the track, eagerly awaiting starters orders. They went off cleanly with no hitches and Balthazar King hit the front first, leading the still complete field successfully over the first 4 fences.
Amazingly, there were still no fallers or refusal having cleared Becher’s for the first time, although the forty runners and riders had spread out somewhat after their efforts at the last fence. The commentator grew increasingly surprised as fence after fence was cleared by the entire complement of National runners.
It had to end at some point and it did as Canal Turn proved too much for The Rainbow Hunter, Treacle and Big Fella Thanks who all unseated their riders.
At the Halfway point, there were still 35 runners involved and it was Irish horse Across The Bay, ridden by Henry Brook who led the bunched riders round the turn. Richard Johnson steered Balthazar King from The Bushmakers stable just a half a length back, with Soll alongside him.
It was to be another miserable Grand National for A P McCoy, as he was thrown from the saddle falling with Colbert Station at the chair. Over the next few plain fences, the order stayed the same at the front and Across the bay pulled 3 to 4 lengths clear.
Henry Brook and his horse Across The Bay held this lead until Canal Turn when Tea For Two drifted past him. There was no distinct shape to the race going over the last open ditch, with each horse seeming to find staying upright a difficult enough job on its own, but the first three remained in place before being joined by Aurora’s Encore in 4th.
Striking For Home
Two from home and it was anybody’s race, with Sam Waley-Cohen on Oscar Time in with a shout and Aurora’s Encore staying in touch. The 11 year old pulled clear going into the elbow, Ryan Mania squeezing every inch of speed out of the horse and pulling away on the outside, it was a powerful run in that ultimately won the National for the Irish bred, British trained racehorse.
Ryan Mania’s win on the unfancied Sue Smith trained outsider was a big shock and marked only the third time a female trainer had trained the National winner.
On his win in his first ever National, Ryan Mania enthused "There are no words to describe it. I got a dream ride round. I couldn't believe my luck." and you could see on his face that it meant the world to him.