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Lancashire Telegraph Grand National column
The office sweepstake has been done, the serious followers of National Hunt will have picked their favourite and housewives up and down the land will look at the colours of the jockeys’ silks or picked a horse on the merits of its name - it can only mean one thing, it’s Grand National Day.
The singularly most popular horse race on the planet – and it STILL is despite what people in Dubai would have you believe – will see 40 hopeful horses and jockeys set off over the famous four-and-a-quarter miles of Aintree in a bid to complete two circuits of a Liverpool suburb, two circuits that will propel people in a largely unheralded sport into the headlines.
It is the race for the people and the people support it like no other 12 minutes of rough and tumble action can even dream of.
Bob Champion and Aldaniti, Lottery, Mr Frisk, Grittar and of course Red Rum, all special moments from a truly special race – Aintree has a habit of throwing up great stories.
Last year when Auroras Encore upset the odds to win at 66/1 under first time National jockey Ryan Mania was no exception. Trained in Bingley by Sue Smith, the husband of professional Yorkshireman and former showjumper Harvey Smith, Auroras Encore wasn’t given a chance pre-race.
Mania too had his own fable. He was seemingly going to quit the saddle until being persuaded to carry on riding and he claimed the greatest moment of his career.
But such is the nature of the sport his joy was shortlived. A day later he was airlifted to hospital with head, neck, chest and spleen injuries after the sort of horrific fall at Hexham that makes you realise just how tough these sportsmen are.
One of the toughest is champion jockey AP McCoy, a man who has broken more bones than most people actually realise they have in their body. The best of the best, the Irishman, astonishingly, has only won the National once, back in 2010 on Don’t Push It.
He bids for the dream again this afternoon after picking Double Seven over his old favourite Colbert Station – and a McCoy win would bring the house down.
In fact, the only other winner who could cause such a sweep of emotion would be Teaforthree, the favourite.
Trained in Wales by the quite brilliant Rebacca Curtis, the horse has a place in many hearts and is a popular choice.
Whether good enough to win the big one is debatable – but he will go down fighting no matter what.
It will be a special afternoon. A new hero will become a household name, lucky punters will cash in their winnings and as of tomorrow Aintree will return to its slumber.
And then plans can start for 2015.
National selections 1 Double Seven 2 Monbeg Dude 3 Teaforthree 4 Rocky Creek
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