Mania steers Auroras Encore to National glory
Agence France-Presse in Liverpool
Big outsider Auroras Encore won the Grand National Steeplechase yesterday, cruising to a nine-length victory in the world's most famous jumps race.
Sent off as a 66-1 shot, Auroras Encore - ridden by National debutant Ryan Mania - burst clear after jumping the last of 30 fences to finish ahead of Cappa Bleu (12-1). Teaforthree led marginally approaching the last but tailed off to place third.
"There are no words to describe it. I got a dream ride round, I couldn't believe my luck," Mania said. "I couldn't fault the horse. He loved every second of it. He was just class."
The race appeared to pass off incident-free, with all 40 horses returning unscathed after only 17 finished the race. Four horses died in the previous two editions of the gruelling event, forcing organisers into making modifications that included softening the high fences and improving landing areas and course irrigation.
Sue Smith - the wife of former Olympic showjumper Harvey Smith - became only the third female in history to train the winner of the Grand National, after Jenny Pitman (1983, 1995) and Venetia Williams (2009).
"It's unbelievable," Smith said. "He [Mania] gave him such a good ride. I knew the ground was right for him."
Husband Harvey added: "That was absolutely spot on."
Asked how this compared with his showjumping days, the 74-year-old told Channel 4: "You've got to look forward so this is the best, but unfortunately we're all getting older."
Katie Walsh was bidding to become the first woman jockey to win the race but her mount, pre-race favourite Seabass, ran out of steam in the closing stages.
Two other well-backed horses, On His Own under Katie Walsh's brother Ruby and Colberts Station with AP McCoy on board, were among the 23 who failed to complete the race.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press