I actually watched yesterday’s Grand National at the Betfred shop on Musselburgh’s High Street... a first for me...
It certainly wasn’t the first time I had to throw a losing betting slip away however, but it was a thrilling race and congratulations to everyone associated with Neptune Collonges, a brave winner... and only the third grey horse to have triumphed in the race; the last one was Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and before that was dual winner The Lamb... and hats off to you if you backed it, because it won in 1868 and 1871...
I realise that the sad demise of two horses in yesterday’s race will reignite the safety debate. Of course there are risks associated with the sport (not that horse racing is alone...) and I suppose the argument is that the horse does not have much of a say... Now I am no equine expert, but I do know that the horses are given the best of everything by their owners and trainers... they are truly magnificent animals who wouldn’t run, let alone jump fences if they didn’t want to.
On a happier note, Katie Walsh became the first female jockey to be placed in the Grand National... she eventually finished third aboard Seabass. It was a stunning achievement from Katie, who was the fifteenth lady jockey to
participate in the race. Many of you will remember that Charlotte Brew was the first (her horse Barony Fort refused at the 26th fence in 1977) and Geraldine Rees (aboard Cheers) was the first to successfully negotiate the thirty fences in 1982... However can you remember the last time before yesterday when more than one of the Grand National horses was ridden by a female jockey?
Well prior to Katie Walsh and her sister-in-law Nina Carberry, the previous occasion was in 1988 when Penny Ffitch-Heyes, Venetia Williams and Gee Armytage all took part. Sadly, none of the trio completed the course but my
reason for mentioning this fact is that I have a signed photo of the last-named who was (and I suppose still is) my favourite lady jockey... incidentally I believe she now works as PA to champion jockey AP McCoy...
Back in 1987, she rode a genuinely remarkable double at the Cheltenham Festival aboard The Ellier and Gee-A... It was also Gee-A that Ms Armytage rode in the '88 National and the horse actually tasted success over the Aintree fences in 1992 with an amazing 66/1 win in the Foxhunter’s Chase (ridden by Paul Murphy). I remember the race well because I had 50p at 100/1 and I was the only punter in the bookies to pick the winner!! Obviously looking back, I wish I’d gambled slightly more than 50p, but it’s a nice little memory nonetheless.
Maybe one day... and I honestly believe it will happen sooner rather than later... a female jockey will win the Grand National. For now, I will leave you with my prized signed pic of the talented and maybe just a little bit attractive Gee Armytage...
All my own work... almost.