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Zoey Bird’s Five Favorite Big National Championships: Sky Sports Racing Presenter Chooses Her Memories of Aintree |  Football News

Sky Sports Racing presenter Zoey Bird picks her most memorable Grand National renewals of the past 25 years.


Jockey Davy Russell celebrates on Tiger Roll after winning Grand National in 2019

The anticipation of Tiger Roll’s attempt to win two Grand Nationals on the spin was immense, on par with Red Rum’s historic second and third wins, I should imagine, being too young to remember them! As we know a lot of the horses that won the Grand National are then supposed to win it again the following year, but not like this guy.

He was backed in 4/1, the cheapest favorite for racing in 100 years. It was as if it was Tiger Roll’s fate to follow Red Rum’s hooves, carry maximum weight, and earn back-to-back renewals, 45 years later.

Fortunately, this extremely high expectation was justified by the easy nature of Tiger Roll’s victory by winning the biggest race in the world for the second time.

Small in stature but with the heart, in this case, of a tiger, Tiger Roll shared quite a few similarities with his legendary predecessor Red Rum, also being bay, handsome, very agile, a superb fence jumper, with real willpower. to win and of course to stay in power.

I remember the course was packed to the rafters with a beautiful early April, late afternoon and all eyes were on Tiger Roll and his rider Davy Russell. On the first circuit there were a few sketchy jumps at the start but it was clear Davy and Tiger had entered into a nice rhythm and from Becher the duo barely missed a beat. The second time around, they really swayed, engulfing the ground tenaciously, getting closer and closer to the weakening Rathvinden.

With one of the horses of the form now beaten it was only Magic Of Light left and a jump above Tiger’s last sealed the deal and all that stood between the pair and the story was the elbow, which had been an Achilles heel. for some but not for Tiger.

What followed was the jubilation, not the relief, just the pure joy and pride emanating from the millions of people who had supported this little horse that had now made history. He had now achieved celebrity status.

How I wish Michael O’Leary would lead Tiger Roll in this year’s Grand National. Looking at how easily he won the cross country at Cheltenham, I think he would have had a good chance to emulate mighty Red Rum by winning a third Grand National, and what a story that would be.

One for which the sport and those linked to it would have been truly grateful.

DON’T PUSH IT (2010)

Zoey Bird’s Five Favorite Big National Championships: Sky Sports Racing Presenter Chooses Her Memories of Aintree |  Football News
AP McCoy and Don’t Push it were popular winners in 2010

AP McCoy, THE greatest national hunting jockey we’ve ever seen, remarkably had until April 10, 2010 and 14 previous attempts, failing to win the Grand National. There has been a lot of talk in the media and of course the man himself, who was known to wear a hair shirt, despite his record breaking achievements and legendary status.

I would probably say that since the turn of the century McCoy has been stalked by his Aintree hoodoo in preparation for each National. Can he finally break his Grand National duck this time, the only great race that was missing from his CV?

AP had gone quite close on occasion; Blowing Wind was imagined and placed twice, the Royal Clan was going so well until being executed by a running free horse, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the stars were aligned and have perfectly the same connections as the unlucky one Clan Royal and the hapless Synchronized. hit gold with Don’t Push It. And if coach Jonjo O’Neill hadn’t insisted on the AP Don’t Push It race, the champion’s wait for glory would have been a bit longer.

While the couple’s performance throughout the race was classic, it was a vintage AP on a horse whose name was the complete opposite of their lifelong mantra.

It is the result and the consequences that followed that will always remain in my mind; the raw emotion of it all. We saw a very different side of the iron jockey. He was visibly moved by the achievement and the opportunity and what it all meant to his supporters, family and friends.

It was a first Grand National success for coach Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus, two legends of our sport who were friends and had been through so much together. Their stories intertwined with the Grand National victory, with a touch of serendipity about it. Usually, after the big race, I take a short jaunt because it’s a four hour drive home, this time I got carried away, privileged to have been there.

I could even have shed a tear.

MY MOME (2009)

Zoey Bird’s Five Favorite Big National Championships: Sky Sports Racing Presenter Chooses Her Memories of Aintree |  Football News
Liam Treadwell on Mon Mome Celebrates as He Crosses the Line in 2009

I like a bet but I am often wrong in the case of the Grand National, like most people in 2009, the year Mon Mome won with odds of 100/1. I remember my husband now working for a bookmaker at the time and his big brother asked him to put £ 5 on number five for her, like she had done every year, but this time he had forgotten; a costly oversight!

It seemed like a pretty open renewal on paper with the previous year’s winner Comply or Die having a leading chance in the race with favorite Butler’s Cabin for AP and JP. The starts turned out to be a bit complicated and the race itself was a confusing affair, but Mon Mome’s passage throughout the race went smoothly.

However, several others did and after Becher’s Brook on Circuit 2 more than half of the field was still in contention. It was the way Mon Mome moved away from the last to win by 12 lengths under youngster Liam Treadwell that was totally unexpected.

Even as the finish unfolded in front of our eyes, it was hard to believe what you were actually seeing and that feeling of utter disbelief was felt through all of her connections. Coach Venetia Williams describing him as surreal and that it would take time to fully sink in and winning 76-year-old owner Vida Bingham saying it was the best day of her life, bar none, was something . The women’s pair made history by becoming the first coach / owner combination to win the Grand National.

And we will never forget the young man on board for the superb race he gave to Mon Mome, during his very first race. It was a fairytale ending for this modest team who are now tinged with great sadness as we look back, for the loss of Liam Treadwell to suicide last year.


Zoey Bird’s Five Favorite Big National Championships: Sky Sports Racing Presenter Chooses Her Memories of Aintree |  Football News
Ruby Walsh riding Butterfly celebrates her victory over Mely Moss ridden by Norman Williamson

While I think AP is the greatest national hunting jockey we’ve ever seen, Ruby Walsh and Paul Carberry have improved him in some ways, especially when it comes to the Grand National. Maybe it has something to do with their ancestry and their legacy in the bigger race, a race in which there are a lot of similarities between these two great runners.

Papillion’s victory in 2000 was one of my earliest memories of racing and even before the race was contested there were so many angles in history. First, there was the massive bet. Papillion started the day with a 33/1 shot, a pretty steep prize for a horse that had finished second in an Irish National at Bobbyjo the previous year, but at the time of the race he was kicked out on 10/1 .

Then there was the fact that Ruby Walsh was only 19 and doing her very first race in the race and last but not least, there was the family factor. Papillion was ridden by Ruby Walsh, coached by his father Ted Walsh, led by his sister Katie Walsh, with his brother Mark Walsh also an integral part of the Papillion team.

Always in a prominent position indoors, Ruby and Papillon were like poetry in motion, leaping rhythmically and confidently, the jump having always been the horse’s strong point – possibly the best jumper of a fence that ‘he’s ever ridden,’ Ruby said looking. back after retirement. Great praise indeed!

They ate The Chair on the first circuit, getting too close but recovering well, then flew it a second time, running wide and avoiding the carnage inside.

Jumping forward all that stood between the pair and winning the biggest race was Mely Moss’ challenge in the race. But in the end, the Walsh and Papillion team proved too strong. Brother Mark was the first to congratulate Ruby, then Sister Katie and just like Paul Carberry before him, we all knew we had seen something very special.

BOBBYJO (1999)

Zoey Bird’s Five Favorite Big National Championships: Sky Sports Racing Presenter Chooses Her Memories of Aintree |  Football News
Paul Carbury celebrates his victory over Bobbyjo in 1999

Bobbyjo’s victory at the Grand National in 1999 was a turning point for the Irish. There had been no Irish-trained race winner since L’Escargot’s victory in 1975. Rather, the winning jockey at the time was Tommy Carberry, 24 years later he was Bobbyjo’s trainer and his son Paul was the runner.

Having won the Irish National the year before, Bobbyjo had the raw ability to win a National but not necessarily the right credentials and was in the race preparation neglected in betting. That was until race day and just like Papillion a year later, he was the subject of a pretty big bet!

The start of the race could not have gone better, Paul Carberry smuggled Bobbyjo through the interior fences and stand as required. The second circuit was pretty much the same, but two away from home the couple had four horses to ride and neither of them seemed to be floundering.

However, it was a typical lap for Carberry, the master of disguise, as at the last Bobbyjo was full of racing he charged the middle of the course after Blue Charm and rolled up his elbow to gain 10 lengths.

As astounding as her victory was, it is the celebration of Paul afterwards that I remember the most because she became so famous. Paul had initially seemed fairly calm as he made his way through the course, flanked by police horses, and returned to the old winner’s paddock on Bobbyjo with the occasional wave of his whip.

However, once under the roof, he stood up in his irons reaching the rafters and rocked back and forth like an excited chimpanzee, buzzing with adrenaline and the enormity of his victory. Paul was not only a brilliant jockey, but a jockey with flair and he had a huge personality.

This victory really marked him for me as one of the greatest of all time.

Follow the preparations for the Grand National 2021 on Sky Sports Racing and coverage of the race on Sky Sports digital platforms.

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