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Sunday, 2 May 2021

Auroras Encore


In the history of the Grand National, several of the longest-priced winners, notably Tipperary Tim in 1928 and Foinavon in 1967, have taken advantage of atrocious weather conditions and/or a mid-race pile-up, which put paid to the chances of many of their rivals, to record unlikely victories. However, the victory of Auroras Encore in 2013, while almost equally unlikely, had little to do with meteorlogy or fortuity.

In fact, during the 2013 renewal of the Grand National, run on good to soft going, in fair weather, just eight horses fell or unseated rider and 17 of the 40 starters completed the course. Indeed, for the first time in 166 runnings of the celebrated steeplechase, the whole field reached The Canal Turn – the eighth fence on the first circuit of the Grand National Course – unscathed and 32 horses were still standing heading out into the country for the second time.

Auroras Encore, an 11-year-old trained by Sue Smith, in High Eldwick, West Yorkshire, had finished second, beaten just a head, in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr the previous April but, after seven subsequent unplaced efforts, was sent off at 66/1 on his first attempt in the Grand National proper. Arguably well handicapped, off a mark 6lb lower than at Ayr, Auroras Encore mainly jumped well for his jockey, Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the race. He survived a mistakes at the tenth and twenty-seventh fences and, having jumped the second last in third place, joined the leader, Teaforthree, at the final fence. Thereafter, he never looked like being caught and was driven clear on the run-in to cause a 'huge shock'.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Spanish Don

Generally speaking, it would be fair to say that bookmakers don’t make too many mistakes and, even in a race as competitive as the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket – the second leg of the traditional ‘Autumn Double’ – most horses that are sent off at 100/1 fully deserve to be that price. However, Spanish Don who, in 2004, became the joint-longest-priced winner of the aforementioned Cambridgeshire definitely didn’t.

Indeed, reflecting on the ‘unlikely’ victory of his six-year-old, winning trainer David Elsworth quipped, ‘I suppose it’s my popularity that made him 100-1.Even the muppets in the Racing Post said you couldn’t leave him out. It was a surprise he was 100-1. It wasn’t a surprise he won. I had a few quid on, but I’m a mug punter, aren’t I?’

In the preceding two seasons, Spanish Don had won four of his nine starts for Elsworth, after being transferred from Philip Mitchell in September, 2003 and, in so doing, risen 20lb in the weights. On his two starts immediately before the Cambridgeshire, the Zafonic gelding had again run well, off his revised mark of 95, when fifth of fifteen, beaten just two lengths, in a Class 2 handicap over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Goodwood and, after a short break, finishing ninth of eighteen, beaten 5¾ lengths, in a similar race at Newbury. Based on those performances, it could be argued that Spanish Don was, perhaps, a little high in the weights, but quite how that equated to a triple-figure starting price remains something of a mystery.

Monday, 22 February 2021