Powered by Blogger.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Mon Mome

Mon Mome, the 100/1 winner of the 2009 Grand National, was the latest of small, select band of horses – in fact, just five since 1839 – to win the celebrated steeplechase at treble-figure odds. However, bearing in mind that, a little over three months earlier, Venetia Williams’ nine-year-old had been sent off 9/2 favourite for the Welsh National at Chepstow, it can be argued that the bookmakers, for once, erred on the side of generosity by offering such long odds.

Mon Mome had completed the National Course once before, when finishing a distant tenth in 2008 but, in fairness, appeared to have little chance of reversing the form with the winner, Comply Or Die, who reopposed on just 8lb worse terms for 58 lengths. His most recent form, a similarly distant last of eight finishers in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter, offered little cause for encouragement and, with exactly 11 stone to carry, he looked to have plenty of weight.

Nevertheless, those who kept faith in the Passing Sale gelding were in for a pleasant, and lucrative, surprise. Patiently ridden by Liam Treadwell, Mon Mome made steady headway from the rear of the field towards the end of the first circuit and crossing the Melling Road for the final time was on the heels of the leaders. Second favourite My Will led over the second-last fence, but was headed by Comply Or Die on the run to the final obstacle. Mon Mome jumped the last upsides the defending champion and soon asserted, stretching clear on the run-in to win by 12 lengths.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Billesdon Brook

The winner of seven of her twenty starts, including two at Group One level, and with an official handicap rating of 116, Billesdon Brook is not a horse that would typically fall into the ‘outsider’ category. However, Richard Hannon’s Champs Elysees mare will always be best remembered for her shock victory in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2018, for which she started rank outsider of the fifteen-strong field at 66/1, making her the longest-priced winner in the history of the fillies’ Classic.

After a successful juvenile season, in which she won three times, including the Group Three Prestige Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at Goodwood, Billesdon Brook made her three-year-old debut in the Group Three Nell Gwyn Stakes, also over 7 furlongs, at Newmarket. Sent off at 9/1, she could find no extra in the final furlong and eventually finished fourth, beaten 5½ lengths, behind comfortable winner Soliloquy, trained by Charlie Appleby.

Soliloquy reopposed, on identical terms, in the 1,000 Guineas, but Billesdon Brook clearly improved out of all recognition at Newmarket – in fact, to the tune of 19lb, according to Timeform – and won with authority, in a decent time. She travelled well throughout, made rapid headway from the rear of the field with three furlongs to run and, after striking the front inside the final quarter of a mile, stayed on well to beat Laurens by 1¾ lengths, with favourite Happily a further half a length further back in third. According to winning jockey, Sean Levey, Billesdon Brook, who was racing over a mile for just the second time in her career, ‘sailed all the way to the line’.

Saturday, 19 September 2020


In the history of the Grand National, first run, officially, in 1839, five winners have been returned at a starting price of 100/1. However, the most famous of that celebrated quintet is undoubtedly Foinavon, the winner of the 1967 renewal under truly extraordinary circumstances. Having been turned down by three other jockeys, unheralded no-hoper Foinavon eventually became the mount of John Buckingham, but his trainer, John Kempton – who was still combining riding with training at the time – headed not to Aintree, but to Worcester, where he rode the winner of the opening race.

In the National, though, a dramatic series of events began when a loose horse, the aptly-named Popham Down, ran down the twenty-third fence – ironically, the smallest fence on the course at just 4’ 6” – and initiated what commentator Michael O’Hehir called ‘a right pile-up’. Popham Down cannoned into his nearest rival, Rutherfords, causing him to unseat his jockey and, in the ensuing mêlée, all bar one of the horses still standing fell, unseated rider or were otherwise brought to a standstill.

The notable exception, of course, was Foinavon, who was steered wide on the course and jumped into a clear lead. Michael O’Hehir was not exaggerating when he said, ‘And now, with all this mayhem, Foinavon has gone off on his own! He’s about fifty, a hundred yards in front of everything else’. Indeed, John Buckingham later admitted that he looked around, disbelieving, at the 30-length lead Foinavon held over his nearest pursuer when he reached the twenty-fourth fence, the Canal Turn.

Many of the jockeys who came to grief at the twenty-third fence – which, since 1984, has officially been known as ‘Foinavon’ – remounted and set off in vain pursuit. However, Foinavon had stolen a march on his rivals and, although favourite Honey End, ridden by Josh Gifford, made significant headway over the final half a dozen fences, he was still 15 lengths behind at the winning post.