Grand National: Ryan Mania change of mind pays off

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FOR winning jockey Ryan Mania yesterday’s victory came just two years after he retired from the sport, then changed his mind.

The Galashiels-born Mania claimed the biggest jumping prize of all aboard the 66-1 shot Auroras Encore in the John Smith’s Grand National – but only after his career U-turn. Mania, 23, was once a bright conditional prospect but explained: “Two years ago I gave up for six months. I was riding for Howard Johnson, who was banned [for breaching the sport’s welfare rules], and the rides dried up. I was working for the Fife Hunt. I always thought I’d come back but not as quickly as I did and it was more of a sabbatical, but after two months I thought ‘what am I doing?’.

“I realised it was going to be tough, but [trainers] Sue and Harvey [Smith] took me in and gave me the opportunity.”

Mania’s victory represents the biggest Scottish success at the Grand National since Rubstic became the first – and so far only – Scottish horse to win the race.

Auroras Encore’s owners are Scots pair Jim Beaumont and Douglas Pryde, and David van der Hoeven.

Pryde said: “We bought him just before Christmas when we were looking for a National horse and Sue said she may have one.”

n Bookmakers were celebrating too yesterday as Auroras Encore’s 66/1 success lined the layers’ pockets. Seabass, third last year, was backed down to 11/2 favourite but was well down the field in 13th for Ted and Katie Walsh, while other leading fancies On His Own, Colbert Station and Imperial Commander failed to complete the course.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “There was a huge nationwide gamble on Seabass and Katie Walsh becoming the first female winner of the race, and a win for the pair would have cost the bookies tens of millions.

“We have been saved by one of the biggest shocks in recent Grand National history, with Auroras Encore’s victory as good as the 100-1 success of Mon Mome in 2009.”

David Williams of Ladbrokes said: “It was a result beyond our wildest dreams. The winner seemed to slip off every radar.”