MONTY’S PASS, GRAND NATIONAL (2003)
MONTY’S PASS had been second in the Topham in 2002 and had taken really well to the big fences. After that, the Grand National was an obvious target for him the following year.
The ground came right for him on the day, he had a lovely weight and everything went to plan. I had been told that he was a horse that didn’t need to be asked up, he was best being left just pop them away.
I remember coming down to the fourth-last fence on first circuit on a lovely long stride and I gave him a kick in the belly to go long, but he stuck in a short one and popped it! After that, I did what I was told and let him pop away.
Winning your first Grand National will always be magical, but one vivid memory really stayed with me. I was coming down towards the third-last fence with just one horse in front of me and I was going really easily.
At that point of the track, you are still a long way away from everything and he was travelling so well that I was able to take in just how eerily quiet it was out there. Here you are, travelling like the winner with three to jump in the biggest race in the world and all you can hear is silence.
It was a very surreal moment and thankfully the rest of the race went as straightforward as it promised to. He won by a dozen lengths. It was a day that will stay with me and everyone else involved forever.
MOSCOW FLYER, MELLING CHASE (2005)
MOSCOW FLYER’s second win in the Melling Chase in 2005 was brilliant. He was on a real roll at the time having won six races in a row culminating in his second win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on his previous start.
What made his second Melling so memorable was that it was the first time in his life he gave me a really good ride! He was a horse that would take chances at his fences, he’d race too keenly in a weak race, he’d get behind the bridle in a better race.
He was just unpredictable and almost had me on my toes. But that day, he was absolutely brilliant. He was foot perfect all the way and he put up a great performance to win by the longest distance he ever won a Grade 1 by, 16 lengths.
It’s hard to believe that he never won again after that, but he was brilliant that day. He was at the very height of his popularity at that stage too, so he got a great reception.
SPRINTER SACRE, MELLING CHASE (2013)
SPRINTER SACRE had just won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in absolutely brilliant style by 19 lengths, so he went to Aintree very much expected to win the Melling. He was stepping up to two-and-a-half miles, but it wasn’t really a worry for anyone.
He did everything beautifully through the race, he travelled and jumped so well. I’ll always remember coming down to last fence on him. From five strides away, I could see him meeting it on a long stride, so I gave him an inch of rein to extend into it.
By the time he’d got to his third-last stride before it, I had to take him back for the last two strides, as he had extended so much that he was going to get too close to it!
To be able to do that at the end of a Grade 1, it was just phenomenal. I had never got such a feeling before and I haven’t got it again since. He was a monster at his peak and that was one of his best days.
EASTLAKE, TOPHAM CHASE (2016)
EASTLAKE been round the block a fair bit at that stage and had ran in the Topham twice before without hitting the mark, but he was definitely one of the best jumpers I’ve ever ridden over the big fences. He was just class over them.
I remember jumping the Canal Turn on him that day and he seemed to be turning left before he’d even left the ground! He had to battle hard to win, but it really sticks out for me as he gave me such a good ride.
On lads like him you can go where you want, you can ask him any question, you can put him on any stride, it’s just a pleasure.
He didn’t stay the Topham trip on a normal track over normal fences, but his jumping was so good over the big fences that he saved energy over them and that allowed him to get home.
BUVEUR D’AIR, AINTREE HURDLE (2017)
BUVEUR D’AIR was after winning the Champion Hurdle on his previous start, but I had missed the ride through injury. Missing Cheltenham is a nightmare for any rider, especially with horses like him in your book, so to come back from that setback and get back on him at Aintree meant a lot on a personal level.
The meeting had been going well up to that but winning on Buveur was the highlight. He put up an awesome performance on the day too.
I remember coming to the last on him, meeting it long, giving him a kick and he absolutely pinged it. It was a class performance that meant a lot.