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Ryan Mania becomes first Scots jockey to win National in 117 years

Jockey Ryan Mania spoke of his disbelief after riding 66-1 outsider Auroras Encore to victory in the 166th John Smith's Grand National.

Ryan Mania returns to the winning enclosure with Auroras Encore, part-owner Jim Beaumont (second right) and Harvey Smith (right)
Ryan Mania returns to the winning enclosure with Auroras Encore, part-owner Jim Beaumont (second right) and Harvey Smith (right)

Mania, 23, a former point-to-point rider from Galashiels in the Borders, became the first Scottish-born winning rider of the world-famous steeplechase since 1896, when David Campbell won on The Soarer.

A sell-out Aintree crowd of more than 70,000 and an estimated 600 million global television viewers saw Mania bring the 11-year-old horse home nine lengths in front of runner-up Cappa Bleu and third-placed Teaforthree.

All 40 horses and jockeys returned home "safe and sound" after the race at the Merseyside course, after deaths in the 2012 and 2011 races led track officials to make alterations to fences.

After the race Mania said: "I couldn't have asked for a better ride, and the old horse was loving it as well. I couldn't believe, even at the Melling Road, that I was still there.

"I was happy to be placed at that point, and then the front two stopped and I took off in front of them - it was unbelievable."

The Grand National is worth £975,000 in prize money, making it one of the richest jump races in Europe.

Mania's victory marked a dramatic turnaround in his career, which was temporarily halted when he spent six months out of racing and working in the hunt service after his former boss Howard Johnson lost his training licence.

He said: "I didn't know what to do. I took six months out but after two months I thought: 'What am I doing?'"

He praised trainer Sue Smith, 65, and her husband Harvey, saying he could not have come back to racing without them.

Former international show jumper Mr Smith paid tribute to the young jockey, saying: "He's very keen and he wants to do it. When they're keen - horses or jockeys - they just get on with it."

Mrs Smith added: "Ryan gave the horse such a good ride. We knew the ground was right, we knew everything else was and it was.

"He had a bit of luck in running but he didn't have much weight so that helped. But it was no fluke. The horse has plenty of miles on the clock and is very sensible, he's a brilliant ride."

The day after the race,Mania spoke of how his love for the game dragged him back following a self-imposed hiatus as the enormity of winning the world's great steeplechase began to sink in.

Mania's fledgling career was going well two years ago when attached to the powerful Howard Johnson yard but when the County Durham handler lost his licence, the Scot left the sport.

However, after only two months in his new job working for the Fife Hunt, Mania knew he wanted to return and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I always thought I'd come back to racing, but I needed time to sort out where my head was," said Mania, 23, who proudly showed off Aintree hero Auroras Encore on Sunday morning with Sue and Harvey Smith at their Bingley yard in West Yorkshire.

"If Howard hadn't lost his licence I wouldn't have stopped but the minute I heard he had I phoned up for another job.

"Losing a job at a yard like that - I wondered what I was going to do.

"I'd only been off a couple of months, I was whipper-in for the Fife Hunt, but I missed it badly. Racing is where my heart is.

"Harvey (Smith) spotted me, he's yet to tell me why!

"He came up to me at the races and asked me to ride out.

"At the time Henry Oliver was here but just as I started to ride out he broke his leg and I started riding for them.

"Luckily everything I rode for them won and it's been going well ever since.

"The yard runs itself, it's such a great place to work, it's not fancy but it serves a purpose. The gallops are unbelievable.

"My dad Kevin is a highly-qualified joiner but is currently cleaning out big water tanks all over and my mum Leslie works for the Scottish Association of Mental Health.

"They've been very supportive all the way through.

"My phone hasn't stopped. Text messages from friends I can reply to, but I've had thousands on Facebook and Twitter from people I don't know.

"Last night my local rugby team in Galashiels had their rugby sevens tournament and they phoned up and wanted me to pop in.

"I was on the pitch with the team under the floodlights and the atmosphere was incredible - it meant so much to everyone.

"I got there at 10.20pm, I tried to go to bed but couldn't sleep. I was just replaying the race in my head, and then I set off at 5.30am to get back down here. I think I slept for an hour."

There were very few alarms throughout the race for Auroras Encore, and Mania could not believe how well his tactics worked.

"I had a plan in my head, I'd watched all the old renewals and listened to Harvey and it went exactly to plan," he said.

"Sit handy with a bit of light and stay clear of trouble. I'd ridden front-runners over the course in December but it's a long way home so I didn't panic when Teaforthree and Oscar Time went on.

"Crossing the Melling Road I was thinking 'don't panic, you're going to be placed in a National' but when he jumped by them at the last I couldn't believe it.

"He'd shown no form all year but the National was always the aim.

"The thing was, he'd been so bad I'd said to Sue a couple of months ago that we shouldn't be thinking of running him because he'd been so bad, he'd just shown nothing.

"Just a little bit of sun on his back has made all the difference though, and he loves this time of year.

"I don't know if this will make any difference to the rest of my career. Obviously you can always ride more winners and this might help me get the odd spare here and there because people will know my name now."

Auroras Encore is owned by Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David van der Hoeven.

Mr Beaumont and Mr Pryde met 20 years ago at Aintree and have been partners in horses ever since.

Edinburgh based Mr Beaumont, 78, is Liverpool born and started work as a 14-year-old bell boy in the famous Adelphi Hotel in the city.

From there he carved out a career in the catering, hotel and restaurant business, including spells as manager at Gleneagles, and at the George Hotel and Cafe Royal in Edinburgh, before retiring seven years ago.

He said he could still "remember the Grand National winners coming up the hotel steps" in Liverpool.

But he added that he never thought he would ever own a horse, "never mind anything else".

He was first taken to the Grand National meeting at the age of five by his grandmother.

Mr Pryde added: "The original owners decided to come out of racing so we purchased the horse together.

Our partner, David van der Hoeven, is on holiday in Greece but that will be his first ever winner."

This year was the first time the contest was broadcast in the UK by Channel 4, after the broadcaster won the rights to show the meeting for the next four years.

Bookies said before the race that betting could top £150 million - with people expected to wager more cash than usual, as this year's spectacle was the only major sporting event of the weekend.

The Grand National usually coincides with the US Masters and FA Cup semi-finals.

William Hill said that as early as 9am bets online were topping 2,000 per minute.

Before the race the focus was on jockey Katie Walsh, who was hoping to make history by becoming the first female jockey to win the race and began as the race favourite.

But she and her horse Seabass did not manage to better last year's third place, and came in 13th.

In total, only two horses fell during the race, with six jockeys unseated. It is the first time in the history of the Grand National that the entire field was in contention up to the Canal Turn (fence 8).

Alterations were made to the course following the death last year of According To Pete and Synchronised, and of Ornais and Dooney's Gate the previous year, which lead to calls from animal welfare organisations for the public to shun the race and avoid placing bets.

Old wooden fence frames were replaced with "Easyfix plastic birch" of the same height, dressed with spruce, which Aintree said were "kinder if the horse makes a mistake".

The start of the Grand National course was also moved 90 yards further away from the grandstands and the crowds.

Two horses have been put down during this year's meeting; Little Josh who fell during yesterday's Topham Chase, and Battlefront, who was withdrawn during Thursday's fourth race by his jockey Miss Walsh.

A protest was staged outside the racecourse today by members of Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe (Faace).

But the protest did not dampen the mood of punters inside Aintree who were enjoying drinks and cocktails in the sun as they soaked up the atmosphere ahead of the day's first race.

Classical singer Katherine Jenkins sang God Save The Queen after the first race of the day, the John Smith's Aintree Legends Charity Race.

Other celebrities spotted at Aintree today included Coleen Rooney and her husband's boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex, whose Manchester United side entertain Manchester City on Monday night, is part owner of What A Friend and Harry The Viking.

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