I’m grateful to Racenews for supplying factfiles for every runner in the John Smith’s Grand National. I reformat these and publish as I get them, with the first batch coming out 2 weeks before the big race on April 6th. By the eve of the National all factfiles will be published here. You can find others by clicking on the factfiles tag at the foot of this post
Colbert Station, born on April 15, 2004, was sold as a foal at Tattersalls Ireland in November 2004 for 7,200 euros. He was third behind fellow John Smith’s Grand National aspirant Across The Bay on his debut in a Fairyhouse maiden hurdle in January, 2009. He had six mores starts over hurdles before winning a handicap hurdle at Punchestown in December, 2009, he scored comfortably under A P McCoy at Leopardstown in January, 2010.
After creditable efforts in handicap hurdles at the Fairyhouse and Punchestown spring festivals, Colbert Station was not seen again until December, 2011, when lining up in a three-mile novices’ chase at Punchestown. He ran respectably to come home fourth and improved for that run to land an extended two-mile beginners chase at Leopardstown in January, 2010, before rounding off the season with a third-placed finish behind Leanne in a competitive handicap chase at Leopardstown in March. The nine-year-old was fifth behind the classy Hidden Cyclone on his comeback this season in a chase at Gowran Park on November 24, before chasing home Roi Du Mee in a three-mile handicap hurdle at Navan on December 8. He returned to fences at Leopardstown over Christmas with an emphatic five and a half length victory in the hugely competitive Paddy Power Handicap Chase over three miles and completed his preparation for Aintree with a decisive two-length success in a three-mile handicap hurdle at the same course on February 3.
Race Record: Starts: 18; Wins: 5; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £137,744
Few people have enjoyed a closer association with jump racing in the last 30 years than John Patrick ’J P’ McManus, who was born on a farm in Co Limerick on March 10, 1951 and attended the Christian Brothers school on Sexton Street, Limerick. He left his father’s plant hire business at the age of 20 to become a racecourse bookmaker, but then took the less well-trodden route of gamekeeper-turned-poacher to be a professional punter.
McManus recalls one of his first bets as being on Merryman II in the 1960 Grand National when he was just nine, but the bet that changed his life was £4 on Linden Tree in a Newmarket maiden in 1970, the horse winning at 100/8. He had another £4 on when Linden Tree won the Observer Gold Cup at 25/1, and £5 each-way at 33/1 for the Derby, when the horse beat all bar Mill Reef. The amount he wagered grew rapidly and he is still one of the highest-staking punters on the racecourse. Dubbed “the Sundance Kid” by journalist Hugh McIlvanney after a number of major gambles in the ring during the 1970s, he is also the biggest jump owner in terms of numbers in Britain, Ireland and France (some 300 horses spread over 50 trainers ran for him last season) after he purchased his first racehorse, Cill Dara, at the age of 26.
He has a host of business interests including dealing on the financial markets from his Geneva, Switzerland base and part-ownership of the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, where he also has a house. With John Magnier, he bought a 28.7% stake in Manchester United through the Cubic Expression company before subsequently selling out to US tycoon Malcolm Glazer in 2005. He was in the news shortly after that because of his stake in the pub and restaurant operator Mitchells and Butler. In 2012, the Sunday Times estimated McManus’ wealth at £471 million, making him the 14th richest person in Ireland. Since Mister Donovan landed the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, he has enjoyed 38 other Cheltenham Festival successes, headed by the great three-time Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq. In 2010, he won a fourth Champion Hurdle with Binocular, while the 2012 Festival yielded five more successes headed by Synchronised’s gutsy success in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he had to wait to final day this year before gaining two successes. McManus does a lot of work for charity and his Pro-Am golf tournament, which takes place every five years and has raised over 95 million euros. McManus is also a keen backgammon player and a big hurling fan.
He owns Jackdaws Castle, the Gloucestershire yard that Jonjo O’Neill trains from, and has invested heavily in improving facilities since purchasing the property in 2001. He was British champion owner for the 2005/6, 2006/7, 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons. A full 28 years after his runner in the race, McManus finally achieved a long-held ambition when Don’t Push It won the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National. Last year, Sunnyhillboy went agonisingly close to giving McManus a second success when beaten a nose by the Paul Nicholls-trained Neptune Collonges. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1982 Deep Gale (Fell 1st), 1988 Bucko (PU bef 27th), 1992 Laura’s Beau (3rd), 1994 Laura’s Beau (Fell 6th), 1996 Wylde Hide (UR 24th), 1997 Wylde Hide (UR 22nd);
1998 Gimme Five (5th), 2002 Spot Thedifference (UR 27th); 2003 Youlneverwalkalone (pU bef 13th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd), Spot Thedifference (5th), Risk Accessor (UR 6th), Le Coudray (Fell 22nd); 2005 Innox (7th), Spot Thedifference (18th), Shamawan (21st), Clan Royal (CO 22nd), Le Coudray (PU before 21st), Risk Accessor (UR 2nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th), Innox (Fell 1st), First Gold (UR 23rd); 2007 L’Ami (10th), Clan Royal (11th); 2008 King Johns Castle (2nd), L’Ami (Fell 2nd), Bob Hall (PU bef 19th), Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th), Reveillez (BD 3rd), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th), L’Ami (PU bef 30th); 2010 DoN’T PUSH IT (WON), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 8th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th), King Johns Castle (refused to race); 2011 Don’t Push It (3rd), Blue Sea Cracker (14th), Quolibet (UR 11th), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th), Arbor Supreme (Fell 28th); 2012 Sunnyhillboy (2nd), Synchronised (Fell 6th), Arbor Supreme (UR 10th), Quiscover Fontaine (Fell 17th)
Ted Walsh IRE (Kill, County Kildare)
Born on April 14, 1950, at Fermoy in Co Cork and now based at Greenhills near Naas in Co Kildare, Ted Walsh is a racehorse trainer, journalist and broadcaster with rTe and Channel 4. His father, Ruby, had a public house and kept a livery stable in Fermoy. In 1954 the Walsh family relocated to the United States, but came back to Ireland less than two years later and Ruby rented a yard at Chapelizod, Co Dublin.
The Walshs later moved to a farm in Kill, Co Kildare, which Ted has now extended to 60 acres. Walsh was Irish champion amateur jockey on 11 occasions, and rode four Cheltenham Festival winners, including the 1979 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Hilly Way. Commanche Court, who Walsh selected, purchased and trained for owner Dermot Desmond, won the 1997 Triumph Hurdle and completed an amazing double for Walsh in 2000 when winning the Irish National at Fairyhouse 16 days after Papillon landed the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree. Both horses were partnered by Walsh’s son Ruby, while another of his children Katie is also a successful jockey with two Cheltenham Festival wins to her name.
They came close to a John Smith’s Grand National success last year when Seabass, ridden by Katie and trained by Ted, finished third. Walsh’s other daughter Jennifer is agent to Ruby, while his other son Ted Jnr married leading jockey Nina Carberry on February 7, 2012. Ted Walsh’s other training successes include the Bet365 Gold Cup with Jack High in 2005, while Rince Ri won a number of good races for the stable including the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in 2002. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1992 Roc De Prince (17th); 2000 PAPILLON (WON), 2001 Papillon (4th), 2006 Jack High (UR 15th), Rince Ri (Ref 27th), 2007 Jack High (Fell 6th); 2009 Southern Vic (8th); 2012 Seabass (3rd)