The Grand National is one of the world’s most anticipated horse races, the highlight of the year for many experienced punters as well as some of those who are less familiar with the inside of a bookmakers. For any jockey to miss out on an opportunity to ride in this Grade Three Aintree steeplechase is a bitter disappointment, for one of the best navigators of the course to have to withdraw through injury is a crying shame.
This is the current situation regarding Barry Geraghty who was set to take the ride on one of the race’s big fancies The Druids Nephew. The 35-year-old will likely be out for between four and eight weeks after sustaining a hairline fracture to his left tibia following a fall from Sailors Warn at Downpatrick on Sunday. Aintree’s National meeting kicks off in two weeks on Thursday. One of the best navigators of the course? Sure. Geraghty rode the winner of the National in 2003 when aboard Monty’s Pass but can also boast having finished in the first six without winning on another six previous occasions.
Jimmy Mangan’s Monty’s Pass was a 16/1 shot when running out the emphatic 12 length victor over Supreme Glory in what was only Geraghty’s fourth National ride. He would steer the Dee Racing Syndicate charge to a fourth place finish the following season, the horse having been burdened with the handicap’s top weight after his previous Aintree achievement. The horse, 33/1 in 2004, is one of only five previous winners in the last 15 years to have finished in the top four in the renewal the season after their victory.
Whilst Monty’s Pass is very much the headline grabber, it would be remiss of us to forget those seemingly easily dismissed horses at larger prices on which Geraghty has managed to steal a place position. On his first ever National ride in 2000, the Pelletstown-born jockey took sixth place on 50/1 shot Call It A Day, that being enough to see a return with some bookies. Indeed, Puntal was another of his big priced places, again finishing sixth in 2006, going off at a 66/1 starting price. This was an admirable feat considering that the Martin Pipe horse had not secured a win or a place since picking up the Sandown Gold Cup two years earlier, this having been his only previous place over 3m.
Such efforts could take the gloss off his fourth place finishes on Slim Pickings (10/1, 2008) and Big Fella Thanks (10/1JF, 2010) at shorter prices though they shouldn’t, such frequency in placing in any race as difficult as the Grand National is an achievement to behold. Geraghty had also ridden Slim Pickings into third when a 33/1 outsider the year before.
So though the Aintree spectacular will still be just that and the Grade Three Cheltenham Festival winner The Druids Nephew will still have as good a chance as any, there will still be a tinge of sadness that the man so adept at the National, so skilled as to be able to transform the less attractive of the field into potential winners, will have to end his dazzling achievement of obtaining 15 consecutive rides.
We wish him a speedy recovery.