The 2014 Grand National left some top trainers’ hopes in tatters as Pineau De Re, the first National runner sent out by Dr Richard Newland (pictured), was the toast of Aintree. The 25/1 shot in the Grand National betting tested the balance of his jockey, Leighton Aspell, but not his strength in riding a finish.
The 11-year-old French-bred got the better of his rivals by the second last and flew over the final fence in the style of a horse that did not need to use the reserve petrol tank to win. He beat Philip Hobbs’ more fancied cross country race specialist Balthazar King (14/1) under Richard Johnson easily by five lengths. His victory was all the more impressive as he had lost a front shoe.
The 10/1 joint favourite, the Martin Brassil trained Double Seven owned by JP McManus and the choice of the champion jockey, AP McCoy, was beaten six lengths into third. Fergal O’Brien’s Alvarado (33/1) stayed on to take fourth under Paul Moloney. Paul Nicholls’ Rocky Creek (16/1) looked to have the race at his mercy four out but appeared to empty in the closing stages and finished fifth under Noel Fehily.
Chance ride for another ‘retired’ jockey
It was Aspell’s seventh National ride and 11 years since he was second in the race at his first attempt on Pat Murphy’s Supreme Glory. Like Ryan Mania, who won the 2013 National on Auroras Encore, Aspell had become disillusioned with life as a jockey and retired from race riding in 2007. He took a job with John Dunlop which he said he enjoyed but soon realised he had made a mistake and was back riding 18 months later.
After his victory the 37-year-old Aspell appeared almost emotionless. He described Pineau De Re as a terrier who kept swinging on and off the bridle. He said he missed a few round the way but had two good jumps when it mattered. Pineau De Re ‘missed’ one spectacularly, completely breasting the thirteenth. He would probably have hit the deck if the fences had not been modified for safety reasons. He made some pretty serious mistakes at quite a few other fences too. Fortunately he was at his most accurate at the business end of the race.
Aspell had ridden for Newland occasionally but it was an opportunistic text message to him that resulted in their National partnership. He heard that Newland was looking for a jockey as Sam Twiston-Davies, who had ridden Pineau De Re in his previous two starts, was booked to ride Paul Nicholls’ more fancied 16/1 shot, Tidal Bay. There had been an unprecedented amount of jockey juggling prior to the race as many of them, including former winners Ruby Walsh, Daryl Jacob and Jason Maguire were sidelined, recovering from injuries. Aspell sat on Pineau De Re for the first time on the day.
Emotional victory for ‘part time trainer’
Newland was ecstatic after his horse’s success. When he was interviewed in the preliminaries he admitted that he was excited just to have a runner for the first time and he looked it. Afterwards he explained “To have a runner was a dream, to have a winner unthinkable.”
Newland was a full time GP until a year before the race and works full time in healthcare-related businesses. He described himself as a “part time trainer with a terrific team at home.”
He has a string of some 25 horses at his base at Claines in Worcestershire and owns a share in quite a few of them, including Pineau De Re. His success went largely unnoticed until he trained Burntoakboy to win the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2007.
The ‘part time trainer’ has an enviable strike rate of 20% in chases and 22% in hurdles over the past five seasons. Many canny punters had already worked out that his horses are worth following, especially when he has managed to secure the services of a top jockey.
Dummies do not get to be doctors and Newland applies his brain to training and placing horses with great effect. He bought Pineau De Re with the National in mind for his long term friend and racing buddy, John Provan. Provan was once an amateur jockey and helped to fuel Newland’s passion for the sport.
They had struggled to get Pineau De Re into the race as his official rating was initially too low and thought it was lucky that they had even made the line up. It was a win in a veterans’ race at an additional fixture put on at Exeter in January (following the many waterlogged cancellations) that enabled them to do so. He romped home under Sam Twiston-Davies and achieved a sufficiently high rating to make the cut.
What happened to market leaders?
Rebecca Curtis’ Teaforthree, who showed his aptitude for Aintree when finishing third last year, was as short as 8/1 in the ante-post Grand National betting market. Curtis thought he stood a good chance but that 8/1 was ridiculously short as “you always need a bit of luck in running.” He was eventually sent off as the 10/1 joint favourite.
Unfortunately for his many supporters Teaforthree chose to make the most serious error of his entire chasing career at the Chair and gave his jockey, Nick Scholfield, absolutely no chance of maintaining the partnership.
The Peter Maher trained cross country specialist Big Shu, a 14/1 shot, had an excuse for hitting the deck at the third. He was hampered by a loose horse.
It was less of a surprise to see Long Run, the 12/1 third favourite fall for the first time. The precocious 2011 Gold Cup winner trained by Nicky Henderson had a habit of blundering through the occasional obstacle. He seemed to be going well and was at the head of affairs when he failed to get his landing gear organised after Valentines and left his talented amateur rider, Sam Waley-Cohen, with a significant blip in his otherwise impressive record at Aintree.
Henderson’s other fancied runners were also disappointing. The Hennessy winner, Triolo D’Alene (16/1) was the choice of stable jockey Barry Geraghty but he failed to fire and was pulled up before Bechers second time. Shakalakaboomboom, the 8/1 favourite in 2012, was double the price this time but was tailed off and pulled up by David Bass before the 20th fence.
Henderson (who has never won the race) must have been left scratching his head after sending out horses he described as his best National types in years. Paul Nicholls had to saddle more than fifty horses before winning. Dr Newland hit the jackpot first time. The bookmakers must have been drinking to the doctor’s health as another relative outsider in the Grand National betting came in.