The simple answer is yes, they are. Oisin Murphy, who became British Champion Jockey for the first time in 2019 is, in fact, the nephew of Jim Culloty, best known as the jockey of three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate and Grand National winner Bindaree.
Raised in Killarney, County Kerry, in southwestern Ireland, Murphy originally harboured an ambition to become a showjumper. However, at the age of 14 he began riding in unsanctioned horse races, colloquially known as ‘flappers’, contested by bona fide racehorses, but ridden by children. By his own admission, race riding did not come naturally to the young Murphy and, on reviewing the races in which he had ridden, alongside his uncle, was often reduced to tears by the pitiless criticism of his riding ability.
Nevertheless, Murphy perservered as a jockey and, in 2013, became apprenticed to Andrew Balding at Park House Stables in Kingsclere, near Newbury, Berkshire. That September, Murphy hit the headlines by riding a 9,260/1 four-timer on Ayr Gold Cup Day, including the winner of the Ayr Gold Cup itself, Highland Colori. In 2016, Murphy succeeded Andrea Atzeni as the only jockey retained by Qatar Racing and it is in the familiar claret with gold braid colours that he has enjoyed his finisest moments. Indeed, it was in those colours that he rode his first Group One winner, Roaring Lion, in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park in July, 2018.
Nowadays, Jim Crowley is best known as first-choice jockey to leading owner Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, having replaced Paul Hanagan in that role in November, 2016. His appointment came shortly after he had been crowned Champion Jockey for the first and, so far, only time the previous month.
However, while Crowley began his career as an amateur, riding on the Flat for the like of John White and Ron Hodges, in the late Nineties he switched his affiliation to National Hunt racing. Riding predominantly for West Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith, Crowley racked up over 250 winners in that sphere and once rode in the Grand National, albeit parting company with his mount, 150/1 outsider Art Prince, at the very first fence.
In 2006, at the behest of his father-in-law, Guy Harwood, Crowley switched back to the Flat and began riding for his sister-in-law, Amanda Perrett, based in Pulborough, West Sussex. In 2007, Crowley rode 92 winners, nearly double his previous seasonal best under National Hunt Rules, 47, recorded in 2004/5, and rode over a hundred winners in 2008 and 2009, before joining Ralph Beckett as stable jockey in 2010. He recorded his first Group One winner, Prohibit, trained by Robert Cowell, in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011 and went freelance in 2014.
John Patrick McManus, almost invariably known in racing circles as ‘J.P.’, is an Irish billionaire, best known as the largest owner in National Hunt racing. At the last count, McManus had over 550 horses in training; in the 2019/20 National Hunt season, his familiar green and gold colours – ‘borrowed’ from his home Gaelic Athletic Association club, South Liberties – were carried to victory 79 times, earning £2.14 million in prize money and making him Champion Jumps Owner in Britain by £1.39 million.
His biggest single earner in 2019/20 was Epatante, trained by Nicky Henderson, who collected £79,467 for winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, McManus is the leading owner in the history of the two-mile hurdling championship with nine winners, including the last four – namely Buveur D’Air in 2017 and 2018, Espoir d’Allen in 2019 and Epatante in 2020 – and a notable hat-trick by Istabraq in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
In fact, McManus is, far and away, the leading owner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival as a whole, with 66 winners. Of the main ‘championship’ races, aside from the Champion Hurdle, he has won the Stayers’ Hurdle three times, with Baracouda in 2002 and 2003 and More Of That in 2014, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup once, with Synchronised in 2012. He also famously won the Grand National with Don’t Push It – the one and only winner of the celebrated steeplechase for Tony McCoy – in 2010.
Any Second Now, a nine-year-old gelding owned by John P. McManus, is trained by Ted Walsh in Co. Kildare, in the midlands of Ireland. As far as the Grand National is concerned, Walsh is probably best remembered for saddling the 2000 winner, Papillon, who was ridden by his son, Ruby, and the 2012 third, Seabass, who was ridden by his daughter, Katie. However, the charismatic trainer appears to have another ‘live’ contender for the 2021 Grand National in the form of Any Second Now who, at the time of writing, can be backed at 25/1 ante post.
The son of high class jumps stallion Oscar has won just two of his 16 starts over fences, but is unexposed as a staying chaser, having raced just twice beyond an extended 3 miles. In fact, his most notable victory to date came in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019. He failed to build on that effort when falling early on in his only attempt at a marathon trip, in the Irish Grand National, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Fairyhouse and his only victory since came over the minimum distance of 2 miles at Naas in February, 2020.
Stamina is potentially an issue at Aintree, as is jumping ability – Any Second Now has fallen, or unseated rider, three times over fences – but Walsh appeared confident that he would stay 4 miles 2½ miles prior to the 2020 Grand National, for which he was trading at 10/1 second favourite at the time the race was cancelled. Two non-descript runs over hurdles so far in the 2020/21 are probably neither here nor there as far as his National prospects are concerned and it may be worth noting that Papillon, too, had a preparatory run over hurdles.