Who is John McManus?

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.

Who trains 2021 Grand National contender Any Second Now?

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.

On which horse did Jimmy Frost, father of Bryony, with the Grand National?

Although a respected trainer in Buckfastleigh, Devon and a former Grand National-winning jockey, Jimmy Frost is probably best known, nowadays, as the father of Bryony Frost, who has taken the world of National Hunt racing by storm since riding her first winner, as an amateur, in February 2015. Nevertheless, Frost Snr. rode his first winner under National Hunt Rules, Mopsey, at Taunton, at the tender age of 15 in February, 1974, and his last, Bohill Lad, at Exeter in March, 2002.

All told, in his 28-year career, Jimmy Frost rode 510 winners under Rules, but arguably the most memorable of them all was Little Polveir in the 1989 Grand National. Having finish a respectable, albeit remote, ninth of seventeen finishers behind West Tip in the 1986 Grand National, Little Polveir had unseated rider at The Chair in 1987 and, again, at the thorn fence five from home in 1988. By the time April 8, 1989 rolled around, the former Scottish Grand National winner was a 12-year-old and considered by some observers to be past his prime. Nevertheless, he had recently been bought by Edward Harvey and transferred from his previous trainer, John Edwards, to Gerald ‘Toby’ Balding.

Saddled with just 10st 3lb on his favoured heavy going and ridden by Jimmy Frost, who was making his Grand National debut at the age of 30, Little Polveir was sent off at odds of 28/1 to win the celebrated steeplechase. He led with a circuit to race and, having narrowly avoided some errant spectators turning for home, showed admirable bravery to fend off his pursuers in the closing stages. He eventually passed the post 7 lengths ahead of West Tip, with former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner The Thinker half a length further back in third place.

Who is, or was, the most successful trainer in the history of the Grand National?

In the history of the Grand National, the original ‘Master of Ballydoyle’, Vincent O’Brien, had the distinction of saddling three winners in a row, namely Early Mist, Royal Mist and Quare Times, in 1953, 1954 and 1955, respectively. However, three men have saddled four Grand National winners apiece and are, jointly, the most successful trainers in the history of the Grand National.

In the pioneering days of the Grand National, Epsom-based trainer George Dockeray was the first to achieve the feat when, in 1852, the unfancied 50/1 chance Miss Mowbray, ridden by Mr. Alec Goodman, beat Maurice Daley and Sir Peter Laurie by a length and half a length in the fourteenth renewal of the famous steeplechase. Dockeray had previously trained the winner of three of the first four ‘official runnings of the Grand National, namely Lottery (1839), Jerry (1840) and Gaylad (1842).

Over a century later, Fred Rimmell, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Grand National’, became the second trainer in history to saddle four Grand National winners when Rag Trade beat Red Rum by two lengths in the 1976 renewal. Rimmell, of course, was the trainer who had benefited from the dramatic collapse of Devon Loch in 1956, but aside from E.S.B., whose jockey Dave Dick admitted ‘was a terribly lucky winner’, also saddled Nicolaus Silver (1961) and Gay Trip (1970).

Last, but by no means least, Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, trainer of Red Rum, who achieved legendary status by winning the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977, finally achieved his fourth win, at the age of 73, in 2004. On that occasion, the twelve-year-old Amberleigh House, ridden by Graham Lee, defeated co-favourite Clan Royal by three lengths.

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