Did Jim Crowley used to be a National Hunt jockey?

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.

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.

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