Who was Liam Treadwell?

Liam Treadwell was a Grand National winning national hunt jockey born in the market town of Arundel, West Sussex. During his prolific career he won more than 300 races during a ten year period (and 308 wins total). His education and indeed career in horse racing was closely tied with trainer Venetia Williams, who gave him the ride on 2009 Grand National winning Mon Mome after her principle jockey turned down the chance to ride it. The unlikely 100-1 win made Williams only the second ever female trainer to claim victory in the race (after Jenny Pitman). It was Treadwell’s debut in the race and yet his triumph resulted in an memorable achievement – and only the 5th time in the history of the Grand National a horse of those odds had won the race.

He was famously, and jokingly, mocked for his gap-toothed appearance directly after the 2009 Grand National race by interviewer Clare Balding, which resulted in a free dental makeover by a promotion savvy dentist.

The ambitious jockey’s successes in 2009 didn’t end there though. He also won the United House Gold Cup in Ascot that very same year. In 2013 he was still impressing, with a win at the Cheltenham Festival on Carrick boy. In 2015 Liam Treadwell placed third in the Grand National on Monbeg Dude and had a further success in the Grand Sefton Steeplechase. Unfortunately the following year, 2016, was a year that will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. Following a fall at Bangor, Treadmill was unconscious for several minutes after sustaining a head injury. The concussion resulted in a lasting impact. He spoke of the mental health toll of what he described as the ‘big bang’ in ‘Jockey Matters’.

He spoke candidly about the indicent at the time, “The symptoms of concussion probably wore off after six weeks or two months, but I was mentally not very well and my brain was still a bit fragile when I exercised… I didn’t want to ride a horse as I felt so grim, so disillusioned, and I was shutting myself away, not talking to anyone; I wasn’t diagnosed with depression, but in my own head, sitting on the sofa at home, I felt depressed.”

He officially retired from professional riding in 2018, before recovering enough to make a comeback possible in 2019, and he rode some 20 winners in the 2019-2020 season. Treadmill died on 23rd June 2020, at just 34 years old. His family describe him as “polite, funny, kind and brave“. From Grand National highs on Mon Mome, to this sad time 11 years on, Liam Treadwell had his struggles but also, in his own jovial yet determined fashion, made his mark in the sport of racing.

 

What does ‘seeing a stride’ mean?

In National Hunt racing, over hurdles or fences, ‘seeing a stride’ refers to the ability of a jockey not only to identify the point at which, ideally, a horse should leave the ground to negotiate an obstacle successfully, but also to ride positively to reach that point. To position a horse optimally – that is, close to the base of an obstacle, but not so close as to impair take-off – a jockey must consider the characteristics of the horse, in terms of balance, suppleness and temperament and, of course, its stride length, as well as the nature of the obstacle. Of course, the different types of obstacles include hurdles, plain fences and open ditches; the tallest and broadest fence on the Grand National Course at Aintree, known as ‘The Chair’, is 5’3″ high and 9′ wide, including a 6′ wide ditch on the take-off side. A horse typically has a stride length between 9′ and 12′, so will cover at least that distance in the air and possibly further, if the obstacle is wider. Nevertheless, while momentum is required to jump larger obstacles, a jockey must avoid ‘kicking on’ too hard, which can lead to jumping errors, loss of confidence and injury to horse and rider.

Is Aidan O’Brien related to Vincent O’Brien?

The simple answer is no, Aidan O’Brien is not related to the late Michael Vincent O’Brien, but the current ‘Master of Ballydoyle’ has much in common with his predecessor. Indeed, it was Vincent O’Brien who bought Ballydoyle House, in Co. Tipperary in 1951 and, later, along with his son-in-law, John Magnier, and the late Robert Sangster, established what became known as the Coolmore syndicate, for whom Aidan O’Brien has been private trainer since 1996.

Both Aidan and Vincent O’Brien began their training careers in National Hunt racing; both have the distinction of having won the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival three years running, Aidan with Istabraq in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and Vincent with Hatton’s Grace in 1949, 1950 and 1951. Similarly, both men subsequently rose to become the dominant force in Flat racing, not just in Ireland, but in the whole of Europe and both became Champion Trainer in Britain, despite training on the other side of the Irish Sea.

What is a novice?

In horse racing, ‘novice’ is often used in the same sense that it is used elsewhere – that is, to describe a horse that is new to racing, or inexperienced in its selected discipline – but, officially, ‘novice’ has a highly-specific meaning.

Under the Rules of Racing, on the Flat, a novice is any horse that is eligible to run in a novice, novice auction or median auction novice race. What that means, essentially, it that is has won no more than twice and has run no more than twice, unless it has yet to win or is a two-year-old, although it must also satisfy certain other eligibility criteria.

In National Hunt racing, a novice is defined as a horse that has yet to win, in its selected discipline – that is, over hurdles or fences – before the start of the current season. The only caveat is that horses that win one or more races in their selected discipline in the last two months of the National Hunt season ‘proper’ are still regarded as novices, and therefore eligible to run in novice hurdles or novice steeplechases, until the end of the following October.

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