Notwithstanding his victory in the 2002 Grand National – which, of course, was a fabulous…
Auroras Encore won the Grand National in 2013 – the first year in which the race was broadcast on Channel 4 – and, in so doing, became the first Yorkshire-trained winner of the iconic steeplechase since Merryman II, trained by Neville Crump, in 1960. His trainer, Sue Smith, also became only the third woman to saddle a National winner, after Jenny Pitman, with Corbiere in 1983 and Royal Athlete in 1995, and Venetia Williams, with Mon Mome in 2009.
Having failed to trouble the judge on his first five starts of the 2012/13 National Hunt season, including a fall in a veterans’ handicap chase at Doncaster on his fourth start, he was allotted just 10st 3lb for the Grand National and, understandably, sent off as a 66/1 outsider. However, having survived mistakes at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit and the fence after that on the second, he tackled the leader, Teaforthree, at the final fence and was driven out to beat Cappa Bleu by nine lengths.
His jockey, 23-year-old Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the National, later reflected on his victory, saying, “There are no words to describe it. I got a dream ride round. I couldn’t believe my luck.”
A fortnight later Auroras Encore tried, but failed, to become the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National and the Scottish Grand National, at Ayr, in the same season. He was badly hampered at the second fence and, after a couple of subsequent mistakes, was tailed off when pulled up with five fences to jump.
Auroras Encore ran his last race in the Sky Bet Chase, formerly the Great Yorkshire Chase, over 3 miles at Doncaster in January, 2014. At 50/1, he finished last of nine finishers, beaten 62 lengths, behind The Rainbow Hunter, but was subsequently found to have fractured his off foreleg in the process. After an operation to insert screws into the injured leg, it was announced that he would not race again.