HENRY Brooke had resigned himself to riding at Sedgefield when his Becher Chase-hero Highland Lodge failed to make the 40-runner cut for the Crabbie’s Grand National.
That was until Venetia Williams offered him a ride on 100-1 outsider Aachen. The Yorkshireman, who lives in Middleham, did not need a second invitation. Having had mixed fortunes in the last three Nationals with Across The Bay, one of his main objectives each year is to earn a ride in the world’s greatest steeplechase.
That Aachen is unfancied does not perturb him. The horse, he says, will relish the soft conditions and Williams saddled Mon Mome to win in 2009 at odds of 100-1.
“It was a very nice surprise to get the call, I’ve never ridden for Venetia before,” said Brooke, who is on the 40-winner mark for the current campaign and just two short of his personal best tally.
“I’d like to think that it is reward for having a good season. Once you start riding in the National, and I’ve been very lucky to ride Across The Bay for the last three years, you want to ride in it every year. The only way I was going to get a ride was on a spare. Once the call came, I was buzzing. I can’t wait. The horse loves the mud so hopefully he will stay.”
As for Highland Lodge, he’s now set to line up in next weekend’s Scottish National. That trainer Jimmy Moffatt’s stable star did not qualify for the National after a brilliant round of jumping at Aintree last December reflects the quality of this year’s National field.
Yet, as Brooke knows, every horse – however good – still needs luck in the National.
He was leading the 2014 race after a circuit when a riderless horse forced him and Across The Bay wide. “Anything can happen,” he adds.