Ryan Mania wants Aintree glory with Ravenhill Road

Ryan Mania is in the form of his life and he hopes Ravenhill Road can cap a memorable season by landing the Randox Topham Chase at Aintree.

This was Ryan Mania winning the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Vintage Clouds.

More significantly, it will be the first time that the 2013 Grand National-winning rider has jumped Aintree’s unique fences since returning to the saddle 18 months ago after a five-year absence.

High-profile successes on the now-retired Yorkhill and Seeyouatmidnight for Sandy Thomson, his stepfather-in-law, was followed by a stirring Cheltenham Festival win last month on Vintage Clouds for Yorkshire racing greats Sue and Harvey Smith.

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Now he hopes his first Cheltenham victory, and several other notable wins in recent weeks, can lead to Topham glory on the Smith-trained Ravenhill Road who was an impressive winner at Doncaster last month.

Ryan Mania's high-profile rides include this win in Sandown's Veterans' Chase on January 2 on Seeyouatmidnight.

The 10-year-old is owned by Phil and Julie Martin, from Tickhill, whose colours will be carried in tomorrow’s National by the Brian Ellison-trained Definitly Red.

However Mania believes the Topham, just over one full circuit of the iconic National course, will play to Ravenhill Road’s strengths.

“I think he has a great chance and I think he is quite a big price,” the jockey told The Yorkshire Post. “If he takes to the fences, he has a great chance.

“The trip is perfect. The ground is perfect. Everything is in favour. What is in front of him will be a problem but he schooled over National fences this week and he took to them well.”

Ryan Mania in the Wetherby paddock with Yorkhsire racing greats Sue and Harvey Smith.

This will be the first time that the jockey, victorious in the 2013 National on Auroras Encore, has tackled the world-famous course since his comeback.

He’s determined to make the most of his opportunity as he will be at Newcastle on National day – the fact that there are just three Northern-trained runners in the big race puts the magnitude of Mania’s achievement eight years ago into perspective.

“Every time I walk out at Aintree, it feels special,” explains the horseman who is on the 39-winner mark for the campaign. “When you go for a walk around the National course, as I will do, the old butterflies will get going.

“It’s like no other course in the country – it’s very, very special. Some jockeys dread it and I certainly look forward to it – I love the track and I love the fences.”

While he would have relished a National ride, Mania’s preference was always a horse with which he had a developed an association.

Riding over three miles-plus, he says you gain a real affinity with steeplechasers in particular and that is why recent wins have left him so excited for the future.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the season,” says Mania who believes Cloth Cap will have ideal conditions in the National.

“I try not to get too carried away with how things go but, with the last few weeks, I have had to pinch myself. I feel like I’m riding on a crest of a wave. Racing is like that, and it won’t last forever, but Sandy’s horses are continuing to be in good form, Sue’s are in form and Mike Smith’s horses are running well.

“We have some big races to look forward to before the end of the season in three weeks time, and some nice novice chasers for next season. I’m lucky to be involved with the people that I am.”

Today’s Grade One Marsh Chase was due to see Mania ride the Smith-trained Midnight Shadow before the horse showed very slight lameness and was withdrawn.

Meanwhile Northern-based Conor O’Farrell will continue his partnership with Vieux Lion Rouge in the National.

David Pipe’s stayer has jumped a record 223 consecutive Aintree fences without mishap, including last December’s Becher Chase when O’Farrell was in the saddle.

Quick ground will be a concern but the jockey said: “I’d say this is the best chance he’ll ever have – there’s a lot of very good horses and you wouldn’t say no to owning any of them, but I just think my fella has come of age with the performance he put in to win the Becher.”

Teddy Grimthorpe is stepping down from his long-standing role as racing manager to Juddmonte Farms after 22 years following the death of owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abduallah.

In a position he took over in 1999, Lord Grimthorpe, who comes form Westow, managed all of the late Prince’s horses in Europe, overseeing such greats of the Turf as Frankel and Enable.

Grimthorpe – who was chairman of York Racecourse for nine years and remains on the board at the Knavesmire track – envisages spending more time in Yorkshire in the future.

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