Why Scottish National holds special place in Andy Crook’s affections

THE SCOTTISH Grand National – which was due to take place today before Covid-19 started to wreak its devastation on all – has traditionally been kind to Yorkshire trainers.

Ryalux and Richie McGrath (right) get the better of Stormez and AP McCoy in the 2003 Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

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The late Peter Beaumont – whose funeral took place on Thursday in front of a handful of close relatives – won the 1999 renewal with the redoubtable Young Kenny.

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And, more recently, Ferdy Murphy – who succumbed to cancer last September – won the Ayr marathon with Paris Pike (2000), Joes Edge (2005) and Hot Weld (2007).

2003 Scottish Grand National winner Ryalux has, more recently, paraded at events like the Wensleydale Show.

Yet, while both racing legends trained more illustrious winners, victory in the Scottish Grand National still represents the high point in the training career of Middleham’s Andy Crook when Ryalux and Richie McGrath outbattled Stormez, and a certain AP McCoy, at the end of the 2003 running. Crook, previously head lad to Middleham trainer Micky Hammond, had worked his way through the ranks before launching his training career in the 2001-02 season.

Placed runs in the Great Yorkshire and Racing Post Chases signposted the fact a big-race success would be well within the scope of Ryalux, but Crook took a leap of faith in stepping up to four miles plus.

Crook recalled: “He got a great ride from Richie who felt he’d just idled a bit in front in the Great Yorkshire when he got caught by Barryscourt Lad, another of the Pipe horses – but we got our own back in the end!

“I think he jumped to the lead at the third-last, then he made a mistake and Stormez just got his head in front of us, which was exactly what we wanted, for us to get a lead after the last, and then he got up on the line.”

Crook had less than 10 jumpers in his care at that point, while the Pipe team ran into three figures and was still at the peak of its powers.

But, in Ryalux, Crook had a consistent runner, who had placed 25 times in 28 runs. He said: “Stormez finished second in the Whitbread two weeks later, he was a really good horse, and Ryalux had finished third in the Racing Post Chase on his previous run.

“We missed Cheltenham and we missed Aintree to go for the Scottish National and I just hoped I’d got him right in those eight weeks.

“We had the Open Day (at Middleham) on Good Friday then and I remember when we were doing the brochure, we said he was going for the Scottish National and to come and see the winner, so there were lots of people asking where Andy Crook’s yard was that day as they wanted to see Ryalux.”

Ryalux eventually bowed out in January 2005 and Crook added: “We’ve still got him now. He’s 27 and a friend of mine looks after him.

“We started with him the year after, but he fractured his pelvis when we were going to have a go for the English National. He’s out in a field, enjoying life – he does look like an old man now though!”

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston has revealed he is isolating after contracting coronavirus.

The record-breaking handler said he began isolating last week and that a test on Wednesday confirmed he had Covid-19.

In an interview with www.horseracingplanet.com, Johnston, 60, said: “I didn’t 
really want any publicity because I didn’t want to make a meal of 

“I’ve been isolated since last Tuesday but other people are a lot worse off than I am; other people have bigger problems so you don’t want to blow it up.

“It started with a cough and I tried to play it down. I didn’t really think I had it but after four days my temperature was off the scale and then I had no choice but to accept it.

“I did one of those tests you have to pay for.”

He added: “Hospital is the last place I wanted to go given what you see on the news.

“I’ve had an online consultation and the doctor keeps telling you that as you’re continuing to breathe OK, then stay at home and don’t go to hospital, so that’s what I’m working on.”

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