Auroras Encore wins trouble-free Grand National

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Auroras Encore won the Grand National at Aintree with an impressive show of stamina. The 66-1 outsider brought victory to Scottish jockey Ryan Mania in his first ride in the National. For once there were no casualties to mar the sporting spectacle, supporting organisers’ claims that, while still carrying an element of risk, the steeplechase is now safer than ever.

It was a race surprisingly short on mishaps, with only two fallers and all the horses and jockeys returning unscathed. The entire field reached the eighth fence before the first jockey was unseated. Gamblers were not so fortunate with the hot favourite Seabass fading out of the reckoning well before the finish.

As ever, there were plenty of human interest stories behind the winner. Auroras Encore was trained by Sue Smith, the wife of legendary showjumper Harvey. The jockey was a journeyman of the steeplechasing scene who had retired briefly in 2011, disenchanted with the lack of big-race opportunities.

"I was very lucky, and that's what you need in the National," Mania said. "My only ambition was to get round, although I knew he stayed the trip. He hasn't been himself all season and has needed better ground and the sun on his back. He's class on his day."

Class or not, this was the biggest win by far in Auroras Encore’s career, another example of the National being a great leveller. The victory was a shock even to the jockey. "Coming to the second last I was delighted, because I realised I was going to be placed," he said, "and I thought, 'this is great, let's just jump home'. Then the front two stopped in front of me at the last and I said to myself, 'this isn't happening'."

It happened, and Mania’s low-profile career suddenly had an unmatchable high point, even if he had to forego celebrations in order to head off to Hexham for another ride.

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