Second in National
Codd close to immortality in big race
Jamie Codd is one of the most respected jockeys around and has seven Cheltenham Festival winners to his credit as an amateur, but he came tantalisingly close to racing immortality on Saturday when finishing second in the Aintree Grand National on Cause of Causes, just behind Scottish-trained One for Arthur which had the first five races of his career as a Wexford-trained point-to-pointer.
It was a brilliant first ride in the race by the Mayglass man as he had a far from straightforward passage, being hampered several times, but horse and rider battled on remarkably well to claim second and earn £211,000 for owner J.P. McManus and trainer Gordon Elliott.
Jamie is not making a big deal of the bumps: 'those things are part and parcel of racing, especially in a big field like the National,' he said.
'He is a great little horse to do what he has done there. He is incredible. It was just unfortunate that there was one two good for us today. Second in a Randox Grand National and he is only 16 hands. I am delighted - a little bit disappointed but delighted.'
The difference that ten-yard margin between first and second makes was starkly illustrated in the media coverage after the race. On TV the professionals like A.P. McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald did pay tribute to the Wexford man's race, but for most it was exclusively about the winner, and the horse and connections did certainly deserve the spotlight.
However, I thought it was a bit much that the sports report on the main RTE News at nine that night never even mentioned second-placed Cause of Causes, the first Irish-trained horse home, its rider or its other connections.
When I talked to him a week earlier he was not convinced that he was going to have the ride; as retained rider, Barry Geraghty has the pick of the J.P. McManus horses, but he opted for More of That, which was pulled up before the last fence.
Jamie went down to the Aintree stables to visit Cause of Causes after the race and was delighted to find him fully recovered, fit and well. 'He is definitely my favourite horse of all I have ridden.' He has won three different races at the last three Cheltenham Festivals.
Jamie has been immersed in horses almost from the cradle. The whole family has been involved with the Killinick Harriers, from parents Billy and Mary Frances, on whose land the Lingstown course is situated, to brother William who trains and breeds horses at the Churchlands, Mayglass, stable, and sisters Lisa and Zoe who also take a keen interest.
Jamie is now living in Monasterevin, Kildare; married to Robyn (O'Sullivan), they have an eight months old daughter, Lottie. Robyn is sister of trainer Ross O'Sulivan, who is married to Katie Walsh, daughter of TV pundit and trainer, Ted, and sister of champion rider, Ruby.
Jamie is battling for championships on two fronts which keeps him very busy. He is having his best-ever season on the track with 32 winners so far and is in an epic duel with Paddy Mullins for the amateur riders' title. This will be decided at the end of the Punchestown Festival later this month.
He is reigning point-to-point champion rider and is in a big struggle there to retain his title, with fellow Wexford man, Barry O'Neill, Ballindaggin, having set the pace for much of the season..
Codd's schedule for the past week gives a good indication of the stamina it takes -
Saturday April 1: rode a double at a point-to-point in Co. Down, before leaving for the bumper in Navan, where he was unplaced.
Sunday: rode three points winners in Co. Westmeath.
Thursday: in Aintree to ride On The Fringe in the Foxhunters, had a disappointing run.
Friday: back in Wexford for one winning ride in the bumper that evening.
Saturday: he flew back to Liverpool for the Grand National.
Sunday: rode at the Island Hunt point-to-point at Courtown, before departing for the bumper in Tramore.
Apart from all that, he has a day job as a representative in Ireland for the Tattersalls horse sales operation.
It is a grinding schedule but one that Jamie embraces. 'You have to take your chances when they come along,' is the attitude, and he is certainly doing that in the most successful season of his impressive career.
How the other Wexford riders fared in the National: Seán Flanagan on Wounded Warrior and Tom O'Brien on Drop Out Joe - pulled up before last; Jonathan Moore on Shantou Flyer (former Colin Bowe inmate) - suffered a bang and pulled up four from home; Daryl Jacob on Ucello Conti - unseated at Bechers second time when going well.