Carberrys spurred on by thrill of the spin and glory of the win
Published 11/04/2015 | 02:30
The Carberry babies were riding horses when kids from outside the racing world were strapped in to high chairs and silenced with soothers. Most kids back then were baby-sat by the Teletubbies. Nina and Paul Carberry were minded by ponies.
Tommy, their dad, won the National 40 years ago on Lescargot. Grandfather Dan Moore trained the winner. The National fences were much bigger back then, as tall as cottages and wide too, but Tommy took the dangerous shorter route.
He let the old horse gallop along at his own pace. After all, they won two Cheltenham Gold Cups together. Tommy and Lescargot had grafted in to a centaur.
Tommy won 10 lengths at the Canal Turn, the Amen Corner of racing. He cut the bend and saved the old horse's stamina. Lescargot won handy enough in the end , but that race was won in the rough and tumble out the country. The Carberrys live for days like this.
Paul has had three big winners this week already. He is still the cracked young lad jumping ditches as wide as the Boyne, just for kicks, but Paul has matured in to one of the finest jockeys of his or any generation.
There's a clippety clop in the background as ask I him about Nina's chances on First Lieutenant."
She's my favourite sister," he says. (Nina is his only sister)
"Will ye walk the course together before the race?" I ask.
"I haven't walked the course for years," he replies. "I might frighten myself."
He's always like that. Self-deprecating. Paul is one of those fearless people who would bungee-jump on a dental floss rope from Everest.
He's shy sometimes with people, but never with horses. Paul can almost hypnotise his mounts into conserving their energy. Today he rides Cause Of Causes. Paul - who won on Bobbyjo in 1999 - gives him "a good chance, with a bit of luck."
"What about Nina? Will you be looking out for her?"
"I'll be too busy trying to mind myself," he laughs. The message is the kid sister is well able.
Reading between the reins, I'd say there would be none happier than Paul if Nina was to become the first woman to win the Aintree Grand National. But he'll be giving his all to Cause Of Causes.
It has been a special week for our sportswomen. Katy Walsh won the Irish National and Sandra Hughes trained the winner.
Amazingly, Katy doesn't have a ride in the Aintree National. Women have to be twice as good in racing, but the times are changing.
First Lieutenant, Nina's mount, is owned by Michael O'Leary, who is very much an equal opportunity employer. The ten-year-old is trained by Mouse Morris and there is no better man to get one ready for a big race.
Nina won over the National fences already this week. The post-race joy on her open face would do you good. We don't half enjoy the moment in this country. Like Tommy, Nina won the race at The Canal Turn. I could see her visualising the angled fence as she spoke.
"The plan was to move out first and not to run straight at it. And then to cut in." Nina thinks her way through her races.
"I'll be hoping for a good run on First Lieutenant," she adds, and she laughs when I read back Paul's comments. "Paul left home when he was 16 but he used to come back from England at weekends," she recalls.
"He would go off on his hunter and I would follow on behind on my pony. I was very young and we used to get in to all kinds of trouble. Wandering in to farmers' lands without permission and the farmers shouting at us and we riding away before they caught up.
"I just followed Paul. We would be gone all day and my parents would be trying to figure out where I was."
Paul is always there for advice, says Nina, "but you're on your own out there in Aintree."
She knows too there's history waiting to be made today and if she has to beat Paul to win, so be it.
"What would it mean to become the first girl to win The National?" I ask.
"Oh I'd love it. It would be really special," she says with enthusiasm. The thought of winning has her buzzing. You sense this was what Nina was thinking about on her pony. And every day since.
For the very best, the true lovers of their sport, it's not so much about the money, but the thrill of the spin and the glory of the win.
First Lieutenant hasn't been at his best this year, we suggest.
He's a spring horse," says Nina, "and he's coming in to form. The ground is drying out and that's good. But it's about luck in running."
In other words don't go too mad in the betting shop. But at 33/1 Nina is each-way value. And don't forget Paul. He's got a fair old chance too. With luck.
So could it be the little girl who followed the big brother on her pony could well be leading the way today? Wouldn't it make for lovely history?