Wednesday 22 November 2017

A winner all right!

Derek Fox only the second Sligoman to ride winner of the Grand National

Sinead Healy

From Emmet Place to the World stage of Aintree, Sligo born jockey Derek Fox can add the Grand National Winner to his list of achievements.

The 24 year old jockey won Saturday's Aintree Grand National race on 'One for Arthur' trained near Kinross, Scotland by trainer Lucinda Russell in only his first ride in the race.

One for Arthur beat out Cause of Causes which finished second and Saint Are which placed third.

"It is unbelievable" said his mother Jacqueline Fox speaking to the Sligo Champion, "It still hasn't sunk in that it is real. We are all on cloud nine: the atmosphere on Saturday was electric."

Jacqueline said it was down to his time at Jack Berry House that allowed him to recover from his injuries.

He spent three weeks at the intensive multimillion Jockeys rehabilitation centre before being cleared by a British Horseracing Authority doctor.

"Only a week ago he had to do a push up with one hand" said his uncle Jeffery Fox.

There was no rest for Derek as he was back racing yesterday (Monday) at the Kelso Racecourse in Scotland.

According to his mother, Derek was a home bird, but made the move to Scotland more than three and a half years ago.

"You have to move around to get the experience" explained Jacqueline, "His cousin (Steven) was over there so it made it easier: they're more like brothers than cousins."

"The only thing Derek ever wanted to be was a jockey. In secondary school he would be late because he would be up before school riding the horses." she said.

While Derek remained confident ahead of the race on Saturday, everyone was in a state of shock over the win.

"His agent Bruce Jeffery was in tears over the win. It was a very emotional day. I don't think Derek believes it yet," said Jacqueline who was present to witness her son winning the World's most famous race which has been running since 1839.

The Fox Family are no strangers to horse racing, Derek's cousin Steven Fox came third in the Scottish Grand National in 2016 and his uncle Luke McNiff came second in the Irish Grand National the year before that.

"I teased Derek saying that he would have to up the game and beat them, and he did just that." said Jeffery.

"When they were younger, the three boys would have their own race course at the back of the house and they would call it the Grand National.

"It is amazing to now have three family members coming in first and second and third in some of the biggest races in the British Isles."

"From a young age, they done nothing else, Steven had a play-station at home and the only game I can ever remember Derek playing on it was a jockey game. As a young lad he used to go around parading as a cowboy." said Jeffery.

"It's the toughest sport in the world, people will tell you boxing and all that is hard.

"But horse racing is the only sport in the world that you have to make yourself weaker. It is such a tough game and you break every bone in your body, no matter how good you are you will get some sort of tumble." he said.

Quick Date (pictured on opposite page) educated all three of the young jockeys in horse riding and was a winning horse for Derek back in the day.

Jacqueline is hoping to get Derek home to Sligo in a few weeks to celebrate: "I will have to get him home to rejoice in the win, we can't just have Scotland celebrating!"

Sligo County Council are also planning to host a Civic Reception for the winning jockey in the coming weeks.

As usual it was an exciting Grand National with One For Arthur, an eight-year-old trained in Kinross, proving to be one for Scotland when he out-jumped and outstayed his 39 rivals to win the 170th running of the race.

Trainer Lucinda Russell became the fourth woman to train a National winner; she was assisted by her partner, the former Champion jockey Peter Scudamore.

Russell, 50, whose accommodation at the meeting was her camper van in the horsebox park rather than the Aldephi Hotel, described it as a dream come true.

"There'll be a big party at Kinross," she said. "I'm just delighted for Derek - he's a big part of our set up. We missed him when he was at Jack Berry House (the Injured Jockeys' Fund's northern rehabilitation centre.)

One for Arthur stayed well ahead on the home stretch to give Scotland its second ever winner in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree. The first win took place in 1979.

It was impressive show of skill from Fox, who was racing in the Grand National for the first time.

"He won it so easily," said Fox. "The only concern I had was that he'd be too slow and get too far back. After a circuit I was thinking I can't be going as well as I am.

"He was making two or three lengths at every fence so I thought I'd go a bit wider on him.

"In the end I was worried I'd get there too soon. But he's the gamest horse I've ever ridden - he galloped all the way to the line.

"I was determined to get back (from the injury) and I'm very lucky to have the ride on him in the first place - I can't believe it."

One For Arthur holds an entry in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in a fortnight's time, but Russell all but ruled out bidding for a double last achieved by the mighty Red Rum in 1974.

"He's never been a horse that's been able to run too many times, so I think the ideal thing for him now is a few supermarket openings and then a nice field of grass!"

Sligo Champion

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