16-aintree-ryan-mania-leads-raceCountryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

Our second annual Raceday at Aintree was a great success last Sunday. I had the pleasure of speaking to an audience of 350 people at our sold out lunch and auction. I was under no illusions that they had come to hear me, but rather to see the 2013 Grand National winner turned Huntsman Ryan Mania come out of retirement to contest our slightly less prestigious, but no less hotly contested, charity race.

Ryan, who now hunts the Berwickshire, had teamed up with trainer Donald McCain and went on to win the 1m5f flat race on Lexi’s Boy.

Ryan told Horse & Hound hunting editor (and fellow race competitor) Polly Portwin after his victory: “It was an incredible feeling to be back here and it brought back so many great memories. I’m just so grateful to both Donald McCain and Lexi’s Boy’s owner Tim Leslie for giving me the ride. It’s a great relief to have won! I think I might have been a little disappointed not to have come home first today. It felt really good to be back but I have no plans to make a return – I’ll stick to hunting hounds!”

Now joint-master and huntsman of the Berwickshire Hunt, Ryan lined up against eight other amateur jockeys — some race-riding for the first time. Bloodstock agent David Redvers, joint-master of the Ledbury, claimed second place on board Chapter Seven, just easing out Aintree staff member Molly Dingwall, who finished strongly to take third on the Gordon Elliott-trained Steady Major.

At the lunch we gave special awards to Oliver Dale of the Ludlow who raised the most sponsorship money – more than £2,000 – and to David Redvers, Oliver and Ryan Mania who each lost around a stone and a half to take part in the race – not a commitment to take lightly.

The other jockeys taking part included joint-master and huntsman Richard Tyacke (Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn’s) and Charles Clark MFH from the Holderness, as well as David O’Brien, the 2016 point-to-point season leading veteran and novice rider in the North West who hunts with the Cheshire.

Ryan Mania told the Yorkshire Post recently that he only came to appreciate – and love – hunting when he started point-to-point riding, which led to a career which yielded 192 winners. He said: “You get out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere. No mobile phone reception, nothing. You switch off and enjoy yourself – there’s nothing better than watching the hounds work.” In November 2014, having retired for a second time, he joined the Braes of Derwent Hunt in Durham before taking up his current role with the Berwickshire, the oldest hunt in his native Scotland. Riding out on the gallops has been replaced by the responsibility of looking after 64 hounds and a wider appreciation about the countryside. “First and foremost, I look after the hounds and arrange all the hunting,” he said. “We have 32 couples – 64 in total. The yard has to be washed down and the hounds walked and exercised. We hunt three or four days a week at this time of the year.” The Yorkshire Post asked him if hunting can ever provide that personal fulfilment that all sports competitors so crave? “Definitely – especially when your hounds go well, there’s some really good hunting. It’s not far away from a racing situation… galloping around and jumping things. I get plenty out of seeing the hounds do well. The buck stops with me. I can’t pass the blame onto anyone else. It’s not just a way of life. Pest and fox control is very important to farmers and livestock.”

Our thanks go to all of the jockeys who contested the race at Aintree last weekend, and with Ffos Las and Cheltenham Race Days still in prospect there is plenty of great racing ahead in support of our work.

Follow Tim on Twitter @CA_TimB