Tag Archive for: David Maxwell

National sixth fires Aintree dream for Maxwell

David Maxwell described riding in this year’s Randox Grand National as “better than anything I could ever have dreamed of” after finishing sixth on Ain’t That A Shame at Aintree.

Seventeenth in the hands of Rachael Blackmore when fancied for the race in 2023, the Henry de Bromhead-trained 10-year-old returned to Liverpool for a second crack at the world’s most famous steeplechase having been purchased by the property developer to fulfil his long-held ambition of riding in the National.

Sent off at 40-1, the Thyestes Chase scorer was still in contention at the second last, with the 45-year-old admitting for one brief second he allowed himself to dream of joining the decorated list of amateur pilots to win the National.

David Maxwell heading to post at Aintree
David Maxwell heading to post at Aintree (David Davies for the Jockey Club/PA)

“It was way better than anything I could ever have dreamed of and there was no way I could ever have dreamed of still being in touch at the Melling Road with two to jump,” said Maxwell.

“You look around and there were plenty of good horses who had cried enough and although there were still plenty of good horses going well, my fella was going as well as anything at that point.

“I just looked around and thought I was exactly where I wanted to be and then I looked around again and thought there are still a lot of horses still cruising here. After that I was aiming to get home and see if I could get in the first six.

“The National now is such a grade of race that you’ve basically got Gold Cup horses running in front of you and proper graded horses running in a handicap.”

David Maxwell aboard Cat Tiger in the Foxhunters in 2021
David Maxwell aboard Cat Tiger in the Foxhunters in 2021 (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Maxwell is no stranger to competing over the Grand National fences and has finished on the podium on four occasions in the amateurs-only Foxhunters’. But his first experience of going an extra circuit in the famous Aintree marathon more than lived up to his expectations.

“It was some thrill and I said to the agent afterwards that if he had put another zero on the price it would have been worth it,” continued Maxwell.

“He’s a lovely horse and he made one mistake the whole way round at the second fence after the Canal Turn. He went down to Canal Turn with me just leaving him alone – pop, pop, pop – and then I suddenly thought I was getting the hang of it and could see a stride, I went ‘one, two’ and he went three and ploughed through it.

“His ears were stuffed with cotton wool so he wouldn’t have heard me, but I said ‘sorry about that lad, I won’t do it again’. From then on I just left him to it and he’s an absolute pro.”

Some had questioned the owner-rider’s participation in the race in the build-up, with Maxwell himself pointing out an online poll had come down in favour of him sitting out the race.

With that in mind, he was conscious of his responsibility to both the famous race and his amateur colleagues, desperate not to give the naysayers opportunity to dispute amateur participation that has long been part of the fabric of the Grand National.

“It is important that I’m safe and that was my only nervousness,” explained Maxwell.

“I wasn’t nervous about riding round the course, I was nervous about making a mistake on a very big stage and it is really important that I did a good, professional job so no one could say we need to examine amateur participation or conditional jockeys in the National.

Jockey David Maxwell relaxes at Aintree
Jockey David Maxwell relaxes at Aintree (David Davies for the Jockey Club/PA)

“The thing people like about these National races is the element of chance. They are big-field handicaps and you could quite comfortably get 50-1 and 100-1 winners and when you add amateurs into the mix, there’s an extra element of chance.

“So it is important that the amateur element is not taken out because of incompetence. Being amateur is OK but being incompetent is not and you have to be competent.”

Maxwell also gave his seal of approval to the array of alterations to the race which led to no fallers and the highest number of finishers since 2005.

“It was great for racing to get 32 horses home safely and 21 finishers,” said Maxwell.

“I thought they did the right thing reducing the field size but having ridden in it, I think they could maybe try 36, I think that would be fine. It probably did just give that little bit extra room on the racecourse and at no point did it feel crowded apart from Canal Turn when everyone bunches up in the corner – there was plenty of room out there.

“They have done a brilliant job with that course and it is still a spectacle. When people say the fences are soft they are just wrong. Cat Tiger who is a very good jumper, he has a tendency to rattle one on his way round and he rattled the fifth and I came off. They still need jumping, it’s not a cake walk and fences like the Canal Turn are always going to be quite technical, jumping and turning 45 degrees at racing pace.

“I think the changes were good and the race is still a spectacle which it needs to be and it needs to be safe. We went a sensible speed out there on Saturday and I think the real winner was racing.”

Well and truly bitten by the Grand National bug, attentions now turn to returning to Merseyside with Ain’t That A Shame in 12 months time, via a prep over the famous spruce in the Becher Chase in December.

David Maxwell hopes to be a part of future Grand Nationals
David Maxwell hopes to be a part of future Grand Nationals (David Davies for the Jockey Club/PA)

Maxwell is also ambitiously plotting to break Dick Saunders’ long-held record and become the race’s oldest winning jockey.

“One hundred per cent we’re going back next year. It will be Becher Chase, Thyestes Chase, Grand National,” said Maxwell.

“The oldest winner of the National was 48 and I need to get a few more years experience in before I can think of winning it. If I aim to win it in 2028 then I will be 49. Then I would be the oldest winner of the National!

“When any National horse is coming up for sale from now on, I’m buying it!”

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Maxwell looking to uphold Grand National family honour

David Maxwell has been living out his dream, buying nice horses and getting to ride them himself – but it will peak when he lines up in the Randox Grand National on Ain’t That A Shame.

Like many involved in the sport, the Grand National is seen as the pinnacle to Maxwell but for a man viewed as an old-fashioned Corinthian amateur, it is a summit his family has already scaled, at least in one capacity.

The 1988 Grand National won by Rhyme ‘N’ Reason is one of the more famous ones, given how he almost fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit only to work his way back into contention under Brendan Powell.

For the Maxwell family, it was an emotional and stressful day, as the property developer explained: “My main Grand National memory is Rhyme ‘N’ Reason. My mother bred the horse, then my dad trained him for his first bumper wins before he went to England to be trained by David Murray Smith and latterly David Elsworth.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. He was headed in the closing stages by Durham Edition, but he was a bit of an old rogue and as soon as he hit the front, he felt like he’d done enough – and Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was as game as a badger and won by four lengths.

“The entire Maxwell family were screaming their heads off, my mother was nine months pregnant with my now 35-year-old sister. Just 10 minutes after the race, the gynaecologist was sitting next to her!

“He actually broke three bones in his hock when he almost came down at Becher’s and he never raced again but it just goes to show how game he was.”

Maxwell has come close to glory over the famous fences already, and while it was not in the National, his second place on Cat Tiger in the 2022 Foxhunters’ should at least give him some confidence down at the start.

Cat Tiger and David Maxwell (right) about to be claimed by Latenightpass on the long run in
Cat Tiger and David Maxwell (right) about to be claimed by Latenightpass on the long run-in (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Cat Tiger pings round there and was second to Latenightpass in the Foxhunters’ – and of course Latenightpass is in the National this year,” said Maxwell.

“He’s not over-big but he’s very game. The Foxhunters’ is actually the only race I’ve been down at the start thinking ‘this might not actually be a good idea’, but then you get called in, do a slap down the shoulder, as much for yourself as the horse, and just get on with it.”

There has been plenty said about Maxwell’s participation in this year’s race but having met all the requirements, and after amateur Sam Waley-Cohen’s win on Noble Yeats two years ago, there is still the fairytale element to the race that no other has.

“Racing for me has been a bit of a middle-aged man obsession. I started mucking around with point-to-pointers in my late 20s, then I got a few more and got a few more and just kept going. You keep finding the next iteration of the drug,” said Maxwell.

“It starts with what turns out to be slow three-mile chasers for pointing, then someone shows you a nice hunter chaser, then it’s novice hurdlers, so there’s another stage of everything, like being allowed to ride against pros. I suppose the ultimate of it all is riding in the National.

“I don’t know if there’s anything in the theory of amateurs having a good record in it because some liken it to hunting. My theory is, if you are in the National, you can win it, all the cards are thrown in the air.”

Every year there are meetings to see what can be done to make the race safer and following last year’s disruption, racing was forced into defensive mode more than it ever has in the past, but the 45-year-old believes the right steps have been taken.

Corach Rambler (left) on his way to victory last year. He is 4-1 favourite to win again
Corach Rambler (left) on his way to victory last year. He is 4-1 favourite to win again (Nigel French/PA)

“I wouldn’t say anything can happen anymore, as they’ve made it safer to navigate with the fences and they’ve made it more and more like a really good Saturday handicap,” said Maxwell.

“With that, I mean Corach Rambler is 4-1 favourite and he never looks like not winning, it’s less and less like Foinavon could win this – but you do still get rank outsiders winning.

“This year, there are three amateurs in the race, so there’s around a nine per cent chance of an amateur winning it.

“The race has changed, you’ve got to have a touch of class now. But the world changes all the time.

“In racing, we are fond of knocking ourselves but racing has done a really good job here of making it safer. Every year, a lot of thought goes into it and this year it is no exception, with the field reduced to 34 and perhaps the best idea is making the run to the first fence shorter.

“Nobody wants to see fallers, we’re all animal lovers, so these changes make it a bit safer, there’s no point us continuing with our head in the sand.

“If we proceed thinking the world is the same as it was before – it’s not. It’s right that the Jockey Club and the BHA have made these changes to make the race safer.

“If you have a horse who is a safe conveyance and stays four miles, the likelihood is these days that you will get round – and then you get the situation where the best handicapped horse wins.”

Ain't That A Shame (right) and Rachael Blackmore won the Thyestes
Ain’t That A Shame (right) and Rachael Blackmore won the Thyestes (Brian Lawless/PA)

Maxwell’s mount, trained in Ireland by Henry de Bromhead, who has won the National with Minella Times, has already won one of Ireland’s most competitive races, the Thyestes Chase.

“He’s a nice horse, I went and schooled him last week and he’s a lovely horse. He must have a reasonable chance but I’m actually looking forward to going hunter chasing with him the year after next when he’s 12,” said Maxwell.

“The Thyestes is always a good race and the fact that he didn’t go to Cheltenham must stand him in good stead too.

“It’s clearly going to be soft ground and obviously we all hope it doesn’t rain too much, but what we really would want is for it to stop raining about three days before the race, as then the ground would start becoming really hard work. If it’s just wet and sloppy, then it’s much easier to get through it.”

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Maxwell hoping to strike Kempton gold with Il Est Francais team

All In You will head to Kempton on Saturday in a bid to replicate a neat Fontainebleau success as part of a renewed team for owner-jockey David Maxwell.

Maxwell owns a string of horses and rides on an amateur licence, with his most recent successes in the saddle including Joker De Mai in a Lingfield handicap, Queensbury Boy in a Chepstow bumper and All In You’s Fontainebleau win.

The latter horse is trained by French-based Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm and will now cross the Channel to contest a juvenile hurdle at Kempton after a neat victory on home turf in mid-December was added to a prior win on the Flat.

The four-year-old was purchased by French agent Guy Petit after his racecourse debut and changed hands and stables having previously been trained by Stephanie Nigge.

“I bought him privately, I can’t even remember how much I gave for him as I tend to blank it out of my mind as a distasteful experience!” said Maxwell.

“He’d won a Flat race and Guy reckoned he looked the business. Sure enough, when he won first time he was the business.

“He jumped straightforwardly and he’s got a bit of a turn of foot, he’s really nice.”

George and Zetterholm hit a significant career milestone at Kempton when their stable flag bearer Il Est Francais won the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day, giving them a natural inclination to return to the track.

“I didn’t really have a plan, I just thought he was a nice horse and he went to Noel who said ‘let’s just run him’,” Maxwell said.

“I was probably going to bring him over here but then they ran him and he won, then Noel said ‘let’s send him to Kempton’ because Noel likes coming over to Kempton now for obvious reasons!

“Nothing has come out of that race in France yet so I don’t know if it was an egg and spoon race or if it was decent, but he did it well.

“We’ll see after we run him what sort of horse we have, he’s only a baby.”

All In You is one of a number of nice prospects Maxwell has sourced from the point-to-point field and the French circuit, bringing in younger horses as the older campaigners he is associated with hit their veteran years.

He said: “I’ve restocked, Noel Fehily and David Crosse have been buying Irish pointers for me and Guy Petit has been buying horses in France.

“They’re a nice bunch of young horses, you’ve just got to be patient with them and let them grow and mature and risk the urge to play with the shiny new toys.”

Saint Calvados
Saint Calvados (John Walton/PA)

Seasoned chasers such as Bob And Co, Saint Calvados, Cat Tiger and Simply The Betts have been good servants for Maxwell in recent years, but the sad fate of the latter has affirmed his approach of enjoying his horses with few fixed plans.

He said: “I’ll just be led by them, you can’t make plans with horses and I’ll give you an example.

“I laid out a plan for the last 18 months that Simply The Betts was going to win the Foxhunters this year. A Cheltenham specialist, he’s a two-and-a-half-miler but with his age he’ll get the trip, he’s eligible for hunter chasing this year.

“He was going to go to Kelso next week to open his account in a hunter chase and he died last week from colic, we did all we could for him.

“It’s a microcosm of life and sadly it happens. That’s why you can’t really plan, you’ve just got to enjoy it and keep smiling.

“We’ll hopefully stay happy, stay healthy and win some races, that’s the plan, and just keep enjoying it.”

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