It is not looking a bad decision from Ryan Mania to return to the saddle, having bagged yet another big-race success through Midnight Shadow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Mania prematurely called an end to his career just a year after scaling his Everest, when winning the 2013 Grand National on Auroras Encore.
Just shy of his 25th birthday at the time, it shocked many people, but Mania cited weight problems and that he no longer got the kick out of winning that he once did. He went to work as a hunt master in Scotland, as well as being assistant trainer to his father-in-law, Sandy Thomson.
By October 2019, however, the itch returned and Mania, with his weight now back on an even keel, was back in the saddle. Both metaphorically and literally.
Having resumed his role as principal rider for Auroras Encore’s trainer Sue Smith, due to the enforced retirement of Danny Cook through an eye injury, Mania enjoyed his first Cheltenham Festival winner in March on Vintage Clouds.
And it was for Smith he enjoyed further Cheltenham success on Midnight Shadow, who had finished second in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last December.
“I’m sure it is emotional for most jockeys, but it is especially emotional for me to have retired and come back and do all this for my family. To come down and ride these big winners is amazing,” said Mania
“Coming down the chute in front of the crowd was really emotional and then getting back to the paddock to see Sue, I had a lump in my throat. We’ve shared a few big days now, it’s unreal.
“They keep supporting me and keep producing these big winners. They deserve all the credit.
“In March it was empty so we could take things in a bit more than normal, today you are distracted by the crowd, they were unbelievable and it makes it more special.
“I never say I regret retiring because ultimately it was the best thing I ever did, but coming back was also the best thing I could have done. Everything happens for a reason and works out the way it’s supposed to. Days like this are the reason.”
Midnight Shadow is now Smith’s flag bearer, but while she has been famed down the years for picking up major staying chases with the likes of the aforementioned Vintage Clouds, The Last Fling, Wakanda and of course Auroras Encore, Smith is hoping this one might just be a bit better and is planning an ambitious tilt at the King George.
Given he will now be rated in the mid 150s and Mania felt he was idling in front, he is certainly entitled to have a go.
“He got a little bit lonely which he can do in his races if he is in front for too long, and the lack of concentration maybe didn’t help,” said Mania.
“In fairness, he was never being beaten as he is very game and I could feel the horses coming to me but he was never going to let them past.
“He is a very easy horse to ride in a race as he jumps and he travels, so you can do what you want with him. He is a jockey’s dream really and I’m very lucky to ride him. Everything went to plan and he barely missed a fence, so I can’t complain.
“He ran a really good race last time out and the only negative was that it was three weeks ago and I thought he might have had a hard race in the Old Roan at Aintree, but he has come here and he has never felt any effects of that race, thank God.”
He added: “There are no plans to retire, I’ve got a good 10 years in me yet.”