Tag Archive for: Ryan Mania

Mania back on the crest of a wave – with retirement a distant memory

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 jumps the last in isolation
Midnight Shadow jumps the last in isolation (David Davies/PA)

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.”

Midnight Shadow strikes Paddy Power gold

Midnight Shadow claimed the spoils in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham after last year’s winner Coole Cody fell at the second-last when leading the field.

Midnight Shadow was one of those in close pursuit and jumped the last in front – but he made a mistake there and was all out up the hill to hold the late challenge of Protektorat to land the prize for the Grand National-winning partnership of trainer Sue Smith and jockey Ryan Mania.

The eight-year-old was just three-quarters of a length in front at the line to strike at odds of 9-1. Protektorat (11-2 favourite) was half a length ahead of Lalor (7-1) in third, with Dostal Phil (16-1) a length back in fourth place.

There was a strong pace from the start, with Coole Cody getting into the lead once the field settled down. Simply The Betts was prominent in the early stages, as was Al Dancer while Midnight Shadow was fairly handy.

Paint The Dream took closer order as the tempo increased, but his challenged petered out. Coole Cody looked certain to take a hand in the finish, only to make a dramatic exit at the tricky penultimate obstacle.

Smith – whose finest hour came with Auroras Encore and Mania in the 2013 Aintree spectacular – said: “I probably get more emotional these days because I’m that much older!

“It’s special, it’s special for everyone because we’re only a small yard and northern trainers don’t get to do this very often, so it’s lovely.

“I’ve probably got about 45-50 in training, but they are not all Midnight Shadows! I probably had a few more in when we won the National, but these are once-in-a-lifetime horses, the same as Auroras Encore was – and he’s still in the field looking very well now.

“He was bought at Doncaster by Harvey (Smith) and he was bred by Mr Smith-Maxwell who actually runs the horse ambulance service here.”

Smith revealed an ambitions target for Midnight Shadow at Christmas.

She said: “I think the plan could be to go to Kempton for the big race – the King George.

“We’ve been thinking of stepping him up to three miles for some time so we may as well do it then, if you don’t try these things you don’t know. Eventually he will get three miles, I’m sure.

“You don’t often come across a horse like this, so it’s amazing to have him in our yard – he’s obviously the best horse in our yard.”

Vintage Clouds rolls back the years for Ultima glory

Vintage Clouds finally won the Ultima Handicap Chase at the fifth attempt with a game display at Cheltenham.

The Sue Smith-trained grey, owned by Trevor Hemmings, made a lot of the running before his stamina and determination kicked in as he improved on two placed efforts from his four previous efforts in this staying contest.

Jockey Ryan Mania had the 11-year-old Vintage Clouds (28-1) at the front from the start with Pym and Alnadam also close up.

There was little change in the order until the tempo increased with five fences left to jump.

Pym soon weakened, but Vintage Clouds stuck to his guns and kept finding extra to win by five and a half lengths from Happygolucky with Aye Right a further two and a quarter lengths back in third and Cepage fourth.

Mania said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s a shame my first Festival winner comes under these circumstances, but it truly doesn’t matter. It’s a very memorable day.

“I rode him in this race last year and he made a noise coming down the hill. I said then he needed a wind op and he had a couple more runs this season and it became clear that he needed a wind op.

“We sent him away for that and the application of cheek pieces has sharpened up his jumping. He used to spend quite a lot of time in the air, whereas today he was really slick over his fences and with the wind operation helping as well, he’s got his day today.

“Realistically we thought he had a good each-way chance – that’s all you can really hope for coming to Cheltenham. We were confident he would run his race as he always does – he’s a real determined warrior.”

Mania quit the saddle for a spell before returning in 2019.

He added: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d come and ride a Cheltenham winner, especially so soon after coming out of retirement. I couldn’t be happier.”

Jeff Kidder produced an 80-1 shock for Noel Meade in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

The lightly-raced four-year-old made the most of his light weight on his first run in a handicap to foil the 9-2 favourite Saint Sam.

Sean Flanagan delivered Jeff Kidder with a strong challenge to lead on the run-in and beat Saint Sam, the 9-2 favourite, by two lengths.

Elham Valley (66-1) was half a length back in third with Houx Gris (11-2) fourth, a further one and a quarter lengths away.

Flanagan, who was riding his first Festival winner, said: “He’s come here in a good vein of form. His form at home hadn’t been the most solid and his last run at Leopardstown was his first run after a bit of a lay-off and we kind of used it for experience more than anything else.

“When we got levelled out into the straight I knew he was going to stay well and he’s jumped well on the whole.

“I’m delighted for Noel and all the team at home. If it wasn’t for Noel, I wouldn’t be here – you need the horses and the staff and everything.

“To be fair to Noel said after a bit of work last week that this horse had a right chance and when he says something like that you stand up and take note. To be fair, he was right.

“I genuinely said when I passed the line, ‘I can’t believe it’. I was talking to a few of the lads who have ridden here and they said it’s a feeling you can’t explain.

“Even though there’s no crowds here, it was brilliant – I can only imagine what it would have been like if there was (a crowd).”

Meade said: “I thought he had a chance. He worked the other day and I was very happy with what I saw. I said to Sean you’ve got two good rides at Cheltenham for me this week and I think you will be thereabouts on this one.

“He is a stayer on the Flat and that’s what you need around Cheltenham. That is what he ended up doing, just outstaying them. I think the better ground helped as well.

“He won at Fairyhouse then we put in him a Grade Two at Leopardstown over Christmas which was a very good race.

“He had been running on the Flat and he was a winner on the Flat so he was used to the hustle and bustle.

“Colin Keane has been riding him on the Flat and he said he will win you a Cesarewitch one day and hopefully he is right.

“He will run on the Flat again, but we will look at another race over hurdles and we might go to Punchestown with him.”

He added: “It was nice to get another winner at Cheltenham as it has not been the happiest hunting ground for me. It gets tougher and tougher to get winners at Cheltenham, but it is the place we all want to have winners at and we think about it from one end of the year to the next.”

Galvin (7-2) overcame a five-month absence to land the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase and complete a double for jockey Jack Kennedy after the victory of Black Tears.

The seven-year-old was held up for most of the race as Remastered and Next Destination led the way, before creeping into contention coming down the hill.

There were several in with a chance at the final fence, but it was Galvin who had the most left at the business end of the three-and-three-quarter-mile trip to beat Next Destination by a length and a half.

Galvin had been saved for the race after winning over an extended three miles at this track in October.

He had been trained by Elliott, but is being looked after by County Antrim-based Ian Ferguson, who has had a long association with Galvin’s owner Ronnie Bartlett. He bought Galvin for 34,000 euros at the sales in 2017.

Kennedy said: “He travelled very well for most of the race. This race was the plan for a long time, so it’s great that it’s paid off.

“It’s nice for Ian Ferguson, because he pre-trained the horse before he went to Gordon’s.

“He could be a National horse or something along those lines. He has a bit of class and stays very well, so the National could be right up his street.

“When you’re walking out of here in one piece it’s great, but you’re delighted to get a winner, so to get two on the first day is brilliant.”