Monty’s Pass team remember Aintree glory fondly
Monty’s Pass won the Grand National at Aintree in 2003 for Irish trainer Jimmy Mangan and, in doing so, completed a stunning long-term plan to plunder the big race.
Monty’s Pass wasn’t much to look at as a young horse, while a heart murmur ensured plenty of possible suitors looked elsewhere.
It all contributed to Monty’s Pass ending up with Jimmy Mangan and his wife, Mary, at their base in Conna in Co Cork and, from there, one of this century’s best Aintree tales unfolded.
Next spring, Monty’s Pass will turn 30 and he now holds the distinction of being the oldest living Grand National winner.
He’s still in the same place he always was, with the Mangan partnership in Cork and is as loved now as he was in racing prime.
That heart murmur was an ailment that prompted Henrietta Knight to dismiss him when she came to see him after he won a point-to-point in his youth.
Today’s popular convention would see Monty’s Pass quickly bound for racing under rules but back then he was allowed to carve a career in point-to-points and hunter chases before graduating to the highest level of racing.
In his peak racing years, he was a busy horse, averaging 11 runs per season during the four busiest years of his life. Reflecting on his career, Mary Mangan admits that a horse like Monty’s Pass might not get the conditions today under which he thrived.
“He was always a very easy horse to keep,” Mary told an interview with the Racing Post. “He never had a snot in his nose or a bandage on his leg. Physically, he was hardy, but several bloodstock agents came and wouldn’t buy him.
“He has small feet and he used to hop off the fast ground. We had two horses, himself and Stroll Home, who won the Galway Plate, and I’d say they’d win nothing now with all the watering.”
Aintree clues taken on board
Monty’s Pass made his first visit to Aintree in 2002 for the Topham Chase and finished second behind Its Time For A Win – for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.
It was after that run that Jimmy Mangan decreed to return in 12 months for a crack at the big prize.
His horse, already aged nine, had been to the Cheltenham Festival in March ’02 and Mangan admits ‘even we were tired going back to Aintree’ so soon after that run.
So it was that the 2003 Grand National became the ultimate target for the following season.
Season of success
Monty’s Pass won the Kerry National at Listowel in September 2002 and was third the following month in the Munster National at Limerick – already his sixth run of that campaign.
Given his fondness for decent ground, he skipped the winter and returned at Naas in early March over hurdles. Another spin over timber followed at Punchestown, leaving him just right for Aintree in early April.
His owners had backed him at prices as big as 66/1 from early in the year, and Monty’s Pass went off a 16/1 chance at Aintree before coming home a dozen lengths clear of Supreme Glory in the hands of Barry Geraghty to win the Grand National.
It was a stunning coup for the Mangan’s and one that had taken a full year to execute.
“The day he finished second in the Topham,” Jimmy told the Racing Post, “I told the lads, ‘We’ll be back next year for the National, but we’re not going to Cheltenham’. He had finished fifth in the Cathcart and even we were tired going back to Aintree, but we knew we had a National horse.
“I even remember telling [racing pundit] Jim McGrath the plan, that we’d be training him especially for the National and that I thought he could win it, and he told the story afterwards on television!”
Monty’s Pass would return to finish fourth behind Amberleigh House in ’04 and ran in midfield a year later when Hedgehunter won the National in what proved the final appearance of his career.
He’s part of Aintree folklore and, now nearing his 30th birthday, he’s still a big part of the Mangan family too.