Aintree Grand National Meeting 2011 

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Don't Let Your New Year's Resolutions Go Up in Smoke!

Following the Festive period, many people have ushered in 2011 with a few New Year’s resolutions.

Bob Champion & Aldaniti


Those who have overindulged themselves with too much turkey (or the obligatory nut roast for vegetarians) may be looking to shed a few pounds, while trying to give up smoking is another oft-mentioned target.

Four-time champion jump jockey turned trainer Josh Gifford had several unsuccessful attempts at quitting smoking before pledging to kick the habit for good if his stable star Aldaniti triumphed in the Grand National in 1981. The 11-year-old posted an emotional victory under cancer survivor Bob Champion.

“I had always wanted to give up smoking and had lost a few bets trying to do it,” revealed Gifford. “I just said to Nicky Henderson down at the gate when we were pulling the girths up that if Aldaniti wins, I would not have another cigarette.

“Nigel Payne, who was Aintree’s press officer at the time, ended up with half a packet of cigarettes after the race - I think that he smoked the rest of them but he still has the empty box as a memento.

“I still have the odd cigar every now and again, but I haven’t smoked a cigarette since. I am pleased that I gave up and it is easy to quit if you really want to, but an incentive like winning the Grand National certainly helps.”

Gifford retired from training at the end of the 2002/03 jump season, handing over the reins to his son Nick and daughter Tina Cook, who acts as assistant to her brother. Tina herself has shot to international fame as a three-day-eventer in recent years, taking individual and team gold at the 2009 European Championships and helping Great Britain to win team gold at the 2010 World Championships in Kentucky.

“Nick and Tina get on very well together and I don’t have a lot to do with the training any more,” continued Gifford. “Racing is very different nowadays and it is a young persons’ game. I was lucky enough to have big owners like Jim Joel and Peter Hopkins, whereas nowadays many of the horses are owned by syndicates, which can make the job a lot more stressful.”

The famous Downs Stables at Findon also gave another John Smith’s Grand National winner his first taste of working in racing. Liam Treadwell, who scored aboard the Venetia Williams-trained Mon Mome in 2009, started riding out at the yard when he was still at school.

“Liam came to us as a tiny little boy to ride out at weekends,” explained Gifford. “When Nick started training a few point-to-pointers, Liam rode some of them between the flags.

“The funny thing is that I didn’t know that he was riding Mon Mome until after he had won - I had a fiver each-way on six horses and a I certainly would have backed the winner if I had known that Liam was riding him!”

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