Grand National hero Monty’s Pass is still going strong at the age of 27 at trainer Jimmy Mangan’s stables in Conna, County Cork – where he has lived since the age of four.
Mangan will never forget April 5, 2003 – the day when a long-term plan came to fruition – and some meaty bets were landed.
Mangan had advised members of the Northern Ireland-based Dee Racing Syndicate, headed by Blackpool-born bingo owner Mike Futter, to back their horse for the world’s greatest steeplechase after he finished second in the Topham Trophy in 2002.
They heeded his advice and dived in at all odds down from 66-1 to a starting price of 16-1.
The owners and all supporters of Monty’s Pass barely had a moment’s worry either as he stormed home by 12 lengths from Supreme Glory in the hands of Barry Geraghty.
“It was a mighty day for us,” said Mangan.
“He’s still in great old form. He’s 27 now and is out in the field every day and back in every night. I think he might be the oldest Grand National winner alive.
“We’ve had him since he was four. He won his point-to-point here in Tallow, his very first race, and he progressed slowly from there.
“A local syndicate owned him and they sold him to the syndicate in Belfast, which was headed by Mike Futter.
“They were prepared to travel to Cheltenham and Liverpool. He was second in the Topham in 2002. We knew we had a National horse all right after that run.
“We went over to Cheltenham, and he was fifth in the Mildmay of Flete Chase, and a fortnight later we went back to Liverpool. He was a tired horse for the Topham Trophy, and he finished second to a horse of Willie Mullins’ (Its Time For A Win).
“I said to the lads that day ‘back him for the Grand National next year – we’ll come back and win it’.
“One of the owners won over one million sterling on him. They backed him before the weights came out from 66-1 all the way down to 16-1. Everything went to plan on the day.”
After carrying 10st 7lb to victory, Monty’s Pass was lumbered with the welter burden of 11st 10lb in 2004.
He was not disgraced in finishing fourth, but it might have been a different story had the ground not gone against him.
“He went back the year after and finished fourth, but the ground went too soft on him,” said Mangan.
“Barry Geraghty came in afterwards and said he was every bit as good last year – only the ground beat him, and he had top weight.”
Monty’s Pass returned for a final crack at the National in 2005 and was retired after completing the course in 16th place behind Hedgehunter.
His feat in winning the Aintree showpiece will never be lost on the small community Monty’s Pass still graces.
Mangan said: “The little village (Conna) I come from, there are signs up to this day saying the ‘Home of Monty’s Pass’.
“They are very proud of the horse,” said Mangan.