TONY DOBBIN paid tribute on Monday to Lord Gyllene, who gave him the best day of his career when winning the rescheduled Grand National in 1997 and who has died at the age of 28.
Trained by Steve Brookshaw, the New Zealand-bred son of Ring The Bell led from the second fence to the finish on his one and only start over the National fences to win one of jump racing’s greatest contests by 25 lengths for owner Sir Stanley Clarke.
Dobbin, who enjoyed top-level success aboard Monet’s Garden, Barton and Arcalis, among others, in a distinguished 19 years in the saddle, has fond memories of “the greatest day of my riding career”.
He said: “He was such a laidback character and the whole rigmarole in 1997 didn’t faze him at all. He was a lovely horse and a good jumper, but when he went to Aintree he was just brilliant.
“He took to it like a duck to water and his ears were pricked all the way round. I was just a passenger – he took me around the place.”
Since being retired in 2001, Lord Gyllene had been a regular in the parade at Aintree on National day and enjoyed 15 years in the care of the Clarke family.
Aside from Aintree, Lord Gyllene made seven of his 12 other starts at Uttoxeter, where he recorded his other three wins, as well as a second in the Midlands National before his National heroics, when he defeated Hennessy winner Suny Bay and Gold Cup victor Master Oats, among 35 rivals.
A bomb scare at the course on National day in 1997, during which racegoers were evacuated from the track, resulted in the race being held two days later in a unique renewal.
‘A different kettle of fish’
Dobbin said: “I rode him in the Midlands National when he was second the month before, but everyone knew it was a different kettle of fish over the National fences.
“Once we’d been over the first few, I was confident, though – it was an amazing feeling to experience a horse take to those fences like he did.
“He was very straightforward – he was by no means the quickest, but I just let him go at his own pace and he wasn’t for passing.
“It was the greatest day of my riding career, a very much cherished success for everyone involved and one I will continue to treasure.
“I’ll always be so thankful to the Clarke family – with whom he had an amazing life after racing – for giving me the ride. Lord Gyllene has been part of my life for over 20 years and will always be in our memories.”