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Jake Greenall’s dream debut at the Grand National
Updated 10:15pm Friday 4th April 2014 in Sport
"You dream. You try not to but it is very hard not to see yourself crossing the line in front.
"I have dreamed of that moment all my life."
You can't blame Jake Greenall for letting his mind run away with him. Not when it's the Grand National.
It's the one race everybody knows about. The race that brings out the once-a-year betting brigade and still makes the country huddle round a television set. It's the one race that can make a jockey immortal.
Greenall has deeper ties to it than most. His father, the chairman of Aintree Lord Daresbury, rode in the contest, as has his elder brother Thomas.
Tomorrow, it is his turn.
He will unite with Rose Of The Moon, the Nawton-trained David O'Meara horse that carries the hopes of North Yorkshire, and attempt to negotiate nearly four-and-a-half miles and 30 fences.
Obstacles with names like Valentine's, Becher's Brook, The Chair and Foinavon - as tall as a man and capable of claiming the most talented of leapers.
Consider that. Now realise you are surrounded by 39 other horses trying to do exactly the same thing.
"They just create more chaos," Greenall, who has ridden over the famous fences five times in races like the Becher and Topham Chase, explained. "You have to always be aware of what the other horses are doing and jump over fences that are a lot more demanding. It is as much a test of a jockey and a lot more of a test than day-to-day.
"It's a fun challenge to take on and to have a good ride is the best time you will ever have in your life. It's really exciting. I grew up watching the race. I've always wanted to take part and, when you are a jockey, the one thing people ask is if you have ridden in the National.
"To fulfil that dream is great and to get round would be brilliant."
Greenall may be steeped in racing's aristocracy, but the 21-year-old was built in North Yorkshire - his style honed by no-nonsense trainer Mick Easterby. The youngster spent early summers at his Sheriff Hutton yard, where he learned to expect the unexpected.
"My brother Oliver was working with him and I used to stay with him," he remembers. "I was riding yearlings and it was pretty much about getting on anything without knowing what it was.
"Mick has been amazing to me. You learn something from him every day and I still ride for him. I was up there on Tuesday morning riding out and I have great fun going there.
"You had to get on and ride whatever you were asked or you wouldn't ride at all. Whether that was a three-year-old store horse or a master you'd never know. It tightened up my riding from an early stage. You are always on the balls of your feet and you have to be on the ball. He's been an inspiration to my career."
At 50-1, Rose Of The Moon would be a shock winner of the National. There are undoubtedly classier horses in the race, like the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run and the Arkle victor Tidal Bay.
But quality does not always win out in this most unpredictable of races. No-one gave Mon Mome, a 100-1 winner of the race five years ago, a hope. Auroras Encore, who provided a fairytale 12 months ago for Bingley trainer Sue Smith, was similarly dismissed at 66-1.
If you can get round safely, you've always got a chance to grab the glory.
Greenall asserts: "He has been over the fences before and when he took them on for the first time, in the Becher Chase last November, he jumped them very well.
"He's bold and he seems to enjoy himself. He schooled on Wednesday morning and he feels well. You have got the likes of Long Run and Tidal Bay in the race and they are class horses but the race still creates a lottery because you have class horses that don't take to the fences.
"That opens it up."
Greenall's memories are littered with Grand National legends.
He thinks about 2001, the year Red Marauder won and only four finished in a mudbath. He harks further back to 1999 when Bobbyjo was victorious and his jockey Paul Carberry hung off the rafters of the old weighing room. He remembers AP McCoy saluting in triumph after finally landing the race of his dreams on Don't Push It in 2010.
Now he wonders whether he can join them. Then reality returns.
"I'm trying to be realistic," he says. "I have to be calm - as calm as you would be at Sedgefield on a Tuesday. If you allow the situation to get to you that's when you make mistakes.
"There will be butterflies. They are not a bad thing along with being caught up in the moment. I am definitely going to enjoy myself.
"In a race like the National, your first aim is to get round and then ride the race from there. You know, Rose Of The Moon was second to Bobs Worth in a novice hurdle three years ago so he has got the class to do it. I am really looking forward to the race."
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