RYAN Mania was a horse’s head away from an incredible weekend – but the professional jockey was still more than pleased to be named Braw Lad and pick up second place in the Scottish Grand National less than 24 hours later, writes Kenny Paterson.
The 23-year-old from Clovenfords emerged from the Burgh Chambers on Friday night alongside Nicola Mackay as the pair were revealed by Gathering president Andrew Johnston as Galashiels’ representatives for 2012.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, Ryan jumped on board Auroras Encore, a 25/1 outsider, at Ayr and seemed destined to claim Scotland’s biggest race as he led over the last fence.
But just a few yards from the line, 2010 winner Merigo battled past for a thrilling win in front of 17,000 cheering spectators. However, speaking to TheSouthern, Ryan insisted he had still enjoyed an extra special two days.
“I was delighted to get the chance to nearly win the Scottish National, but it was heartbreaking to lose by such a short distance. The horse ran an amazing race and it was still a great weekend.”
He added: “It has been easy for me to keep quiet (about being Braw Lad) as I am rarely in the Borders, whereas I think it has been quite different for Nicola who speaks to people here all the time. If anyone has asked me then I have just pleaded ignorance.”
Son of Kevin and Lesley, both attendants in 1983, Ryan has ridden since he was a pupil at Glendinning Terrace Primary School, before going onto Galashiels Academy.
Constantly on the road with his work, Ryan insists his busy life as a jumps jockey won’t affect his Braw Lad commitments.
He told us: “My racing ends during the summer so it doesn’t really clash.
“To be honest, most of my summer holidays are usually taken up going to common ridings, so it won’t be any different.
“The whole family is looking forward to the summer.”
In surely a first in the 82-year history of the Gathering, Braw Lass Nicola is also a Clovenfords resident, having been educated at the village’s primary school and then Galashiels Academy.
Daughter of Richard and Lynne, the 20-year-old said she had taken drastic measures to ensure her great news was not revealed before last Friday.
“It was difficult and I ended up taking the week off work last week so I wouldn’t let it slip,” admitted Nicola, who is employed on Asda’s customer service desk while studying sport and exercise science at Napier University.
“It was a great feeling to stand on the Burgh Chambers balcony and eventually be able to announce the big secret,” she told us. “I can’t describe the pride I felt when standing there in front of everyone. I was nervous for my speech, but also so excited for what is coming up this summer.”
Nicola, who has followed the Gathering on horseback and foot for many years, added: “The support I have had from people getting in touch over the weekend has been really nice and I can’t wait to get started.”