All 40 horses lining up for Saturday’s Grand National are bidding to write their name into racing folklore, but for Snow Leopardess, there’s a little bit extra on the line.
The 10-year-old isn’t only bidding to become the fourth grey to win the National and the 14th mare, but to become the first having given birth to a foal.
It would be a remarkable feat of training, but it’s what Charlie Longsdon is bidding to do.
Snow Leopardess didn’t race for more than two years having given birth, but looks to be fighting fit once again, and is the current joint-favourite for Saturday’s showpiece.
“It’s a long slope because you don’t really realise, having been off for two years, how much work they need,” said Longsdon. “She was always going to be quite a character, she’s certainly a madam!”
“Oh, they’re all like it,” said Fox-Pitt. “Her mother was the same, they can all be quite tricky, but that’s why they’re good, really.”
After suffering a leg injury at Auteuil, Fox-Pitt made the decision to put her in foal, assuming her racing career was over. But a few weeks after giving birth, she was out trotting alongside the foal.
“Having had a leg injury, we were slightly mindful of her. You’re always slightly training with the handbrake on because they’ve had an injury before and you don’t want them to get a new injury.
“No one really thinks about bringing them back after [giving birth] but Marietta [Fox-Pitt, owner] has different ideas to most people, and her ideas normally work,” said Longsdon.
“The amount of people who say ‘mares never come back having had a foal’, but Marietta said ‘don’t be so stupid’.”
The decision was vindicated, and though it may well have been a long road back, the hard work paid off in December, winning the Becher Chase.
“It took a long time,” said Longsdon. “She certainly wasn’t fit the first day she ran at Newbury. It was all the way back to Haydock, the following November, so 18 months after she’d been training that she was fit.
“The Becher Chase was always our pre-Christmas target. It was a logical decision. We thought she’d love the fences, she went off favourite or second favourite, so she was expected to run well, but what’s taken everyone is how she took to the fences and how she jumped. There’s a fantastic view of her jumping Becher’s Brook, and if she can jump like that it’ll be fantastic.”
From there, the Grand National became the obvious target.
“Everyone said she loves the fences, and it’s true, and we all pushed for it. Marietta was a little more nervous,” said Longsdon.
“The National is the race we all want to win. It’s the most-watched race in the world. It’s very exciting, very nerve wracking, and it’d be a dream come true.”