It is 17 years since Ryalux fired trainer Andy Crook into the spotlight with a gutsy success in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
Crook worked his way through the ranks before launching his training career in the 2001-2 season – and it did not take him long to get a significant win on the board.
The Middleham handler had previously been Micky Hammond’s head lad and obtained Ryalux for his fledgling operation from his old boss.
Placed runs in the Great Yorkshire and Racing Post Chases signposted the fact a big-race success would be well within his compass, but Crook took a leap of faith in stepping up to a marathon trip at Ayr under then regular pilot Richard McGrath.
Ryalux made that decision pay dividends as he fended off the Martin Pipe-trained, Sir Anthony McCoy-ridden Stormez in what really was a grandstand finish for Scottish racegoers.
Crook recalled: “The step up to four miles was an unknown.
“He got a great ride from Richie, it was exactly what we planned to do. Richie felt he’d just idled a bit in front in the Great Yorkshire when he got caught by Barryscourt Lad, another of the Pipe horses – but we got our own back in the end!
“I think he jumped to the lead at the third-last, then he made a mistake and Stormez just got his head in front of us, which was exactly what we wanted, for us to get a lead after the last, and then he got up on the line.”
Crook had less than 10 jumpers in his care at that point, while the Pipe team ran into three figures, but in Ryalux he had a consistent runner, who had placed 25 times in 28 runs and inspired buckets of confidence.
He said: “Stormez finished second in the Whitbread two weeks later, he was a really good horse, and Ryalux had finished third in the Racing Post Chase on his previous run.
“We missed Cheltenham and we missed Aintree to go for the Scottish National and I just hoped I’d got him right in those eight weeks.
“We had the Open Day (at Middleham) on Good Friday then and I remember when we were doing the brochure, we said he was going for the Scottish National and to come and see the winner, so there were lots of people asking where Andy Crook’s yard was that day as they wanted to see Ryalux.”
Ryalux eventually bowed out in January 2005 and Crook reports the Riverhead gelding to still be enjoying his retirement.
He added: “We’ve still got him now. He’s 27 and a friend of mine looks after him.
“We started with him the year after, but he fractured his pelvis when we were going to have a go for the English National.
“He’s out in a field, enjoying life – he does look lke an old man now though!”
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