Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Josh The Boss (6-4 favourite) – under Liverpool-born amateur jockey Jamie Neild – won the opener at Aintree Racecourse, the Boylesports Supports Safer Gambling Week EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
The four-year-old made a winning start over obstacles, scoring comfortably by 19 lengths at Warwick last month and he doubled up in the 2m4f contest at the home of the Randox Grand National. Josh The Boss, under Neild, was always travelling and jumping well out in front. And despite the final two hurdles being omitted due to low sun, he powered clear on the long run to the line, scoring by a length-and-three-quarters from Magical King (4-1). Now an amateur Neild is the son of Josh The Boss's owner John Neild. Neild senior has had a number of horses on the track over the past decade or so under both his own name and as part of the The Ginge Army. The most famous was 2014 Betfair Hurdle hero Splash Of Ginge, who was also trained by Twiston-Davies. Connections are hopeful their latest, Josh The Boss, may progress up the ranks following back-to-back victories.
Although his dad John is Liverpool FC fan and most of the family are Reds, Jamie is an avid Evertonian. Despite being on Liverpool's books, and Blackburn Rovers, as a youngster he ditched football for racing at the age of 17. A year later he went to the British Racing School and after a sting in America, he is back now and celebrated a seventh career success in the saddle. But being a Scouser it is his most prized victory. It's been his dream to ride a winner at Aintree ever since every Saturday the former Cardinal Heenan pupil used to put Lucky 15s on and watch racing with his granddad – Big Ginge – from the age of six. Now finally Josh The Boss has helped him acheive that burning ambition at the home of
The 28-year-old rider said: "Since we started it has always been to get a winner at Aintree, the dream and luckily we have done it and no-one can take it away from us. I am absolutely delighted and I am going to enjoy it."
And on his partner, who connections hope will develop into a Grade One hurdler, he added: "He is an absolute pro. He is only four years of age, so he is an absolute puppy. It is unusual for four-year-olds to be doing what he is doing, You have to keep that in mind without getting too excited. He is still growing and he has still got to strengthen up. We will take it race by race. We won't be too hard on him at all this year. He is only four so, touch wood, he has a long career ahead of him. So you might only see him two or three times more this year."
On his career which has seen him go from potential Flat jockey to conditional, riding across the Atlantic – where he had five winners – to coming back home and becoming an amateur, Neild said: "Last year I spent it over in America, riding out there. I was based in Maryland, but we went all over to the likes of Nashville which was an amazing thing. When I come back this year I decided to take a bit of a back step and switch from conditional to amateur and focused on our horse now. and go from there. We have got a good team at Nige's and ride out there two or three times a week and keep an eye on what's going on. Hopefully we have got a good group of horses to go to battle with.
"I am back up here now (in Eccleston). I have lived down south since I got into racing and started with Andrew Balding. I was living with him and then went over to France before joining Harry Whittington to turn conditional. I think Harry has handed his licence in, so I went and spent a bit of time on the Flat with Archie Watson and then went to America. I am back in Liverpool now and ride out at Nige's a couple of times a week. we have got a good group of horse to go to war with."
And on winning on home turf, Neild added: "Unfortunately I am a Blue. I do wish I was a Liverpool fan sometimes because I haven't seen Everton win anything. But it is one of them. Days like today, the cheers and shouts I got from the crowd. I know a lot of people here and Red or Blue goes aside and everyone sticks together. It is the biggest stage and since the first time I came into the sport at 18 or 19 it was never to be champion jockey it was always to ride a winner at Aintree, not matter if it is on a Tuesday night or it it on Grand National day, I just wanted that winner. I have got the photo. The grandkids will never know what day it was on.
"I played football. I started Sunday League and got picked up for Liverpool at the young age, but it just fizzled out and got a trial here, there and everywhere. Got a trial at Blackburn and ended up at Vauxhall Motors. But in the end I had had enough and I took a plunge into racing. Football helped me balanace, co-ordination and I picked up the riding straight away. And it went from there.
"My grandded used to live across the road, so we have been coming here for Gods knows how long. Ever since I can remember. My lad used to pay footie on here, so the history goes a long way back. So to do it on dad's horse is very special."
Owner Neild had lots of confidence in Josh The Boss and it hoping to right a wrong from a decade ago in a Grade One at the Grand National Festival next April. He said: "We may go to the Challow and then we may will come back here for the Mersey Novices' Hurdle because it is 10 years since Splash Of Ginge got chinned in it by Lac Fontana, so it would be nice to right that wrong with this lad next April. That is the aim. I am not bothered about Cheltenham Aintree is what it is about.
"Jamie gave him a great ride. When the hurdles came out I was moaning to Nige, saying take him out. You have seen his jumping. His jumping is his strength but his class has got him through. He is also running with a penalty so it was hard to come against these good horses, expensive horses. It is hard to win these races with a penalty but he has done it with four hurdles out. I am delighted. Jamie has had a hard time and this horse has sort of put him back on the map a bit. It got his conditional licence, then we got COVID on the Monday. He rode his first winner and we got lockdown, so it wrecked his career.
"It is great for him. But at my own track, with my son riding it and all my grandchildren here – it doesn't get any better than this.
"He (Josh The Boss) was bought by Iain Ferguson, an Irish guy who bought the likes of Galvin. He bought him with me. Willy (Twiston-Davies) was ill, so it was me and Iain who bought him. It is down to us."