Ben eyes ‘Grand National’ success

JOCKEY: Ben Hemmings in his grandfather's famous green, yellow and white colours
JOCKEY: Ben Hemmings in his grandfather's famous green, yellow and white colours
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Young Preston jockey Ben Hemmings is eyeing up Grand National glory next year.

The youngster lines up on Gambler for the Shetland Pony Grand National at the Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show in January.

Success at the show could pave the way for the 12-year-old to compete in the real thing at Aintree in the future.

While it might take a few years before the budding jockey is ready for the real Grand National fences, racing is certainly in his blood as his grandfather is Trevor Hemmings.

Preston North End owner Hemmings senior is a racehorse owner of some repute and can boast three Grand National winners.

His first victory at Aintree was Hedgehunter in 2005 and then Ballabriggs in 2011. His latest winner was this year, when Many Clouds romped home under jockey Leighton Aspell.

Amanda Hemmings, Ben’s mum, said: “Horses and racing have been a way of life for Ben throughout his growing up. The sport is in his blood and he loves it.”

The Shetland Pony Grand National has a history of producing professional jockeys, including Jim Crowley, Sam and Willy Twiston-Davies, Thomas Garner, Freddy Mitchell and Joe Akehurst.

Ben has made no secret of his ambition to race in the greatest steeplechase of them all but, for now, his focus is on wearing his granddad’s green, yellow and white colours on board Gambler.

That, in itself, has been something of a challenge.

“It’s the first season for us at this level and in the beginning Gambler was a bit lazy,” said Ben.

“But he’s fine now. I can’t wait to compete at the Liverpool International Horse Show. It will be a great way to start the year.”

The Shetland Pony Grand National, with its flurry of speed and brightly-coloured silks is only one of the highlights of a show which includes world class show jumping, entertainment and music.

The competition for Ben and Gambler in Liverpool is bound to be tough but that is only to be expected at an event of this calibre and Amanda Hemmings believes the city will turn out in force for the inaugural Liverpool International Horse Show.

She added: “Liverpool is an equestrian city, where the people are very proud of Aintree and the Grand National.

“I think people will come out and support the show because it’s wonderful to have an event of this stature in the north-west.”

Ben and Gambler together with rival jockey and horse of the year show winner Kinvara Garner were at the St Vincent de Paul School in Liverpool recently to help launch the show’s Design a Jump competition for schoolchildren.

The competition is aimed at giving youngsters the chance to design a fence that will be made and used in the for the Liverpool International Horse Show from January 1-3.