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Old the People's Champion

"Mind-blowing" is how Bournemouth pawnbroker Kevin Old described winning the John Smith’s People’s Race on Grand National day in front of a massive crowd at Aintree.

"Mind-blowing" is how Bournemouth pawnbroker Kevin Old described winning the John Smith’s People’s Race on Grand National day in front of a massive crowd at Aintree.

Old, 44, looked different class to the other fun riders as he stormed past the winning post on Hoo La Baloo at the end of the nine-furlong charity Flat race held before the big meeting.

Some 3,500 applicants were whittled down to 10 for the race and it was Old who came out on top and in some style as he made all the running on Hoo La Baloo, from the yard of champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls.

The six-year-old, a useful steeplechaser and winner of the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown last month, won by five lengths form Turbo ridden by 44-year-old Vanessa Morton. Alan Lane, 23, was a length away third on Nortonthorpe Lad.

There was drama at the start when the hot favourite Instructor whipped round and unseated his rider Michael Sweeney.

But for Old it was all smiles.

“It’s mind-blowing. The horse took me there and I did it,” he said. “I’ve been riding before once or twice a week for six or seven years, but nothing compared to something like this. It’s awesome.

“Since I’ve been involved in this event I’ve ridden out for Mr Nicholls and Bob Buckler as well as for Jonathan Geake, who took me under his wing.

“The racing community has got behind me. Ten days ago I was on the phone to Mr Nicholls asking if I could ride one of his horses and he said he would sort one out. Now I’m riding a winner for Paul Nicholls, the champion trainer.

“Toby Balding and Jonathan have done a fantastic job with me for the last 10 weeks and I’m definitely going to carry on riding.

“I was exhausted in the final furlong, but I just grabbed hold of the horse’s mane and balanced him and got him to the line.

Nicholls was impressed, saying: “Kevin rode him out last week and again on Saturday and gave him a great ride. This has been a great event, raising lots of money for charity.”

Old received a cheque from John Smith’s for £55,000 (€81,000) on behalf of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.

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