A smaller name in racing, Jason Titley spent most of his time in Ireland working the trade but did have odd pieces of success, including a win at the Cheltenham Festival and winning the Irish Grand National twice.
However, his biggest day would come earlier in his career, when Titley would ride Royal Athlete to victory in the 1995 Grand National. This was his first ride in the race, which makes the feat even more special, but although it pushed him into the spotlight, in terms of helping him carve out a career, it did little for him.
That won’t matter too much, though, because winning the Grand National is special, regardless of what comes afterwards, a memory and victory that will be with Titley forever.
Jason Titley Grand National Wins
- 1995 - Royal Athlete trained by Jenny Pitman
|2000||Micko's Dream||Fence 1 - Fell||-||Willie Mullins|
|1997||Nahthen Lad||9||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1996||Bavard Dieu||Fence 1 - Unseated Rider||-||Nick A Gaselee|
|1995||Royal Athlete||1||£118,854||Jenny Pitman|
Winning The Grand National On Royal Athlete
Ahead of the Grand National in 1995, Jason Titley didn’t have a mount, and Royal Athlete didn’t have a regular rider to be called upon. If you believe it, the story goes that Jenny Pitman was searching for a jockey and struggling to find one in her book of contacts. She turned on the racing channel and began to watch racing, where Titley stood out to her.
After a further bit of digging, Pitman liked what she saw and decided to get in touch and book Titley for what would be his first ride in the race. She had six horses lined up to run for her, which was, incidentally, a record at the time for the number of runners under one trainer, so it is no surprise she had to dig deep to find a jockey on the day.
The gamble to go with Titley paid off in brilliant fashion, he gave the horse an excellent ride and, more importantly, was not phased by the situation whatsoever, allowing his ability to do the talking.
Royal Athlete was seen as a horse with a very slim chance of winning, odds of 40/1 on the day showed that. He was a strong stayer, though, with that being his chance of getting involved. As the runners began the second circuit, Master Oats went to the front, the big favourite for the race, after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup a month earlier.
Titley wasn’t put off by that and stayed with the favourite every step of the way. This was brave, he could have sat back but wanted to give his mount a chance to win the race, and that he did. As the pair came to the final flight, Master Oats was beginning to feel the pinch of his big weight on his back, leaving Royal Athlete in front.
And Titley didn’t let him stop, a solid jump over the last made the foundations for his run up the hill to finish off the race, and as we all expected, because he’s shown it before, Royal Athlete was a strong stayer who would not stop. The pair went on to register a winning distance of seven lengths, staying a lot better than any of his rivals.
Royal Athlete wasn’t really fancied amongst the six runners from the Pitman yard, let alone the full field that took part this day. But Titley didn’t let that stop him and, crucially, put his horse in the race at a time when he needed to be in there, not put off by the favourite trying to take over and stamp his authority.
In many ways, a race-winning move, ensuring his plans didn’t change because of another runner, something great to see from a man having his first ride in the biggest race of them all. Not phased, Titley rode at the top of his game and bagged the win.
Despite a little more success in other races, Titley ended his career having just four rides in the Grand National. One of his further three came from Jenny Pitman again, he finished 9th on Nahthen Lad in 1997 when the pair were reunited in the race. His other two mounts came in 1996 and 2000, and on both occasions, Titley’s adventure came to an end at the very first fence, which was disappointing for him, but shows that winning this race is not something that anyone should take for granted, it’s tough.