02nd April 2014

“I don’t get nervous for Tom provided he goes out and enjoys himself”: Nigel Roddis on Teaforthree

In a guest blog, Nigel Roddis, Development Director at Great British Racing, talks about the Crabbie's Grand National and the horse he part owns.

My earliest Grand National memory is probably Ben Nevis winning, I remember wondering what people were talking about when I was sat on a wall outside the pub, with a packet of crisps and a glass of shandy bought for me by my Grandad.

My first more grown up Aintree memory is probably in a betting shop as a youngster (certainly too young to be in there) when I backed a horse called Bajan Sunshine, which won one of the races on National day at 25/1. That was probably what got me hooked on the sport - those were the days when there were no televised pictures in betting shops so every race sounded close and every race sounded exciting.

You always have dreams and aspirations when you get involved in a horse and Tom (Teaforthree) has taken us there. My favourite memory is JT McNamara riding him to win the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival . JT rode a perfect race, he knew Tom could jump, so he just left him alone to get on with it.

Then at the top of the hill, Tom went clear with Four Commanders and Our Victoria and Harry the Viking not far behind, and JT just let him breeze down the hill. Jumping the last upsides, Four Commanders nodded on landing but Tom jumped it well and went away up the hill. JT said afterwards “I let him coast down the hill because I knew we were coming up it and I wasn’t sure about the others” with all the calm confidence in the world.

Leading him in after the race into that amphitheatre of a winners’ enclosure was amazing… I could see all these friends in the crowd. Looking through the photos of that day still makes me laugh. I made a bit of a fool of myself, but you never quite know how you will react when something like that happens. You can see from the photos that I enjoyed it!

I never really aspired to having a Grand National runner, partly on the basis that it is such a unique event. It is so specific so you are likely to have your hopes dashed in the early stages if that is the aim whereas if you go in with the hope that they might be a Cheltenham horse, you have a whole range of possibilities. They have to be good for the Festival, and it is that requirement that generally dashes the hopes, but a National horse has to have some special characteristics.

Tom was originally leased by GBR to be the Soccer AM horse, but I instantly felt he was mine. I was that emotionally involved from the start. So when the agreement ended and the programme didn’t want to carry on, I cleared buying him with the boss.

Having agreed a price with Gearoid Costelloe, Rebecca’s partner, I persuaded three friends to get involved; John O’Reilly, David Zeffman & James Conyers. The first time he ran for us was the most nerve wracking… well I had persuaded friends to part with a reasonable amount of money so I felt the pressure. I don’t know how trainers manage it with owners! But he did well and we realised we were going to have a bit of fun.

I do get nervous when he runs, less so now than when he started, but I don’t get nervous for Tom provided he goes out and enjoys himself, which he generally does. He likes being a racehorse, I think he genuinely does enjoy all that is involved in it. Nick Scholfield and I think he is one of those horses who knows he is a bit special and he loves all the attention from the press.

When we went to see him in the stables at Aintree after the Grand National last year, you could hear the commentary from the last race of the day and he was there, head over the stables, ears pricked, listening, as if to say “Come on, let me have another go!”

So 12 months later we are. It is the one meeting of the year when you hear people down the pub talking about it. The winners become legends.

Tom already is a legend in our house, but I would quite like him to become a legend in other people’s.