Updated: 10/04/17 : 05:48:16
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Sligo Grand National winner schooled horses before school

JUST EIGHT years of age when he first schooled with horses in Sligo.

That's the story of Derek Fox, the 24 years old local jockey who rode ''One For Arthur'' to victory in the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday evening. See link below.

Fox ''started off showjumping and pony racing when he was eight years old,'' recalled The Sunday Times yesterday.

Before School

Writer Donn McClean picks up the story: ''His mother's side of the family were always involved with horses; his uncle Mark McNiff, now a trainer, was riding at the time.

''And young Derek used to ride out in the mornings before going to school.

''He rode on the pony racing circuit until he was 16, then took out an amateur licence when he left school and started riding in point-to-points.

''When his uncle started to train, Fox rode for him, and for Noel Kelly.

''He spent a summer with John Carr before a year with Charles Byrnes, during which time, at 18, he turned conditional,'' said McClean.

        Derek celebrates after his win with mum Jacqueline and sister Sarah. Photo: Twitter

He continued to ride for Mark McNiff and for Noel Kelly and had some of his biggest winners in Ireland with Kelly.

Barely Able

Work he did with one of Kelly's mares first brought him -- through his cousin Stephen Kelly -- to the attention of Lucinda Russell.

She was the Scottish trainer of Saturday's big race winner which galloped home at odds of 14/1.

In another article in The Sunday Times, Andrew Longmore reported on Fox's feelings as the Aintree race moved to its conclusion:-

''At the sharp end of the race, in contrast to a few others, Fox was barely able to to believe his luck.

Too Soon

(Said Fox) ''After a circuit I couldn't believe he was jumping so well.

''We were closing, closing, closing and we nearly got there too soon.

''We jumped the second last and then he galloped all the way to the line,'' Fox recalled of his epic evening's work.

It was a victory in which he jumped clean on his Grand National debut at 24 years of age.

Wrist, Collarbone

Only weeks earlier, on March 9th, he broke his wrist and collarbone while competing in the north of England, at Carlisle.

Fox cleared sixteen different fences over two circuits on Saturday,  thirty jumps in total, including some of the most famous and feared names in the world.

Those included: Becher's Brook, The Chair, The Water, The Canal Turn and Valentines Brook.

There is even a Foinavon Fence to remember the dramatic pile-up exactly half a century ago and delivered a 100-1 winner in 1967.