Racing: Ford keeps her focus on a Grand statement

The greatest day has dawned for millions in Britain and across the globe as one particular woman lies on the verge of joining the most exclusive of families.

The greatest day has dawned for millions in Britain and across the globe as one particular woman lies on the verge of joining the most exclusive of families.

Carrie Ford, the trainer's wife from Little Budworth in Cheshire, will today attempt to become a Grand National-winning jockey - the first of her sex in 158 runnings of the world's most celebrated steeplechase.

Ford, 33, rides one of the National favourites, Forest Gunner, a horse which has already been successful over the huge Aintree fences. For once it seems it is a housewife which will be the housewives' choice.

An overseas audience of more than 600 million in over 200 countries will witness Ford's assault on the £700,000 race. A total of £250m will be wagered in Britain alone, swelled by the extra time for betting due to the 25-minutes later start to the race caused by its collision with the royal wedding.

The international viewers will witness what has become a spat between neighbours. Ginger McCain, who trains 20 minutes down the A49 from the Fords, is the man behind the three-time Grand National winner Red Rum, as well as last year's returning victor, Amberleigh House. He believes the young mother has no place in the race. "Carrie is a broodmare now," he says. "And having kids does not get you fit to ride in Nationals. If she wins I'll bare my arse to the wind."

There is optimism, though, that the National may be seen in its best light. Of the 30 which set out in yesterday's Topham Chase, run over one circuit of the National fences, 22 came home. With fine weather forecast and good ground to help today's maximum field of 40 runners, the high watermark of 1984, when Hallo Dandy led home 23 finishers, may be threatened.

The morning nerves will extend to cover Paul Carberry, the Irish jockey who rode Bobbyjo to victory at Aintree in 1999. He must prove his fitness to the racecourse doctor before being allowed to partner Colnel Rayburn.

Another rider in the spotlight will be Tony McCoy, jump racing's most successful jockey, who attempts to secure his first National when he partners Clan Royal. Bookmakers fear a result for that horse, not so much for the identity of his jockey but because of the wedding connotations. For them Royal Auclair carries similar peril as the once-a-year punters come out to play. Most of all, though, they worry about the most romantic of stories on a romantic day and success for Carrie Ford.

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