According To Pete's in a paper chase

A racehorse owner who doubles up as a local newsagent could provide the story of this year's National

That the Grand National is a contest which often favours the best story as much as the best horse may well be a chicken-or-egg theory for, with 40 runners and an owner, trainer and jockey for each, it would be long odds against some point of interest failing to emerge along with the victors. But when it comes to fine subjects for a fairy tale that could end with a glorious final chapter on Saturday, step forward Peter Nelson and your splendid horse According To Pete.

Nelson, 71, is a self-made businessman, which is not that unusual among the ranks of racehorse owners. And like another of the ilk, JP McManus, he is going to Liverpool with the hope in his heart of winning the world's most famous steeplechase with a horse he not only owns but bred himself. But there the comparisons stop and the contrasts begin.

One man has a global empire most recently valued at £481 million and more than 300 animals to carry his colours, the other an MOT business and a paper round in a Yorkshire village and a string of just two. Synchronised, McManus's chief National contender, emerged from a breeding herd numbering hundreds and grew up on a 400-acre estate in County Limerick. According To Pete is the product of his owner's sole broodmare and spent his formative years in a paddock behind a garage.

Nelson has already seen his pride and joy lead the way up the Aintree run-in. "Then I've woken up," he said, "and told myself not to be such a silly bugger. But then I once thought I'd never have even a car or a house of my own, let alone a racehorse. I'm from a family of seven and have had my arse kicked all my life. So maybe dreams can come true."

Though his livelihood came through modern horsepower, Nelson had always been aware of the original as he grew up in Helperby, between Thirsk and York. His father, who was a farm labourer, used to work with Shires and Cleveland Bays on a local estate where, as a boy, Peter himself used to have to take time off school in order to help with the hard physical graft of the harvest.

He later learned his mechanical trade with farm machinery before setting up his own business. Nelson's day now also includes a dawn start to supply and deliver newspapers locally, a service undertaken since the closure of the village shop. "I've worked all my life," he said, "and see no reason to stop yet."

According To Pete has something of the Yorkshire grit about him too; the National will be his 50th race, of which he has so far won 11. His dam, Magic Bloom, ran 53 times for nine successes and is still in that Helperby paddock at the age of 26.

Mother and son were and are trained at Norton by Malcolm Jefferson, at whose instigation came the mating with Accordion that produced According To Pete. When the time came for Magic Bloom to start her second career, the best at Newstead Cottage Stables was the talented hurdler Dato Star, an early indicator of the worth of the Irish stallion as a high-class jumps progenitor.

As According To Pete was growing up, it became apparent that he was a round peg in a round hole."He always had to be in front," said Nelson, "whether it was at feeding time or when he was playing with the other youngsters.

"And even as a yearling he could jump, he'd hike over a set of rails to another paddock rather than wait to be led round. He's not the biggest but he always had something about him, real spirit."

The dark bay gelding with his distinctive white blaze, already the winner of good races at Wetherby and Haydock this season, is very much part of the family for Nelson and his wife, Anne. And although along with their pride and pleasure in his taking part in Saturday's gruelling £975,000 contest comes concern, it is without mawkish sentimentality.

"What we want first is for him to come home safe," Nelson said, "and anything more would be a bonus. It is risky, but this is what he was bred for and is trained for and no horse becomes a great horse stood in his stable. Without racing he and the others wouldn't exist.

"And when you watch him bowling along, he's such a fine sight, seems to love doing it. He always has his ears pricked and you'd swear he has a smile on his face."

According To Pete, a first National ride for the 23-year-old Harry Haynes, provides plenty to appeal to the head as well as the heart, especially at 40-1.

There has not been a Yorkshire-based National winner since Merryman in 1960; it would be fitting were Nelson to deliver his own good news in the dales a week today.

The front four

1. According To Pete Tough, genuine, in form of his life, never fallen over fences.

2. Killyglen Was going very well last year when brought down four out.

3. Neptune Collonges Has a touch of class and stays well.

4. On His Own Eyecatchingly progressive after going to new stable.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star