Eddie Ahern Eddie Ahern is a former Group One-winning jockey, whose career effectively ended in May, 2013, when he was found guilty, by a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) disciplinary panel, of three serious breaches of the Rules of Racing and ‘warned off’ for ten years. Aherne, 35, was supported by the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) in his appeal against the decision and the severity of the punishment handed down, but lost.

Born in Co. Tipperary in 1977, Ahern rode his first winner, Ardlea House, at Dundalk in November, 1994, a month or so shy of his seventeenth birthday. Three years later, in 1997, he became Irish Champion Apprentice with 36 winners. Two years later still, in 1999, he rode his first Group One winner, Preseli, trained by Michael Grassick, in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh. The following year he achieved his best seasonal total in Ireland, 46, but in 2002 moved to Newmarket, increasing his tally to 84, 107, 111, 120 and 140 winners in consecutive seasons.In September, 2011, Ahern rode his second Group One winner, Duncan, trained by John Gosden, who dead-heated with Jukebox Jury in the Irish Field St. Leger at the Curragh.

However, the previous January, he had already ridden the horse on which he would be found guilty of not obtaining the best possible placing, Judgethemoment, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam, in the lowly Class 6 Felbridge Handicap at Lingfield. In the two-mile contest, Ahern set off like the proverbial ‘scalded cat’, spreadeagling the field, but his mount inevitably weakened in the final half-a-mile, dropping out to finish last of the seven runners, beaten 35¼ lengths and fully15 lengths behind the sixth horse home. Ahern claimed that he had simply ‘misjudged’ the pace, but the BHA did not accept that he ‘could have made an error of such an extent’ and banned him accordingly. In his 19-year career, Ahern he had ridden 1,252 winners.

If there’s one race that gets casual fans and die hards alike tuning in, it just has to be the Grand National. Taking place this year on Saturday April 10th, it will provide welcome relief from the struggles of the past year and although there won’t be crowds cheering on the proceedings, we will all no doubt be willing on our selections from our own livings rooms.

It’s of course not just this past year that has seen changes in racing and indeed society though. Above, Katie Walsh in partnership with Betway, guides us through the journey and hard won advancements that female jockeys have made over recent decades. From the first female jockey in the National, Charlotte Brew, in 1977 to recent years where (in the 2000s) their presence is a much more common sight. We’ve come a long way since the days of Ginger McCain saying that the event was ‘no place for a woman’. 2021 will see three female jockeys riding in the Aintree Grand National (Rachael Blackmore, Bryony Frost and Tabitha Worsley). Progress.

Jonjo O'Neill As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Jonjo O’Neill will be best remembered for riding the legendary racemare Dawn Run who, in 1986, became the first, and so far only, horse to complete the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double. However, since turning his hand to training, and recovering from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, in the late Eighties, O’Neill has enjoyed several notable victories at the March showpiece.

For the first 15 years of his training career, O’Neill was based at Penrith, Cumbria. He sent out his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Danny Connors, in the Coral Golden Hurdle Final – now the Pertemps Network Final – in 1991 and was subsequently successful with Front Line in the National Hunt Chase in 1995 and Master Tern in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle in 2000. All three winners carried the famous green and gold hooped colours of his principal benefactor, John ‘J.P.’ McManus.

Indeed, in 2001, McManus purchased Jackdaws Castle, a training centre originally built by David Nicholson in Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire, just 30 minutes’ drive from Prestbury Park, and installed O’Neill as trainer. The following year, O’Neill won the National Hunt Chase again with Rith Dubh, owned by McManus, and has since won the historic steeplechase a further four times, courtesy of Sudden Shock in 2003, Native Emperor in 2004, Butler’s Cabin in 2007 and Minella Rocco in 2016.

O’Neill enjoyed his highest-profile Festival victory with Synchronised, owned by McManus and ridden by Sir Anthony McCoy, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2012, but it is worth noting that he has also won the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, with Iris’s Gift in 2004 and More Of That in 2014, and the Pertemps Network three times, with Inching Closer in 2003, Creon in 2004 and Holywell in 2013. All told, he has saddled 26 Cheltenham Festival winners; his most successful horse, so far, at the Festival was Albertas Run, who won the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase in 2008, before recording back-to-back victories in the Ryanair Chase in 2010 and 2011.