‘He was there helping us with the water buckets’
Richard Melia got up close with Derby hero Camelot at Epsom
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) 'He was there helping us with the water buckets'
By Andrew Dietz 2:30PM 20 MAR 2017
A MEMBER of the team behind Auroras Encore's Grand National victory in 2013 on Sunday recalled how serial racing interloper Richard Melia was out on the course helping cool down Sue Smith's star in the immediate aftermath of the race.
Melia – pictured on the front page of Saturday's Racing Post leading in Gold Cup hero Sizing John – has a long history of making uninvited appearances in the winner's enclosure following some of the sport's key moments, but his involvement at Aintree took him even closer to the heart of the action.
Smith's assistant Ryan Clavin said on Sunday: "He was there that day helping us with the water buckets. Nobody really noticed him at the time and it was only afterwards a woman from Aintree asked if we knew him because they were aware that he goes around the tracks on the big days and tries to get in the photographs.
"He followed us under the tunnel and back to the winner's enclosure and then disappeared into the crowd."
Aintree managing director John Baker has confirmed he will be speaking to Ian Renton and his team at Cheltenham as well as the Racecourse Association before next month's Grand National meeting in an attempt to avoid a similar incident taking place.
"Security is paramount on Aintree's agenda every year and we review all procedures after every Grand National and that includes the parade ring and winner's enclosure," he said.
"We think we've got robust plans and procedures in place and we work very closely with the police and our security teams, many of whom are in touch with colleagues from other events in this country and beyond.
"We've done our plans for the National well in advance but in light of Friday we'll have a chat with Ian and his team and the RCA to see if there is any information they have picked up and review again on the basis of that.
"You want the winner's enclosure and the parade ring to be for people involved with the horses. That's what they are there for – for people with horses to enjoy the experience and celebrate at an event put on for them."
Other sporting interlopers
Melia is far from the first to make an art of gatecrashing sporting events. Racing's most notorious interloper was Danny Gunnery, who accompanied the Grand National winner into the winner's enclosure for several years in the late 1960s until a TV viewer pointed him out to the BBC.
In modern times, no sporting interloper can rival Karl Power, who earned notoriety in the early 2000s with a series of surprise appearances. His first, and most famous, came when he joined Manchester United's line-up for a pre-match team photo in a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich (questioned by Gary Neville, Power responded: "Shut up you grass, Eric Cantona sent me!").
Power also walked out to bat for England against Australia at Headingley, played a warm-up session with a friend's son on Wimbledon Centre Court and performed Riverdance on the podium at Silverstone.
Eye witness – Steve Cargill, official photographer at Ascot and Cheltenham
He's been around a long time. Until you see him again, you've forgotten all about him. He's one of those annoyances who appears and you think 'Oh, not him!'. I don't remember seeing him for years until he appeared in that picture in the Racing Post. I remember seeing him a lot in the Frankel years and I'm sure I saw him hanging around some of Aidan O'Brien's stars as well.
He just seems to find a way of getting in. I got him kicked out of the winner's enclosure at Ascot once but he still got himself back in on another day. I remember watching the Frankel documentary and he's in that hanging around the Cecil people the whole time while the horse is being saddled. Originally I thought he must have been with one lot before he started turning up with different people. But he wouldn't be the only person in the winner's enclosure who shouldn't be there.