National winner Denys Smith dies

Grand National-winning trainer Denys Smith has died, aged 92.

Red Alligator being led in after his convincing win in the 1968 Grand National at Aintree

The County Durham handler enjoyed his finest hour at Aintree in 1968 when Red Alligator claimed National glory under Brian Fletcher.

Smith could even have claimed the big race 12 months earlier, but the same horse finished a distant third after he became embroiled in the notorious 23rd-fence pile-up that led to Foinavon causing a 100-1 upset.

A former taxi driver, the self-taught Smith was seen as one of the pioneering trainers of his generation and also won two Group One races on the Flat.

Smith was crowned champion jumps trainer in the 1967-68 campaign but he was prolific on the Flat, too, having won races like the Lincoln (Foggy Bell), the Middle Park (Tudenham) and the Flying Childers (Mandrake Major).

He was also a Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer and landed a division of the Gloucestershire Hurdle (now the Supreme Novices' Hurdle) in 1968.

Owen's Mark provided Smith with a first victory under Rules at Sedgefield in February 1958, while Monksford gave him his last winner at Hamilton in 2002.

He saddled over 1,600 winners from his Bishop Auckland yard in a career that spanned nearly 50 years.

Former jockey Chris Grant left school as a 15-year-old to work for Smith, in a union which lasted 15 years, and said he owed everything in racing to his former boss.

Grant, who is now a trainer in Cleveland, said "I nearly got out of the game because I was a bit heavy, but Denys got me going again.

"He won a National, won a Lincoln, and won so many other good races during such a long career.

"Flat or jumps, it didn't matter to Denys. He was really ahead of his time in that respect.

"We travelled a lot of miles together. He used to drive me to the races and I used to drive him back.

"We got on very well and won some nice races, including the Triumph Hurdle Trial (Cheltenham) with The Grey Bomber and the Greenall (Haydock) with Midnight Love.

"Denys was in a care home until recently, but his mind was still as sharp as a razor.

"I wouldn't be where I was now if it wasn't for Denys Smith."

Read More at Sporting Life

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