Grand National stardom beckons for Mike Tindall and Monbeg Dude

From West Yorkshire, to Rugby World Cup star. From becoming a member of the Royal family to potentially owning a Grand National winner. The life of Michael James Tindall is quite incredible.

At the age of 34, the Otley-born ex-England captain is in the enviable position of not only realising his schoolboy dream of winning the World Cup wearing the sacred red rose, but also looking to conquer one of the biggest prizes in British sport.

Though, how did the National sporting icon come about owning what is now the second favourite for the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National?

After a pint or two, of course. Well, no great story ever started with, ‘I was having a salad when…’!

After a day at Cheltenham Racecourse in February 2010, the soon-to-be husband of The Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips made way to the after-racing bloodstock auction as a guest of friend, and racehorse trainer, Michael Scudamore.

With the event heading towards its end and petering out quietly, an already intoxicated Tindall nonchalantly opened the bidding at £12,000 on the final lot – a horse by the name of Monbeg Dude. 

He thought that someone else would bid more. He was in for a big surprise.

“We were only there by chance,” the Gloucester centre said, “because Scu (Michael Scudamore) had a couple of owners that couldn’t make it on the day. We wanted to be involved and have a bid on a horse, but not to come away with one!

“All these things fell into line. We’re under no illusions how lucky we are. People have invested a lot of money to try to get contenders into this race, they’ve spent massive amounts of money, so it’s good from the story side of it that you can have a 12 grand purchase to head to the Grand National with – even if it was a fluke!”

Nicknamed by his teammates as ‘The Fridge’ for his stocky physique, this was Tindall’s first venture into horse racing ownership.

However, it was one that nearly cost him his marriage into the most prestigious family in the world, after Zara Phillips told him he was ‘an idiot’ for buying the horse.

Having won £122,000 in Monbeg Dude’s career to date, including a sensational performance to win the 2013 Welsh National, it has proved to be a worthy investment – emotionally and financially.

“He’s (Monbeg Dude) been an absolute legend for us. Never in our wildest dreams did we think he could do the things that he has done.

“When we first got him, he was plagued with jumping errors. But, Zara always thought he had the ability to jump properly.

“She just didn’t think he was smart enough or quick enough on his feet, or he didn’t respect what he was jumping.

“Between her and Michael Scu, they put together a plan to do some prep work before his races and now he feels a lot more confident about what he’s doing.”

‘The Dude’, who is also part-owned by fellow England player James Simpson-Daniel and Welsh international Nicky Robinson, justifiably heads to Aintree next week with a serious chance of success.

Not since the famous Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National, who when five lengths clear and forty yards from the winning post inexplicably jumped in the air and landed on his stomach to throw away victory, has a member of the Royal family had a serious chance of winning the marathon contest on Merseyside.

However, in recent times, the Royal household bragging rights have belonged firmly to Her Majesty The Queen, especially in the aftermath of Estimate’s triumph when winning the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last summer.

Although winning the Crabbie’s Grand National would be a momentous achievement for Tindall, he knows his place.

“It’s hard to compare Jumps racing and Flat racing. It’s great that she (The Queen) has such an invested interest in the sport and you can tell she really loves it.

“Winning at Royal Ascot is a fantastic achievement for any owner, but when Estimate won the Gold Cup, it was quite special. The whole country seemed to stop to congratulate her.

“As amazing as it would be to win the Grand National, I suspect she would definitely hold ‘bragging rights’, but I’m sure we can enjoy the victories still the same.”

Next Saturday, Aintree will host ‘the greatest show on turf’.

Forty riders and horses with forty great stories will line-up bidding to enter racing’s rich history as the next Grand National champion. But, only one can win.

Tindall will be hoping the rags to riches story of the £12,000 purchase Monbeg Dude will be the one we will all be talking about.

If they can pull it off, it would be another scintillating chapter of the already incredible life of Michael James Tindall.