TESS Champion will be mixing with royalty and dreaming of Crabbie’s Grand National glory at Aintree this weekend.
The 22-year-old, from Rochford, is expected to lead 20-1 shot Monbeg Dude around the paddock on Saturday at the world’s most popular steeplechase.
Monbeg Dude is part-owned by England rugby union World Cup-winner Mike Tindall, who is married to Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter.
Tess is a keen amateur jockey on the pointing scene and is the girlfriend of Michael Scudamore, who trains the horse at Eccleswall Court Stables near Ross-on-Wye.
“I ride Monbeg quite a lot and I have led him up at the races a few times,” said Tess, who went to Lindridge Primary School.
“I think I will be leading him up at the National. This will be my fourth time at the National - it’s exciting and it will nice to be involved in Monbeg.
“Tom David is a point to point jockey and works with Zara Phillips and has been schooling Monbeg and I think Tom will be coming up to Aintree, too.
Tess’ father, Nick Champion, is an estate agent and auctioneer in Tenbury.
Nick is a cousin of Bob Champion, the winning jockey on Aldaniti in the 1981 Grand National.
“I started riding because I wanted to do a bit of point to pointing,” said Tess, a former Cardiff University student.
“I have been helping for about two years. All my family have been involved in racing and hunting and my dad follows it greatly. My dad led out Monbeg at Doncaster in his last run.
“I am a physiotherapist in Gloucester. I work in Gloucester four days a week and before or after work I ride out and also on my days off.”
Tess, a former Hereford Cathedral School pupil, is a community-based physiotherapist.
She has just secured an equine sports massage diploma.
She said: “Michael and I have been together for a few years and my grandfather has been betting on Monbeg.
“Monbeg has even got his own Facebook and Twitter pages and there are lots of locals from Tenbury who are following him and supportive of Michael and Monbeg.
“It’s so nice for Michael – it’s hard work through the wet weather but Monbeg is such a superstar and we hope he gets around in one piece.
“To win would be amazing, it’s every trainer’s dream to win a Grand National.
“When we watched the replay of last year’s Grand National last weekend, I think that really hit home and it was nerve-wracking to think about it.”