CARRIE FORD faces her ultimate challenge of winning the world's most famous horse race at Aintree in April.
CARRIE Ford and movie icon Elizabeth Taylor may appear to have nothing in common - except a dream to win the Grand National.
Taylor was a child actress playing a girl who won the world's greatest steeplechase in the 1940s film National Velvet. But Carrie is writing her own script which could turn into one of sport's biggest stories if she rides Forest Gunner to victory at Aintree on April 9.
The 33-year-old wife of trainer Richard Ford, of Tarporley, near Nantwich, will become the first woman to ride in the race for 11 years and only the 13th in the history of the event if she decides conditions are right for the horse, winner of the recent Red Square Vodka Gold Cup at Haydock Park, with Peter Buchanan in the saddle.
'It's all down to the weather,' said Carrie who piloted Forest Gunner to victory in the Fox Hunters' Chase, the amateurs' Grand National, at Aintree last April, only 10 weeks after giving birth to baby Hannah.
'We will know better as we go through March. If we have a wet spring it is unlikely we will run him, otherwise it could be the Topham Chase.'
Carrie set her sights on a Grand National ride once she became hooked on the sport following her debut in point-to-point races as a 16-year-old.
'It is the ultimate challenge,' she said. 'The Grand National is the pinnacle of the sport and it has certainly been my dream to ride in it. It is a daunting prospect but also an exciting one. Once the race gets under way, the adrenaline goes into overtime.'
Husband Richard, she admitted, would be 'concerned and nervous' about her riding in the National, but she has little sympathy.
'Richard's hobby is motorcycling and I don't like that, but I have to put up with it,' she added.
The one family member at Folly Farm Stables who won't be concerned if Carrie comes under starter's orders at Aintree is Hannah, who is now 13 months old.
'She is already taking an interest in the animals but I must admit I would probably be happier if she took up tennis,' she said.
Carrie has been riding since she was two-and-a-half and although she is rarely out of the saddle the Grand National would be her first competitive ride since she and 11-year-old Forest Gunner were successful in the Fox Hunters' Chase last year - her greatest achievement in the sport.
'I have ridden him in most of his races and at home, so I know him better than anyone,' she said. 'We get on very well. He is the ultimate professional with a heart as big as a bucket. Realistically, given a clear round, he should be good enough to finish in the top six.'
Richard has every confidence in his wife's ability but confessed to some apprehension.
'Carrie and I knew what we did before we were married so we knew what to expect, but it is natural to experience some concern when she rides,' he said. 'She doesn't go on about it when I go chasing around on motorbikes.
'If she feels she can do the horse justice, that's fair enough. I think we would have an outstanding chance if we decided to go for the race. Forest Gunner has run three times at Aintree and won every time, but anything could happen between now and then.'
Cheshire came under the media spotlight last year when Cholmondeley trainer Ginger McCain saddled Amberleigh House to victory in last year's Grand National.
If Carrie and Richard decide to run Forest Green, the county would have a strong hand in the race because McCain aims to give Amberleigh House the chance to retain his title.
The two stables may be rivals on the track but are friends off it. Carrie explained: 'I have ridden for Ginger and Richard used to ride out for them, as well as being a friend of Ginger's son, Donald, so there would be a lot of friendly rivalry if both horses ran in the race.'