Liam Treadwell reflected on his rise, fall and rise again and admitted: It’s great to be back in the big time.
The Arundel-born jockey was just 23 when he announced himself to the world with victory in the Grand National on 100/1-outsider Mon Mome in 2009.
But after telling The News of his desire to kick on and reach the very top of his sport, disaster struck.
A multiple break of his collarbone little more than six months later robbed him of the chance to capitalise on his ground-breaking Aintree success.
With a clutch of brilliant young jockeys scrapping for every ride, opportunities dried up for the former Angmering School pupil.
The 2011-12 season yielded only nine winners as Treadwell hit rock bottom.
But he then revived his partnership with Mon Mome’s trainer Venetia Williams and capped a brilliant comeback season with his maiden Cheltenham Festival success.
The West Sussex rider steered Carrickboy to glory in the Group 3 Byrne Group Plate at Prestbury Park in March.
And now he is looking forward to returning to the National Hunt season’s blue-riband meeting next month on the back of a career-best campaign to date.
‘Winning at Cheltenham definitely capped a comeback season for me,’ said the 28-year-old.
‘For a few different reasons I had my ups and downs and things had not gone great.
‘But I got the association back with Venetia and, not only was it great to be riding winners, but great to be back in the big time.
‘Things are going great guns so far this season.
‘I have already reached my best tally of winners (31), so I’ll keep working hard and hopefully it will continue.’
Memories of Carrickboy’s Festival success – a front-running defeat of Gary Moore’s Vino Griego at 50/1 – are still fresh in Treadwell’s mind.
Having previously gone close with the likes of Ping Pong Sivola, Tullamore Dew and Dee Ee Williams, it was a relief to finally tick off another boyhood dream.
And while his mount was a big-priced winner, the victory was no fluke.
‘I had a fantastic ride off Carrickboy and it was a very special day,’ he said.
‘I had placed there in years gone by on the likes of Ping Pong Sivola and Tullamore Dew, so I had got a slight taste of it.
‘But there is no better feeling than coming up that hill in front and walking down the chute in front of the grandstand.
‘I’ve always wanted to ride a winner at the Festival.
‘The whole season revolves around it and it is a dream come true for any jockey, trainer or owner to have a winner there.
‘I had only ridden him (Carrickboy) once before – when I won a competitive race at Chepstow – and I knew he was a sound jumper.
‘I don’t know if it was the atmosphere as much as anything else at Cheltenham but the horse was just alive underneath me and jumped brilliantly.
‘He wasn’t forced in front and was always in his comfort zone.
‘When I pushed some buttons turning into the straight, he found more which was surprising because it’s a massive ask to make all in a handicap at Cheltenham.
‘He’s hard to catch right but it just goes to show that when he’s on song, he’s a very good horse.’
The Cheltenham Festival begins on Tuesday, March 11, and climaxes on Friday, March 14, when the winner of the prestigious Gold Cup will be crowned.