1. 1973 – Red Rum gets the ball rolling
The drama… the thrill… the suspense… ?
Red Rum’s first @aintreeraces Grand National win in 1973 remains one of the most iconic sporting moments of all time ?
— The Jockey Club (@TheJockeyClub) March 29, 2020
It seems only fair that we start with the greatest of them all and Red Rum who is synonymous with the world’s greatest steeplechase.
His first victory came in 1973. The giant Australian steeplechaser, Crisp, had won everything in his native land went off like a hare to build up what the commentator described as the biggest lead he’d ever seen in the Grand National. It looked like he was almost a full fence ahead of his rivals.
But, back in the pack, Red Rum was biding his time under jockey Brian Fletcher and as the second circuit wore on, Red Rum started slowly chipping away at Crisp’s enormous lead. As they jumped the last fence and approached the elbow, the distress signals went out on Crisp,
Red Rum was in a lovely rhythm though and the 23lb difference in the weights was starting to tell. Red Rum passed Crisp with just a few strides to the line left to record a remarkable victory in what was then a course record time. A new hero was born and Red Rum went on to win again in 1974 and 1977 and was runner up in 1975 and 1976.
2. 1981 – Aldaniti proves just Champion
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 4, 2019
Everyone loves a fairytale comeback in sport, but few can match the 1981 achievement of Aldaniti and Bob Champion in winning the 1981 renewal.
Regular rider Bob Champion had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was given just eight months to live at one point when cancer survival rates were much lower. The public heard of his plight and took the pair to their hearts with their never-say-die attitude in their races. On the morning of the race, Aldaniti was backed into 10/1 second favourite and triumphed by four lengths over the favourite Spartan Missile.
The duo had won against all the odds and Bob Champion went on to raise £25m subsequently for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.
3. 1993 – Esha Ness & the National that never was
The 1993 Grand National was called off after 2 false starts, but quite a few entrants didn’t see the flag and completed the course anyway. It was ‘won’ by Esha Ness, trained by Jenny Pitman & ridden by John White in what would have been the 2nd fastest time ever. pic.twitter.com/DL5Zz9vKBL
— Worst Foot Forward (@WorstFoot) May 15, 2018
Britain is known for producing brilliant comedy farces. But even the most outlandish writer couldn’t possibly have conceived the events that took place at Aintree in 1993.
The start of the race was delayed by animal rights protesters and ex-army captain Keith Brown, made two attempts to send the 39 runners on their way. On both occasions, the long length of elastic on the starting gate snagged on one of the runners.
Brown twice called a false start, but 30 of the 39 runners didn’t see the false start flag the second time and charged over the first fence. The first circuit was chaotic, as one by one the jockeys started to realise that there was something amiss and started to pull up their mounts but seven horses finished the ‘race’, led by 50/1 outsider Esha Ness who passed the post first. His jockey John White thought he’d won, only to be told it was a void race, and his face soon turned from joy to despair.
The bookies had to refund £75 million in void bets in the race that never was.
Red Marauder – Grand National 2001 pic.twitter.com/BUI4f6V3Nw
— Racing Tales (@Racing_Tales) March 28, 2020
4. 2001 – Red Marauder wins a two-horse race
Part of the reason for the Grand National’s popularity is it’s unpredictability. The thrills and spills are part of Aintree folklore and the 2001 renewal took place against a backdrop of the Cheltenham Festival being lost that year due to the ‘foot and mouth’ outbreak.
So, a month later, the Grand National took on an even bigger significance. The weather was dreadful as the contest was run in near monsoon conditions on bottomless ground.
As the field headed out for the second circuit, only seven of the 40 starters remained: Red Marauder, Papillon, Beau, Blowing Wind, Brave Highlander, Unsinkable Boxer, and Smarty. After the 20th fence only two runners remained, as Smarty, ridden by Timmy Murphy and Red Marauder, with Richard Guest aboard, set out to jump the last 10 fences.
It was the 11-year-old, 33/1 shot Red Marauder, who won the war of attrition from Smarty, while Blowing Wind and Papillion, ridden by Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh respectively, were remounted (something that isn’t allowed now) to finish a remote third and fourth.
5. 2010 – Don’t Push It breaks A P McCoy’s duck
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…
At the 15th time of asking, the dream finally came true for @AP_McCoy on Don’t Push It.
— Aintree Racecourse (@AintreeRaces) March 25, 2019
The 2010 National was more about a jockey than a horse as living legend AP McCoy finally broke his Grand National hoodoo. AP as he was known by his weighing room colleagues spent a career smashing records, but the Grand National had eluded him.
This was to be McCoy’s 15th attempt to join the winner’s rostrum and until then had looked like McCoy was destined never to win the big one.
So in 2010 you could have forgiven the public for abandoning McCoy. But they didn’t and we duly rewarded as Don’t Push It was backed from 20/1 into 10/1 joint favourite to land a popular public gamble.
Don’t Push It survived a blunder five out to eventually overtake the front-running Black Apalachi to win by five lengths. The victory ended a long fruitless run in the race for McCoy and owner JP McManus. Rarely has there been a more popular winner of the famous race.
6. 2019 – Tiger Roll gallops into history
— Aintree Racecourse (@AintreeRaces) April 6, 2019
When Tiger Roll won a thrilling finish to the 2018 Grand National, edging out Pleasant Company by a head, he looked to have the world at his hooves.
Last year, he achieved what only Red Rum had done before him – and won back-to-back renewals of the world’s greatest race. He arrived at Aintree in buzzing form having won over hurdles at Navan before defending his cross-coutry crown at the Cheltenham Festival a few weeks before the Aintree marathon.
Even the handicapper, who allocates the weights the horses carry in the great race had allocated the pint-sized champion a reasonable looking 11st 05lb for his title defence. The public agreed and Tiger Roll was backed into 4/1 favourite.
He never looked in any danger and Tiger Roll found plenty on the long Aintree run-in to claim an historic victory over 66-1 chance Magic Of Light to become the first horse in 46 years to win back to back Grand Nationals.
The little horse with the big heart will be 11 next year and hopefully can make more history at Aintree in 2021.