Horse Racing: 5 great Grand National moments for the ages

Some super memories here, tbf.

Aintree-Grand-National-field

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1. Don’t Push It, 2010

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Sir AP McCoy is arguably the greatest sportsman we’ve ever seen, scooping 20 consecutive British champion Jump jockey titles, but until he landed the National on Don’t Push It in 2010, it looked like he might become another great National Hunt rider who failed to win the big one.

This was his 15th ride in the Grand National and every year the sports pages were filled with copy about ‘will ‘AP’ finally get off the mark and get the monkey off his back?’

The champ had a right to feel aggrieved as well as he had previously finished third in the race three times.

McCoy’s mount was very well-backed at 10-1 joint-favourite and his victory was brilliant publicity for the sport as he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List two months’ later and voted that year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

2. Many Clouds, 2015

Leighton Aspell, who announced his retirement live on ITV in February, may not have been the greatest jockey we’ve ever seen, but he had the unusual and unique status of having his own fan club – thus it was marvellous to see him land a second consecutive National on Many Clouds.

I had the honour of being on the London Racing Club’s Grand National preview panel that year and while I’d like to think the 200-odd enthusiasts who turned out on a cold evening were there to see me, the draw of Aspell, who had won on Pineau De Re the year before, may have been the real reason.

And he didn’t let the attendees down putting in a very good word for the subsequent winner whose starting price was 25-1. Did I back him – did I hell!

3. Neptune Collonges, 2012

Being fortunate enough to attend the National every year, I have adopted a policy of watching the race from various different standpoints.

The winning line is an obvious location, which I’ve frequented on a few occasions, including when Neptune Collonges prevailed by a nose from Sunnyhillboy in 2012 in a pulsating finish.

This was the shortest winning distance in the history of the race and a nose was only officially introduced into British racing four years’ earlier to provide a more accurate measurement between a short-head and a dead-heat.

I was so lucky to witness a climax like that with Richie McLernon desperate to hold on on Sunnyhillboy and winning pilot Daryl Jacob straining every muscle to get up. As a racing professional I couldn’t possibly say who I thought had won as they flashed past the post!

4. Papillon, 2000

Foinavon winning in 1967 after the incredible chaos at the fence after Becher’s second time around and Devon Loch collapsing fifty yards from the line with the race won (thankfully horse and rider fine) in 1956 are renewals that ITV show every year.

But I wasn’t even born then and Papillon has to be in the ‘famous five’ as it was the first National I attended.

The ‘Cheltenham roar’ is immense, but the first time you witness a start to this race is something you’ll never forget as the noise is astonishing as the crowd works itself into a footy-like frenzy while the horses charge to the first obstacle.

It was even more memorable as Paddy Power ambassador Ruby Walsh scored on his first ride in the extravaganza for father Ted and punters were sent into orbit as they went off a furiously-backed 10-1 poke.

5. Red Marauder, 2001

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This year you needed an Ark when travelling around Merseyside as it had rained all week and it rained all day and there was even a question of whether the race would go ahead as there was so much juice in the ground.

Thankfully it was allowed to proceed, but a horse called Paddy’s Return caused 1967-like chaos at the Canal Turn first time around, leaping across the field and taking half of them out.

Such was the stamina test that season, only seven combatants began the second circuit and a mere four finished –McCoy on Blowing Wind and, once again, our man Ruby and Papillon were involved as they were stopped at the 19th fence but they remounted to finish third and fourth respectively.

They wouldn’t get away with that now as you’re not allowed to remount and the race went to the Richard Guest-ridden mud lover Red Marauder.

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