Grand National Legends
There have been many legendary Grand National moments down the years, most of which have concerned the winning horses, trainers or jockeys. These legends have served to remind racng fans what a great race the Grand National actually is and why millions every year bet on the race and that millions more just watch it.
We list below just some of those great stories that have, over the years become the legends of the Grand National.
Going way back to the 1890's, Cloister became one of the first legends of the Grand National. An unlucky second in 1891, when he was hampered badly by the winner on the run in. A Stewards enquiry did not alter the result and Cloister had to come back again the following year where he tried to win by using front tactics carrying top weight.
Once again the elements worked against him, a combination of 12st 3lb and naive front running tactics saw him finally caught two from home and once again he to be content with second place.
1893 however saw his fortunes change, where despite carrying top weight once again, he went to the front early and stayed there until the end, winning by a massive 40 lengths which is still the biggest winning margin of any Grand National.
Owned by the Queen Mother and ridden by soon to be author Dick Francis, Devon Loch is one of the saddest but legendary stories of the Aintree Grand National. It took place in 1956. Well fancied by connections and having shown outstanding form at the Cheltenham Festival just a few weeks beforehand, Devon Loch was well set to win. He started fantastically well, keeping to mid-division and jumping soundly throughout, he got to the second circuit in great shape.
Francis later said he had never felt so confident on a horse and it could be seen why as he just went past horse after horse until he took the lead a couple from home and proceeded to put distance between him and the chasing pack. As he came into the final straight there was only one possible winner, however disaster was to strike just 50 yards from the line. For reasons that have never been fully known, Devon, seemed to take a little jump and bizarrely fell to the ground and stopped racing, leaving the race at the mercy of the chasing ESP. Francis tried in vain to rally the horse but it was clear that the race was over for him and the dream of a Royal Grand National win was over too.
Various explanations have been put forward, Francis himself thought that the cheering crowd spooked him, others have said that a wet patch confused him, it has even been proffered that he thought he had to jump another fence. The truth will never be known but it is doubtful whether the Grand National will ever have such an unlucky loser again.
Donald 'Ginger' McCain is the most successful modern day trainer in Grand National history, thanks in main to Red Rum, who won the race three times in the seventies. Despite being bred to win races over one mile, Red Rum flourished over the four miles of Aintree first winning the Grand National in 1973.
In 1974, Red Rum became the first horse since Reynoldstown to win back to back Grand Nationals and he would go on to win the race for a third time in 1977. Astonishingly Red Rum finished second in both races between his second and third win.
Ginger McCain won the race for a record equalling fourth time in 2004 when he trained twelve year old Amberleigh House to victory at odds of 16/1 to roll back the years.
Thought for many years to be the exclusive domain of the male race, a woman finally managed to ride in the Grand National for the first time in after the passing of the Equal Opportunities Bill. That woman was 21 year old Charlotte Brew, the year was 1977 and the horse was 200/1 rank outsider, Barony Fort.
The partnership ran with great credit, surviving the first circuit before falling at the fourth last, when tailed off. The race was memorable not just for her participation but it was also the year that the great Red Rum won the race for the third time.
The first woman to complete the course was Geraldine Rees, who achieved the feat in 1982 when riding Cheers for owners who had only just bought the horse. The two managed to finish the race in eighth and last place.
Female trainers too should take a bow, Jenny Pitman, trained Corbiere to victory in 1983 to become the first woman ever to train a Grand National winner. She then became the unlucky trainer of Esha Ness, who was first past the post in 1993 in the race that never was, after it had been declared void by the Stewards after a second false start. Good for jenny though, she was to be back in the winners enclosure two years later Royal Athlete won.
Venetia Williams famously broke her neck when riding 200/1 outsider, Marolo in the 1988 Grand National. The combination fell at Bechers first time around and it nearly cost Venetia her life.
She never tried her luck again as a rider, but she made amends in a huge way in 2009, when she saddled Mon Mome, a 100/1 outsider to victory to become only the second female trainer to win a Grand National.