Horse Racing

/ Top Tens

  • Top Tens

Those great Grand National moments

ESPN staff
April 5, 2013
Neptune Collonges jumped superbly in his win in 2012 © PA Photos
Enlarge

We're still firmly in the grip of winter but it's officially spring and Saturday sees the 166th running of the Grand National. It's the first to be screened live on Channel 4, which means the event being punctured by adverts. We're pretty confident, as are Channel 4, that they won't pull away for a pay-day loan advert as the runners cross the Melling Road. If it did, it would make for a pretty memorable moment and one the rival the top ten in our list.

Devon Loch - 1956

Say ESB to even the most ardent horse racing fans and they may flash you a quizzical look. Say Devon Loch and it will be like a lightbulb has flicked on in their heads. As famous and bizarre moments in sport go, the end of the 1956 Grand National would be well suited to the cliffhanger moment in any novel. Devon Loch, ridden by future writer Dick Francis, was clear of the field and all set to hand Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth victory in the race. With the winning post in sight, Francis was probably planning his speech when Devon Loch inexplicably sprawled to the ground - leaving ESB to lollop past for victory. Conspiracy theorists have had a field day, while Queen Elizabeth famously said 'oh well, that's racing'.

Foinavon - 1967

The Devon Loch incident is probably the most well known among racing fans, but it is eclipsed in terms of infamy by Foinavon's victory in 1967. As outsiders go, Foinavon was not just out of the house, but over the garden fence, down the lane and somewhere across the road. Trained by Cyril Watkins, Foinavon was a 100/1 shot and was running like a 100/1 shot: well out the back. But the complexion of the race changed when the field approached the smallest fence on the course - later renamed Foinavon - as the riderless Popham Dawn veered across the course and caused a mass pile-up. So far behind was Foniavon, jockey John Buckingham observed the carnage and steered his mount wide of the trouble. By the time the leaders had reorganised themselves, Foinavon was away and gone for arguably the most famous victory in National history.

Red Rum - 1973, 1974, 1977

The only problem here is where to start. If ever a horse fits the tag of horses for courses, it is Red Rum. Trained by Ginger McCain, and regularly prepared on the beach, Red Rum is the only horse to have won the National three times (he also finished second in 1975 and 1976). In '73, Rummie was arguably the villain of the piece when mowing down the gallant front-runner Crisp. A year later he romped to victory under 12 stone. After two gallant seconds, Red Rum raised the roof in '77 when laughing in the face of those who felt he was a spent force by powering to a 25-length success.

Golden Miller - 1934

From the most popular National winner we turn to arguably the classiest. Golden Miller was a phenomenal horse, dominating the National Hunt scene in the 1930s. He won chasing's blue riband, the Gold Cup, every year between 1932 and 1936, and in 1934 he took the National as well - and is still the only horse to win those two races in the same year.

Esha Ness - 1993

If you seek out the winner of the 1993 National, you won't find one. It has become known as the race that never was and is the only time in its history that it's been declared a void race. Starter Keith Brown twice called a false start, but on the second occasion his flag did not unfurl. 30 runners set out to negotiate the four and a half miles, unaware of what had played out. At the business end, seven runners completed the course - led home by the Jenny Pitman-trained, John White-ridden Esha Ness. Confusion reigned, before the race was declared void.

Corbiere - 1983

If 1993 was a horror moment for trainer Jenny Pitman, 10 years previous was arguably the greatest moment in her career as she became the first woman to train the winner of the National. Corbiere proved to be an Aintree specialist, as he finished third in 1984 and 1985, but it was in 1983 that he put Pitman on the map as Corbiere stuck on gallantly under jockey Ben De Haan to deny Greasepaint - backing up his win in the Welsh National earlier in the season.

Lord Gyllene - 1997

A bit like the race that never was, this iteration earns its place for the wrong reasons. A baking hot weekend had everything in place for a brilliant National, but an IRA bomb scare saw Aintree evacuated and the race abandoned. Determined not to be beaten, officials rearranged the race for the Monday. The two-day break ultimately played into Lord Gyllene's hands as Aintree basked in sun for two days and turned the ground fast, which was in his favour and against his main rival Suny Bay. Tony Dobbin jumped Lord Gyllene out and he galloped to a 25-length victory.

Aldaniti - 1981

The National often throws up a story or two and Aldaniti's victory was one of triumph over adversity. Not only did the horse battle back from a career-threatening injury, his rider Bob Champion overcame testicular cancer to take the ride on Josh Gifford's horse. The story was made into a film, Champions, with John Hurt playing Champion.

Don't Push It - 2010

AP McCoy is the greatest National Hunt jockey in the history of the sport. He has won the jockeys' title for 17 seasons in a row (and seems certain to make it 18), is closing in on 4,000 race wins and has virtually every big-race victory etched onto his CV. But on 14 occasions he missed the target in the National. He had a couple of places and was carried out by a loose horse when in the lead on Clan Royal in 2006. It seemed as if the race would elude him, but in 2010 everything dropped right. In the days before the race, McCoy had agonised over which horse to ride. Trainer Jonjo O'Neill told him to go for Don't Push It, a classy but inconsistent individual who had stamina doubts. It proved to be a brilliant piece of advice, as Don't Push It travelled brilliantly and jumped superbly on his way to a battling success.

Neptune Collonges - 2012

Last year's race remains strong in the memory, given the thrilling nature of the finish. It was the only time the race has been won by the minimum distance, with Neptune Collonges cutting down the gallant Sunnyhillboy to score by a nose. The win handed Paul Nicholls victory in the trainers' championship and the horse, running in his final race, became the first grey to taste victory in the National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close