October 2009: Wacky Macky Bear – 2007 and 2008 hero of the John Smith’s Mascot Grand National – is favourite to land this year’s race and complete his hat trick.

Bookmakers Totesport took no chances with the mascot from Saffron Walden Football Club as they priced up the 73 runners who will take part in the one-furlong dash at Huntingdon Racecourse on Sunday (4 OCTOBER).

He’s the 7-2 market leader, with only five of his other rivals in single figure odds.

The madcap event is marking its 10th anniversary and will attract a worldwide TV and online audience.

There’s been mayhem, controversy, accusations of gamesmanship, and claims of ‘ringers’ over the years since this crazy race began in 1999, but strict rules now ensure good clean fun.

The event’s official charity is the Willow Foundation which provides special days for seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds. Totesport are donating all their betting profits from the race to the charity.

The foundation, created by former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson OBE and his wife Megs after their daughter died of cancer aged 31, will be the beneficiary of fund raising.

The Willow Foundation also celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2009 – going from providing just 17 special days in its first year to 1,500 this year. To date the Willow Foundation has provided more than 5,000 special days for people living with cancer, cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy, organ failure and Huntington’s, among other conditions.

Bob Wilson said: “The John Smith’s Mascot Grand National is a fantastic fun event at Huntingdon Racecourse that represents exactly what the Willow Foundation is all about – spending special time with family and friends and creating wonderful memories.

“It will be a superb day and the support of the public will help us to provide many more special days for young adults living with serious illness.” 

The racecourse’s managing director Sophie Hodgkinson said: “The Mascot Grand National has grown in popularity year after year. And we’re delighted to welcome back as sponsors – John Smith’s, the sponsors of the Grand National at Aintree – as well as everyone from the Willow Foundation.”

The John Smith’s Mascot Grand National kicks off an afternoon of jump racing at the Cambridgeshire racecourse which includes two pony races for young aspiring riders after the jump racing.

MASCOT GRAND NATIONAL HISTORY

1999: The Mascot Grand National was born as 17 mascots took part in one of the most unusual sights ever seen on a racecourse. Beau Brummie Bulldog, of Birmingham City FC, won. 

2000: Word spread, and 49 mascots lined up, with Watford FC’s Harry the Hornet stinging the bookmakers in a flying finish. 

2001: Controversy as Freddie the Fox was first past the post, but turned out to be an Olympic athlete. Uproar ensued, and Dazzler the Lion (Rushden & Diamonds FC) roared as he was proclaimed the new winner.

2002: Chaddy the Owl (Oldham Athletic FC) flew to victory amidst claims that he was another ‘ringer’. The accusations were unfounded – it had been Chaddy’s vigorous training routine that enabled him to wing it.

2003: For the second year Chaddy the Owl was crowned victor, but only after several rivals were distracted by a female streaker. An attempted £10,000 betting coup using a Commonwealth Games gold medallist as Sedge the Field Mouse failed when one of the rodent’s feet fell off.

2004: The year of Graham the Gorilla, the mascot of local football club Finedon Volta FC, who sent the crowd bananas.

2005: The bookies expected Chaddy and Graham to dominate, but the Sun newspaper’s Scoop 6 Squirrel drove everyone nuts with a stunning turn of foot.

2006: Football charity Kick 4 Life’s mascot Mickey The Monkey proved he was the business despite an attempted ‘rugby’ tackle on him in the closing stages. Sammy Saint was second for the second year.

2007: Wacky Macky Bear saw off the 2006 winner Mickey the Monkey to win for Saffron Walden FC on his Grand National debut.

2008: The tenth running of the mascot race saw Wacky Macky Bear win for the second year, with Cambridgeshire-based mascots filling second, third and fourth spots.