Timeline: Grand National’s most historic moments – part 3

Dreams come true and history is made for plenty of fairytale endings in Aintree’s Grand National: the ‘world’s greatest race’… 

Facts courtesy of Aintree Racecourse.


Red Rum created history by winning the Grand National, by 25 lengths, for a record third time under Tommy Stack. His three victories and two seconds made him the greatest horse in Grand National history. The Grand National meeting became an all Jump event (there had previously been some Flat racing staged), with the hope that the three days would, at some point, rival The Cheltenham Festival. Charlotte Brew was the first woman to ride in the Grand National but her mount Barony Fort refused four fences from home.


Red Rum was withdrawn and retired on the eve of the Grand National after a leg injury. Lucius, trained by Gordon Richards and ridden by Bob Davies, prevailed in a pulsating finish which saw just two and a half lengths cover the first five. The Sun newspaper sponsored and came back again from 1980 to 1983 inclusive.


Rubstic, trained by John Leadbetter in Roxburghshire, became the first Scottish-trained Grand National winner. He was ridden by Maurice Barnes, whose father had finished second on Wyndburgh in 1962. The Colt Car Company backed the race.


Despite seeming to be unsuited by heavy ground, the Tim Forster-trained Ben Nevis won the Grand National in desperate conditions, which saw only four finishers. The 12-year-old was ridden by merchant banker Charles Fenwick, who became the second American amateur to triumph following Tommy Smith 15 years earlier. Aintree mourned the death of Mirabel Topham, who died aged 88.


An emotional year in which winning jockey Bob Champion, who in late 1979 was told he had cancer and only months to live, overcame adversity on Aldaniti, who himself had almost been retired because of leg trouble. Runner-up Spartan Missile added to the story as he was ridden by 54-year-old grandfather and amateur rider John Thorne.


Dick Saunders, who died in January, 2002, became the oldest successful rider at 48 on 7/1 favourite Grittar, his first and only Grand National ride. The amateur jockey was also the only member of the Jockey Club, which owns and runs Aintree, to ride a winner of the world’s most famous chase. The Grand National Appeal was launched to rescue the race once and for all.


Fundraisers failed to raise enough money to purchase Aintree and the race was run under the auspices of the Jockey Club after an extension had been agreed with Bill Davies. Jenny Pitman became the first woman to train the winner when Corbiere beat Greasepaint. She also sent out Royal Athlete to success 12 years later. She retired from training in 1999 and has written thrillers with a racing theme.


Seagram Distillers stepped in as sponsors of the Grand National. They provided the solid foundation which enabled the course to be finally purchased from Bill Davies and to be run and managed by Jockey Club Racecourses (then known as Racecourse Holdings Trust). Ivan Straker, the Seagram UK chairman, started the ball rolling after reading a passionate newspaper article by journalist Lord Oaksey. There was a new record of 23 finishers, led home by Hallo Dandy who lived to the grand old age of 33.


Tim Forster gained his third and final Grand National training success with the Hywel Davies-ridden Last Suspect, owned by the Duchess of Westminster. The trainer had been victorious with Well To Do in 1972 and American import Ben Nevis in 1980.


West Tip, trained by Michael Oliver and ridden by Richard Dunwoody, won on the second of his six runs in the Grand National. The chaser was also runner-up to Little Polveir in 1989 and fourth in both 1987 and 1988. He fell in 1985 race at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit and finished 10th in 1990.


Jim Joel became the oldest winning owner when Maori Venture won by five lengths. The 92-year- old also joined an elite band of owners to be successful in both the Grand National and the Derby (successful with Royal Palace in 1987). In his will, Joel left Maori Venture to winning jockey Steve Knight.


A statue of Red Rum by Philip Blacker was unveiled by Princess Anne. Rhyme ‘N’ Reason survived a blunder at Becher’s on the first circuit to beat Durham Edition by four lengths.


The Grand National celebrated its 150th birthday and Little Polveir, ridden by Jimmy Frost, took the honours. Prize money extended down to the sixth horse home for the first time.


Mr Frisk set a new record Grand National winning time of 8m 47.8s when partnered by Marcus Armytage, the most recent amateur to be successful.


The last Seagram-sponsored Grand National was run and victory went to the aptly-named Seagram whom Ivan Straker had twice had the opportunity to buy.


Martell Cognac, then a Seagram subsidiary, took over sponsorship of the Grand National and the rest of the meeting. The seven-year contract was worth over £4 million. Party Politics won.


The Grand National was declared void after a false start amid chaotic scenes. The contest was “won” by the Jenny Pitman-trained Esha Ness, who was among a number of horses whose riders failed to notice starter Keith Brown had called a false start and continued to race, despite efforts of officials to halt proceedings.


Richard Dunwoody, the leading Grand National rider of his generation, gained his second success on Miinnehoma, owned by comedian Freddie Starr and trained by Martin Pipe, to add to his earlier win on West Tip in 1986. Dunwoody was also placed in the race on six occasions. He is now an intrepid explorer and racing pundit. Amateur Rosemary Henderson came fifth on her own horse Fiddlers Pike, the best finishing position achieved by a female rider at that time.


Royal Athlete provided Jenny Pitman with her second Grand National victory. The 12-year-old was partnered by Jason Titley, who was having his first ride over the National fences. The prize money offered increased to £160,000. Red Rum died on 18th October at the old age of 30 and was buried by the winning post.


Rough Quest became the first favourite for 14 years to win the Grand National, obliging at odds of 7/1, but the gelding had to survive a lengthy stewards’ enquiry after hanging left in the closing stages. Winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald famously exclaimed: “Sex is an anti-climax after that!” The race was worth £200,000.


Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the BBC’s ‘voice of racing’, completed his 50th and final commentary on the great race. This was the 150th running of the Grand National at Aintree and the race took place on a Monday after the scheduled running on the Saturday had to be postponed because of an IRA bomb scare. The alert caused the biggest evacuation in the history of the sport but, thanks to determined efforts from the Aintree management and board of directors, the Grand National was rearranged at the unusual time of 5pm on a Monday. Full details of what happened over that eventful weekend are captured in the book ‘Everyone Must Leave – The Day They Stopped The National’, written by Aintree’s press officer Nigel Payne and journalist Dominic Hart. Lord Gyllene was not inconvenienced by the Monday running, offered with £250,000 in total prize money, and won well.


Earth Summit, co-owned by Nigel Payne (see 1997), was the first Grand National winner who had also succeeded in both the Scottish and Welsh Nationals. Winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies famously told the main BBC presenter Des Lynam he didn’t do interviews. The race value went up to £300,000.


Bobbyjo won the Grand National for the trainer Tommy Carberry and his jockey son Paul, giving Ireland a 19th victory. The successful trainer rode the 1975 victor L’Escargot. Martell Cognac renewed its sponsorship of the Grand National and extended the association with Aintree until 2004. The deal was worth a minimum of £4.5 million to Aintree over the six-year term and was the biggest sponsorship deal in British racing history. It saw the value of the race reach £420,000. The age limit for runners was raised to six.


Another Irish father and son combination was successful as Ruby Walsh partnered Papillon, trained by his father Ted, to victory. The nine-year-old had been backed down to 10/1 from 33/1 on the day of the race and cost the bookmakers a reported £10 million. The race was worth £500,000 for the first time.


Red Marauder enabled Norman Mason to become the most recent permit holder – someone who trains horses owned by himself or his family – to send out the Grand National winner. Mason’s assistant Richard Guest was in the saddle. Martin Pipe saddled 10 of the runners – the highest number ever from one trainer – and the best he managed was third with Blowing Wind. Only four horses finished on the heavy ground, with two of those having been remounted, and the winning margin was a distance, the winner completing in 11m 0.10s.


Jim Culloty was the first jockey for 26 years, and the sixth in all, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season when he triumphed aboard Bindaree. Culloty – successful at Cheltenham on Best Mate – had only picked up the on Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge after Jamie Goldstein broke his leg at Ludlow earlier in the week.


Monty’s Pass gave Ireland a third victory in five years when landing a gamble for the members of the Dee Racing Syndicate. The Jimmy Mangan-trained 10-year-old won by 12 lengths under Barry Geraghty and was the 21st Irish scorer.


Amberleigh House gave trainer Ginger McCain an emotional fourth Grand National success following on from Red Rum’s unprecedented three victories in the 1970s. McCain equalled Fred Rimell’s record feat of training four Grand National winners. The successful rider Graham Lee Prize money for the race jumped to £600,000.


Hedgehunter, trained by Ireland’s champion jump trainer Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, gave owner Trevor Hemmings a first Grand National success. He was the first winner since Rhyme ‘N’ Reason in 1988 to carry more than 11 stone to victory and the 22nd Irish victor. Carrie Ford finished fifth on Forest Gunner, equalling the best position achieved by a female rider. This was the initial running as the John Smith’s Grand National and prize money increased by £100,000 to £700,000.


Numbersixvalverde scored for County Kildare trainer Martin Brassil, the 23rd Irish winner. The winner was named after owner Bernard Carroll’s holiday home in the Algarve.


Silver Birch followed Bobbyjo (1999), Papillon (2000), Monty’s Pass (2003), Hedgehunter (2005) and Numbersixvalverde (2006) to become the sixth Irish-trained winner in nine runnings and the 24th in total. Two new grandstands, the Earl of Sefton and Lord Derby, were used for the first time.


Comply Or Die gave David Pipe, son of record- breaking trainer Martin, success in the John Smith’s Grand National during only his second season. The race carried prize money of £800,000.


Venetia Williams became only the second woman to train a Grand National winner when Mon Mome, owned by Vida Bingham and ridden by Liam Treadwell, stormed to victory at odds of 100/1. Total prize money went up to £900,000.


Don’t Push It provided a first John Smith’s Grand National victory for jockey Tony (AP) McCoy, trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus. McCoy, having his 15th ride in the great race, had broken plenty of records during his career but winning the Grand National meant everything. The triumph led to the multiple champion jockey being voted BBC Sports Personality Of The Year. Prize money was boosted to £925,000 and, for the first time, remounting was not allowed.


The McCain family celebrated a fifth training success when Donald sent out Ballabriggs and gave owner Trevor Hemmings a second John Smith’s Grand National winner following Hedgehunter in 2005 as prize money rose to £950,000. It was an emotional time for proud Ginger McCain, successfully with Red Rum three times and Amberleigh House, who saw his son triumph as well. McCain senior passed away just over five months later; two days short of his 81st birthday.


Seven-time champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls gained his first success with Neptune Collonges in a thrilling finish, the first grey to win since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and the third in all. The nose verdict over Sunnyhillboy was the closest margin in the history of the race. Amateur Katie Walsh, whose mount Seabass finished third, also created a Grand National landmark by becoming the highest-placed female rider. Prize money reached a record £975,000 and the age limit for runners was raised to seven. It was the final Grand National run over four and a half miles.


Auroras Encore caused a 66/1 shock when prevailing in the hands of Ryan Mania, the first Scotsman to succeed in 117 years. The winner was trained in Yorkshire, the first to be so since Merryman II in 1960, by Sue Smith, who became the third female trainer to win the race following Jenny Pitman and Venetia Williams. Smith is assisted by her husband Harvey, the famous former showjumping champion. The distance of the Grand National was reduced to four miles, three and a half furlongs, as a shorter run to the first fence was introduced, and plastic frames were put into most of the fences. The total prize fund was again £975,000 and 2013 marked the final year of sponsorship by John Smith’s. Terrestrial television coverage switched from the BBC to Channel 4 for the first time.


Dr Richard Newland, a qualified GP as well as a trainer from a 12-box yard in Worcestershire, and owner John Provan enjoyed success with their first Grand National runner as Pineau De Re scored by five lengths at odds of 25/1. Winning jockey Leighton Aspell, who also celebrated a first Grand National success at the age of 37, retired from race-riding in 2007 only to change his mind 18 months later. There was a false start. Crabbie’s, the UK’s number one selling Alcoholic Ginger Beer, took over sponsorship of the Grand National, with the prize money raised to a record £1 million.


Many Clouds became the first Hennessy Gold Cup (Newbury – now the Ladbrokes Trophy) winner to go on to victory in the Grand National when beating Saint Are by a length and three quarters. The Oliver Sherwood-trained eight-year- old carried 11st 9lb to victory – the highest weight since Red Rum was successful under 12st in 1974. Leighton Aspell was the first jockey to win the Grand National in consecutive years since Brian Fletcher on Red Rum in 1973 and 1974, and the first to do so on different horses since Bryan Marshall in 1953 and 1954. Trevor Hemmings joined a select group of four people to have owned three Grand National winners. Paul Moloney also registered a noteworthy feat as he was placed in the Grand National for a seventh consecutive year, this time finishing fourth on Alvarado.


Rule The World, the 25th Irish-trained winner, remarkably gained his first victory over fences in the Grand National as he beat The Last Samuri by six lengths for the first running at the re-measured distance of four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards. The previous horse to succeed in the Grand National having not won a race over fences beforehand was Voluptuary in 1884, while the last novice chaser to score was Mr What in 1958. David Mullins celebrated his first Grand National ride with victory, while owner Michael O’Leary of Ryanair fame and trainer Mouse Morris also enjoyed initial Grand National success. 13-year-old Vics Canvas blundered badly at Becher’s Brook first time around, but Robbie Dunne produced a miraculous recovery and the pair went on to finish third. Richard Johnson had his 20th ride in the race, equalling the record number set by Sir Tony McCoy in 2015, but was out of luck again as he pulled up Kruzhlinin – seconds on What’s Up Boys (2002) and Balthazar King (2014) remain his best finishes. This was the final Grand National run under Crabbie’s sponsorship and the last to be broadcast on Channel 4.


Lucinda Russell became the fourth woman to train the winner of the Grand National following Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams and Sue Smith as One For Arthur stayed on powerfully to beat Cause Of Causes by four and a half lengths. The winner became the second horse trained in Scotland to win the race, following Rubstic in 1979. Derek Fox continued the fine recent record of jockeys winning on their Grand National debut, emulating Ryan Mania (2013) and David Mullins (2016). Prize money offered again came to £1 million, with the great race televised on ITV for the first time in its history.


Irish-trained horses fill the first four places for the first time ever, with Tiger Roll leading home Pleasant Company, Bless The Wings and Anibale Fly. It was a second Randox Health Grand National success for both owner Gigginstown House Stud (following Rule The Word in 2016) and trainer Gordon Elliott (following Silver Birch in 2007). Tiger Roll was partnered to victory by Davy Russell, who at 38 was the oldest rider in the 2018 line-up. Prize money remained at £1 million, but it was distributed according to a different formula, with the second to the 10th home receiving more. A record-equalling number of female jockeys, three, took part. Two professionals, Bryony Frost and Rachael Blackmore, participated for the first time, with the former finishing fifth on Milansbar, while amateur rider Katie Walsh, a Grand National ambassador for a fourth year, took part in the Grand National for a sixth and final time when partnering Baie Des Iles to come home 12th and last of the runners to complete the course.


Trainer Gordon Elliott was overcome with emotion as Tiger Roll, ridden by Davy Russell, returned after winning his second consecutive Randox Health Grand National. Tiger Roll, a nine-year-old by Authorized carrying 11st 5lb, became the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win two consecutive Randox Health Grand Nationals (he also has four Cheltenham Festival wins). He was sent off the 4/1 favourite, and beat 66/1 chance Magic Of Light (Jessica Harrington/Paddy Kennedy) by two and three-quarter lengths. This was a third Randox Health Grand National success for Elliott, who had also trained Silver Birch to win the 2007 renewal of the £1-million race. Tiger Roll is owned by Gigginstown House Stud, the racing and breeding operation of Ryanair supremo Michael O’ Leary.


The Aintree Grand National was shockingly cancelled at what felt like the last minute, after the Covid-19 pandemic swept around the world. Britain went into Lockdown on 23rd March 2020 and the Grand National, due to run on 4th April that year, was replaced by ITV with a Virtual race, valiantly presented from the homes of Nick Luck and other guests.


Rachael Blackmore made history as she became the first woman to win the Aintree Grand National, aboard Minella Times.

After partnering the eight year old to an historic six and a half-length victory, the 31 year old jockey said: “I am so lucky to be riding these horses for Henry [de Bromhead]. This is so massive. I had such a beautiful passage around.

“Minella Times jumped fantastically and didn’t miss a beat anywhere. I couldn’t believe it, jumping the second-last – I don’t know, it’s just incredible. When I hit the rail and I heard I was four lengths in front, I knew he was going to gallop to the line, but we all know what can happen on the run-in here. When I crossed the line, I don’t know how I felt – it’s incredible.”

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