Against the Odds: The 5 Grand National Winners who Defied the Odds

Against the Odds: The 5 Grand National Winners who Defied the Odds
Penry Downey
Thursday 30th March 2017

The Grand National is a race where no horse can be ruled out, with this incredibly tough race not just about how much talent you have, you need have to guts and heart to win a National. On that vein, there have been many horses (and jockeys) through the years that have overcome the odds to take victory in the National Hunt showpiece, creating some brilliant feel good moments. We have our Grand National Tips live on the site now who are looking to add their name to the roll of honour. Here are five horses who overcame all the odds to take victory in the Grand National –

Peter Simple – 1853 Grand National

Many will know the name Peter Simple, as he became synonymous with the National as he is the oldest ever winner of the race at the age of fifteen. That however is only part of the story, as for many he had not a hopes wish of winning the big race. In 1849 he won the National for the first time for trainer and jockey Tom Cunningham, winning by three lengths at odds of 20/1 and off a weight of 11-00. However in the three years that follower, he was unable to complete the National course so when he lined up for the 1853 Grand National, whether he could even get round was the main question, not even the fact he was now aged fifteen. This was however his year again, taking victory at odds of 9/1 and becoming the oldest winner of the National, a record that has yet to be surpassed and it’s doubtful it ever will be.

Battleship – 1938 Grand National

American flat bred and standing at only 1.55 metres, Battleship was nicknamed the ‘American Pony’ and was a small but muscular horse. On that basis alone, you’d struggle to believe that he was a Grand National horse, but he still is the only horse to have won both the American and Aintree Grand Nationals. He took victory in the 1934 American Grand National and was transferred to Britain subsequently in 1936 where he was to be trained by Reginald Hobbs with the 1937 Grand National the main aim. He won several races 1936 and 1937 for the trainer but critics remained sceptical of his National chances, stating he didn’t ‘look like a stayer’ and the Sporting Life commented that ‘he is too small to make appeal to me as a National horse‘. He was withdrawn at the final acceptance stage as Hobbs felt the race was coming too soon, therefore he was prepared for the next year’s National instead. Despite all the factors against him, he came home to win the 1938 National in a time of nine minutes and twenty-seven seconds, beating Royal Danieli in a photo finish. What made his victory even more intriguing was that he was the first horse since Grudon in 1901 to be an entire, with Battleship remaining the latest horse to be. Watch Battleship win below, the slow motion at Valentines is an amazing shot!

Red Rum – 1973/1974/1977 Grand National

The horse of a lifetime, Red Rum started out as a sprinter in cheap races on the flat, winning many races as a two and three year old. After being passed around yards, he found his footing with Ginger McCain, for whom he’d win his three Grand Nationals. He took his first win in the National in the 1973 race and coming to the final fence of that renewal, he was fifteen lengths down on the leader Crisp. That rival however started to tire and Red Rum came home with a rattle to score in the shadows of the post and record his first National victory, with that win being considered one of the best in National history. With how he started his career out, perhaps all his victories in the National are against the odds, but when retaining his crown in 1974 he certainly had a mountain to climb, carrying twelve stone. He would go on to shrug off the huge weight burden to win the race ahead of L’Escargot, who in his own right was a two time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and would go on to victory in the National the following year. For Red Rum, he would have to contend with second in both 1975 and 1976, but there was to be one last hurrah for this incredible horse. Despite not looking at his best coming into the 1977 National, he got back to somewhat near his best on his final preparation run for the race, though he’d again have to try and overcome top weight of 11st 8lb. He did just that though, coming home to win by around twenty-five lengths for a very famous victory. The next horse to carry such a huge weight to National glory would be Many Clouds in 2015, showing just how brilliant that performance was.

Aldaniti – 1981 Grand National

You will struggle to find a more heart warming and feel good story in Grand National history than Aldaniti’s triumph in the 1981 renewal of the big race. In July 1979 Aldaniti’s jockey Bob Champion was diagnosed with testicular cancer, with the horse himself suffering a near career ending leg injury in November 1979 at Sandown and would be off the course for over a year. Thankfully Champion made a fully recovery and was able to partner Aldaniti for the 1981 National, with the horse also recovering from his injuries and installing himself as a strong contender when winning the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot that season. He was sent off second favourite for the contest and took victory by four lengths for a fully deserved victory under Bob Champion. Watch the tear jerking 1981 renewal below, a race so iconic that they made it into a film!

Many Clouds – 2015 Grand National

Leading up to the 2015 National, it was very obvious that Many Clouds was a top class stayer, winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in the lead up to the race and also finished sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his final preparation run for the big race a month later. He was installed as a 25/1 shot chance for the race, owing to his top weight of 11st 9lb and the fact he’d had a tough season before the race. He remained prominent throughout the contest under Leighton Aspell and was left in front with five fences to go and Aspell never looked back from there. He was driven right out but held on grimly to land a famous victory and become the first horse since Red Rum to carry top weight to victory. Many Clouds will always be remembered as a very special horse after his unfortunate passing after the Cotswold Chase and is one of the greatest in Grand National history.

Who will add their name to the winners column of the world’s most famous race in 2017. We took a look back at the key Grand National trials from earlier in the season looking for clues in our Grand National round up.

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