As British racing’s most famous event, it stands to reason that the Grand National has seen its fair share of pretty iconic moments. We’ve compiled seven of the best:
Red Rum, 1977
It’s impossible not to start with the biggest and the best achievement of them all. Red Rum had finished second in the two previous Grand Nationals and his crusade to become the first horse to win the race three times captured the imagination of the British public – while also reviving interest in the race which was in threat of folding.
It’s true that the run itself wasn’t the most eventful; Rummy went best from the start and never looked like falling. But the feat remains unsurpassed and the emotional moment was voted in 2002 as BBC viewers’ 22nd most iconic sporting moment of all time.
Don’t Push It, 2010
Less about the horse than the man, this one. By 2010, 14-time Champion Jockey AP McCoy had ridden 3,000 winners, but failed in 14 attempts to win the National. He’d finished third in three different years
“I had a strange feeling early on that the horse was enjoying what he was doing”, McCoy told the BBC. “But you have to keep your concentration and the more the race went on, the more I got the buzz.”
Don’t Push It bode his time on the race then kicked on at the 26th to add Britain’s most famous race to McCoy’s dazzling CV.
Red Marauder, 2001
By their very nature, Grand Nationals are always a slog. Only the strongest, most consistent stayers make it to the end, never mind place. 2001’s race drove the point to extremis.
Amid wet, heavy conditions that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Somme, just four horses finished – while only two of them didn’t fall at all. But it was the unfancied 33-1 shot Red Marauder that won out, despite nearly going down five times, pipping Smarty at the second-last fence to win this most messy of Nationals.
Just 5 horses have won at 100-1 in 168 years of the Grand National – the last of which was Mon Mome in 2009 – but surely the most dramatic of those was Foinavon at the height of the swinging sixties in a classic tale of the tortoise and the hare.
Foinavon was named after a mountain and he was about as fast as one too – while his chances of success were so miniscule that his owner John Kempton elected to watch another of his runners at Worcester instead.
But ironically, the gelding’s distinct lack of pace helped him win the National.
He was miles off the pace at the 23rd fence when a riderless horse wreaked havoc, turning along the fence andcausing countless other runners to fall or refuse to jump. Because he was so far off the chasing pack, Foinavon could take evasive action and was the only horse to actually jump the 23rd first time.
This most unlikely winner eased home and the 23rd is now named Foinavon in his honour..
Corbiere, one of the finest jumpers of his generation, was the first ever Grand National winner to be trained by a female. Jenny Pitman also trained the 1995 winner Royal Athlete, but Corbiere was her best horse and finished third in both 1984 and 1985.
8 year-old winners are few and far between in the National – just 3 have won in the last 30 years – but Corbiere won it with aplomb, displaying a stunning jumping ability to bag a Welsh National / Grand National double.
Neptune Collonges, 2012
2012 saw the closest ever finish to a Grand National, as Neptune Collonges won by a nosehair – literally.
The grey horse – only the third of its colour to ever win the Grand National – beat Sunnyhillboy after a photo finish and was Paul Nicholls’ first win in the big race after 53 attempts. John Hales, Neptune’s owner said (presumably after a stiff drink) that he’d be retired immediately. That’s a pretty good way to bow out.
Red Rum, 1973
A Grand National history piece bookended by Red Rum is only right. But Rummy was far from the only star of this race, which consisted of a gargantuan battle between the victor and Crisp, a champion jumper in his own right.
Crisp made early ground and jumped impeccably on the tough 70s jumps to build a seemingly-unsurpassable lead of 30 lengths halfway through. But he specialised over shorter distance and Red Rum began to show his staying class in the final third of the race, bringing the gap back to 15 lengths.
“The Race That Never Was”
An added bonus – a 19th hole so to speak (a golf pun with the Masters’ on…) – Esha Ness will always be remembered as the horse which won the race that never was.
39 runners began the 1993 and, despite efforts from the starter to notify them of a false start, 30 carried on running. Esha Ness was the winner – but the race was declared void. £75 million in bets staked were returned, hence the race’s nickname, and the fact it was void means it falls into a separate category; Grand National moments that never were!
Who’ll win this year’s Grand National? See who we’re backing on our Grand National tips page.
(Red Rum Image: Paul under CC By 2.0)