Top 5 Grand Nationals
The Grand National, it’s one of the highlights of the sporting calendar. Even if you don’t know a thing about horse racing, furlongs or Red Rums, you can’t help but be tied down to a sweepstake. No sporting event seems to engulf the nation in such anticipation, waving their betting slip at their horse with the rainbow jersey and crazy name you can’t even remember. It’s unique.
It’s nothing new however; in fact it was first contested in 1839. Queen Victoria had barely been sat on the thrown for two years and I would have been celebrating my -160th birthday. Ironically, the name of the first winning horse was ‘Lottery’, uncannily foreshadowing how the event can often descend into a role of the dice or drop of a hoof.
With the 2016 edition creeping over the horizon, here are my top five Grand Nationals, each earning their places for very different reasons:
- Mr Fisk- 1990
In the 144th renewal of the Grand National it was Mr Fisk who took the glory in spectacular fashion albeit being at the hand of an unlikely jockey. Kim Bailey’s runner screamed to victory in a record time of eight minutes and 47.8 seconds. It shattered the previous record of the legendary Red Rum by a hearty 14 seconds. What made the victory all the more striking was the fact Marcus Armytage was in the saddle- he remains the last amateur to win the National.
- Red Rum- 1977
While his record may have succumbed in 1990, there can be no keeping Red Rum away from the top five. After all, he’s the event’s greatest ever horse. Period. His third victory came in 1977 when he famously defeated Crisp in a heated battle that saw a late burst settle the affair. Victory in ’78 was also sweet but Red Rum’s last gasp push to usurp Crisp after the last fence proved his finest first place. It reaffirmed his and trainer Ginger McCain’s already legendary status.
- Don’t Push It- 2010
Arguably the sports greatest ever jockey- AP McCoy, certainly had to wait a while to win the big one. Amidst constant deluges of success, the Grand National persisted to avoid the Northen Irishman until 2010. Riding the aptly named Don’t Push It, the Arsenal fan crowned perhaps the most emotional victory in the event’s history. Riding through the line in a burst of joy, five lengths ahead of Black Apalachi in second, still brings a tingle down the spine.
- Devon Loch- 1956
Now, this Grand National is placed where it is for far different reasons to the preceding entries. In fact, Devon Loch never won the big one and actually suffered one of the most infamous sporting chokes during his doomed race. With a seemingly unassailable five-length lead and the finishing post in sight, Devon Loch appeared to jump a phantom hurdle and flopped to the floor. The cause of this baffling fall remains hotly debated with the distraction of a shadow proving the most prominent theory.
Nonetheless, the Queen Mother owned and Dick Francis saddled horse choked with victory in its grasp. E.S.B burst past Devon Loch and claimed a victory so fortuitous it almost appeared embarrassing. After the jaw-dropping incident, the Queen Mother dismissed it by famously stating: ‘that’s racing’.
- Foinavon- 1967
They say fortune favours the brave and in 1967, Aintree was seemingly besieged by the fickle finger of fortune. In a hectic and chaotic National that unleashed absolute havoc upon the field, 100/1 long shot Foinavon produced an improbable victory. A pile-up on the 23rd fence allowed the outsider to traverse its way through a swamp of felled horses and break into the lead. 17 jockeys desperately remounted their beasts and gave chase but in vein.
Jockey John Buckingham rode the fairytale winner past the finishing post and to unprecedented plaudits. The astonishing occurrence was to such a degree that the jump is now known as the Foinavon fence. While luck undoubtedly saturated the event, it goes to show that the Grand National is indeed a Lottery…
Kobe Tong, YJA Senior Correspondent