The Four Most Memorable Grand National Moments
April 07, 2017
Not only is the Grand National one of the world’s most iconic horse races, but it can also lay claim to being the most dramatic. After all, it was first contested back in 1839, and since then we have seen a number of thrilling races, huge controversies and earth-shattering upsets.
With the 2017 instalment nearly upon us, now is the ideal time to look back at these defining moments, which transcended the sport as a whole and helped to cement the Nationals’ reputation as the UK’s most enduringly popular race.
Foinavon’s Shock Win, 1967
In 168 years’ of Grand National races, just five horses have won at odds of 100/1 or more. Make no mistake; the most dramatic of these triumphs occurred in 1967, when Foinavon romped home in a modern-day iteration of the classic fable ‘the tortoise and the hare’.
Foinavon was a rank outsider prior to the race, so much so that owner John Kempton actually elected to watch another of his runners at Worcester instead. This looked like a sensible decision as the race began, with the horse quickly dropping off the pace and trailing in last place at halfway.
Foinavon’s lack of pace was to serve as a blessing in this instance, however, as a riderless horse caused havoc at the 23rd fence (now called Foinavon in honour of the thoroughbred) and caused many of the race leaders to either fall or veer off-track. So when he finally caught up, Foinavon simply had to take evasive action and plod his way to the most unlikely triumph.
The National That Never Was, 1993
The year of 1993 saw an even more memorable race, although this time for all the wrong reasons. This years’ National is known as the ‘race that never was’, while it remains the only instance in which this iconic steeplechase was declared void.
The drama took place at the very beginning of the race, as despite a false start 30 of the 39 runners began and carried on due to a failed recall process. Seven of the field completed the course, with Esha Ness ironically securing first place with what would have been the second-fastest time ever recorded.
Incredulously, the Jockey Club decided not to re-run the race, although they did take steps to improve the starting and recall processes for future events. The fall-out cost the bookmakers an estimated £75 million in refunded bets, while it remains one of the darkest hours in the history of the race.
Red Rum’s Historic Triumph, 1977
While Red Rum’s win in 1977 was not the most spectacular (he won by several lengths and ran uncontested for much of the race), it remains one of the most popular moments in the history of the event.
At the time, the race was under threat of folding, as public interest had begun to dwindle in previous years. Red Rum’s consecutive second place finishes in 1975 and 1976 helped to recapture the public’s imagination, however, as the much-loved horse began his emotive quest to become the the first to win the race three times.
He duly romped home in ’77, cementing his legacy and reigniting the public’s love of the Grand National. This remains one of the most iconic National moments of all time, and one that has transcended the sport of kings.
Neptune Collonges and the Closest Ever Finish, 2012
We finish with one of the most thrilling races of all time, and one that provided fans with the closest ever finish.
Neptune Collonges had the distinction of being a grey horse, and only the third of its kind to win the National. He pipped Sunnyhillboy after a photo finish, with the stewards taking an inordinate amount of time to determine the eventual winner. Fans held their breath while the finish was reviewed, with anticipation giving way to joyous celebration for some as trainer Paul Nicholls earned his first major triumph at the 53rd time of asking.
A memorable race for all involved, the 2012 Grand National delivered the kind of finish scarcely seen since Red Rum’s maiden win in 1973. It is certainly one to remember, and a race that will be recalled by fans in future generations too.