Since it’s first running in 1839, the Grand National at Aintree has captured the public’s attention quite unlike any other spectacle in British sport.
More eyes tune in to watch this horse race than any other and jockeys make no secret that the nerves beforehand are incomparable to anything else.
As ever this year promises to get the adrenaline coursing through the veins of everyone watching and participating.
Although every renewal can be labelled dramatic, we’ve picked out the top five grandstand finishes that stick out in our minds as being the most action packed. This year’s race certainly has a lot of history to live up to!
We kickoff with the closest finish in the National history. At no point in the Grand National’s long history had the marathon race been decided by the winning distance of a nose.
Neptune Collonges had been an outstanding performer for trainer Paul Nicholls but had never really ever escaped the huge shadows cast by illustrious stablemates Kauto Star and Denman throughout his career.
That all changed in the blink of an eye as he sprouted wings up the home straight to pip Sunnyhillboy on the line by a nostril in 2012.
Any one of three horses could have won at the Elbow but the 33/1 grey ridden by Daryl Jacob dug deep and kept persevering all the way to the end.
The wild celebrations shows what it means to win the Grand National. Daryl Jacob struggled to put the win into words, simply saying “you can’t beat this!”
A different kind of race to Neptune Collonges’ grandstand finish. The drama of Don’t Push It’s victory was not born out of the closeness of the races but more out of what the win meant to the winning rider and his adoring public.
The Grand National was the one major honour that had eluded AP McCoy throughout his long and successful career. 14 times he’d been denied victory prior to 2010 and the outpouring of emotion that the usually stoic McCoy gave as he crossed the finishing line just showed what it meant to the champ.
It was the final piece in the puzzle and left McCoy feeling complete as jockey! Off the back of this win, his adoring fan base would then sweep him to another landmark success as he won BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
McCoy said “winning the biggest race in the world is everything. Don’t Push It made a couple of little mistakes, though they were probably more my fault … but who cares!?”
A quite spectacular comeback from a gallant old horse, Amberleigh House embodied the Grand National spirit of grit and determination above all else.
Even as they jumped the penultimate fence Amberleigh House and jockey Graham Lee remained a long way behind the leading trio of Hedgehunter (who went on to win the race in 2005), Clan Royale and Lord Atterbury but by the Elbow the rivals couldn’t deal with the finishing pace of the veteran 12 year old.
The late Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain became the leading Grand National trainer with four wins, three of the previous wins came in the 1970s with the legendary Red Rum. At the time, a tearful McCain said “he was foot-perfect. He’s professional. He’s the best thing that has happened to me for a long, long time!”
The first of Red Rum’s three National wins (1973, 1974 and 1977) and without doubt the most dramatic of the trio.
The great Australian chaser Crisp had set a remorseless gallop from the outset and, despite carrying top weight, appeared to have put all of his rivals to the sword with over half a mile to go.
Second placed Red Rum was the only horse to even attempt to go after him as the chasing pack had falsely believed that Crisp would simply tire quickly and come back to them long before the finish.
Having cleared the last fence still with a gap of 15 lengths between him and the tiring Crisp, Red Rum and rider Brian Fletcher began to eat up the lead with every stride. Heading into the final 100 yards Crisp still had a decent lead but the huge weight of 12 stone (some 23lbs more than Red Rum) eventually saw Red Rum collar him less than 20 yards from home.
The race is widely regarded as one of the greatest Grand Nationals ever and it was completed in a record time of nine minutes and two seconds!
The most unlucky defeat in Grand National history!
Owned by one of National Hunt racing’s greatest supporters, the Queen Mother, Devon Loch looked for all the money that he was going to win but for an astonishing slip just 50 yards from the line.
The crowd had already begun celebrating a royal win by throwing their hats in the air thinking that Devon Loch had done it! The ensuing slip up sent the crowd into a shocked silence and consigned both Devon Loch and his jockey Dick Francis to a place in the sports history books of unluckiest losers.
Jockey Francis, who struggled to cope with the loss for many years, went on to become a best-selling author of crime-fiction novels while the Queen Mother never came as close to winning the coveted prize ever again. Despite the undoubted heartache the The Queen Mother summed up the amazing moment with the famous phrase “Oh, that’s racing.”