One For Arthur shot into the public eye back in 2017 when he became just the second Scootish-trained winner of the Aintree Grand National. It was a moment his trainer, Lucinda Russell, will forever cherish.
The star retired from racing in October last year, but still remains a firm fixture at Russell’s yard in Kinross. We caught up with the pair as they look back on that remarkable day four years ago.
What was it like winning the Grand National with One For Arthur?
The whole way up until the National, we had this fantastic athlete in One For Arthur, we were honing and tuning.
Everyone worked very hard, everyone had a part to play in producing him, whether that was the farrier, the girl that does the massage, the lad that trained him.
One For Arthur went to the race in the most amazing form. On the day, during the race, all the emotions come to the surface – there’s excitement and enthusiasm but there’s a little worry and anxiety around how he’s going to run. But ultimately, I had an immense trust in the horse.
Throughout most of the race he travelled in behind most of field saving energy. When he crossed the Melling road for the last time, he strode towards the front round the outside and I think it was the first time the commentators mentioned him in the race.
In that strong position going into the last four fences, I knew with his staying power that he would get home the winner.
As a trainer you experience that moment in normal races when you’re going to win and it’s a great feeling but it was a very different and extreme feeling when I knew One For Arthur was in control and going to win the National.
Nothing can prepare you for the light-headedness and the pure elation. There was a huge amount of admiration for Derek Fox as a jockey, the stable staff getting One For Arthur right for the big day and of course big admiration for One For Arthur.
I remember seeing One For Arthur in the unsaddling enclosure, seeing his bravery, his enjoyment of the race and how pleased he was with himself. It was something he hugely enjoyed doing and he loved jumping those Aintree fences.
Such a big day for everyone involved, Derek Fox and the owners Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung, they must have had an amazing experience?
I watched the race with Deborah and Belinda, we’re close friends. Seeing him win was liked being a child again in being able to share a present, being able to share such a wonderful experience.
One For Arthur brought us closer together which is what the brilliant sport of racing can do, racehorses bonding people together. It’s something that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.
It was fantastic for Derek, he’s a very, very good horseman. He was with us at the yard for a few years before the National. His riding had come on so much, his experience and his knowledge. He’s got a very innate ability to read a race well and a great coolness, he doesn’t seem to get worried.
One For Arthur is retired now, what has he been doing since?
We took the decision in October 2020 to retire him, owners Deborah and Belinda were very sensible about it saying that he’s been brilliant but decided that now is the right time to move on. They wanted him to relax and unwind with us at the yard so he’s till amongst his old friends.
He still has a routine, he doesn’t get ridden every day. He goes out in the field every day and he’s looked after. He stays in at night at the moment, soon he’ll be able to be out all the time when the weather gets a bit better.
I think at some point in the summer, he’ll continue with the next phase of his life that will hopefully be him going hunting, doing some eventing and those sort of activities.
What sort of character is he?
He’s very professional in his work and likes doing his exercises. He’s always been a horse with a lot of self-confidence and he’s very brave, not scared of anything. He loves doing new things, in the summer, when we start training a little on the Flat and then move into doing some showjumping, he always loved doing that.
For all his strong characteristics, he’s a bit of a softy to the people around him and have spent a lot of time with him.
We’ll make sure that One For Arthur is rehomed somewhere which suits him and keeps him exercising and doing different activities. One For Arthur will probably do some hunting or eventing which I’m sure he’ll take to with his normal confidence and enthusiasm.
It’s funny when he had to learn to cope with press days which we had a number before and during the Grand National. He was always very good, he would always stand at the door, prick his ears and do the right thing then suddenly he’d get bored and you would have to give him a carrot to keep his concentration.
If he didn’t have any carrots, he’d just turn away and walk to the back of his box at the end of the photoshoot. He’s always been a bit like that, he loves his carrots but his biggest treat is actually going out in the field and rolling in the mud.
Where do your former racehorses go after retirement?
Our ex-racehorses go to a number of different places which are all well vetted. It’s very important and we put a lot of effort making sure the right horse is a good match with the new home they’re going into.
Each horse after retirement would like a different way of life, some like to take it easy and relax, others like to keep on exercising for as long as possible.
We encourage people if their circumstances changes whether they’re moving or they can no longer afford the horse that they take the horse back to us so we find another suitable and happy home for them.