1: Foinavon (1967)
Did you know Grand National winner Foinavon was once owned by Anne Duchess of Westminster whose colours were also carried by three-time Gold Cup winner Arkle? Both horses were named after Scottish mountains. Probably not but you are likely to be aware he scored in the 1967 National at odds of 100/1 after a mêlée at the 23rd fence saw every one of his 27 remaining rivals fall, refuse or be brought down.
Foinavon, whose chances of winning were so remote his owner opted to travel to Worcester on race day to ride another of his horses and his trainer also missed the meeting, had the 23rd fence officially named after him in 1984. This is the smallest obstacle on the course.
Foinavon was brought down in the following year’s National but did win two more races before being retired. The last victory came at Uttoxeter in a race where the remainder of the field (of six) had either fallen or been brought down!
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2: Red Rum (1973, 1974 & 1977)
Red Rum is a household name and rightly so. The horse that won three Grand Nationals for a car dealer who trained horses from his back yard and galloped them on the beach at Southport in Merseyside – what a story.
In hindsight it was all so easy for ‘Rummy’ but given he was bred to be a sprinter on the flat and he had been through a string of trainers suffering from pedal osteitis (a debilitating, incurable bone disease in his hoof) before joining Ginger McCain, his National wins were all the more incredible.
But it’s often overlooked Red Rum also finished second in two Grand Nationals meaning he jumped 150 Grand National fences without ever making a mistake. He was beaten a short-head in a Hennessy Gold Cup and also won a Scottish Grand National.
3: Tipperary Tim (1928)
39 years before Foinavon was the beneficiary of a Grand National melee another 100/1 shot, Tipperary Tim, benefited from a pile-up which helped him on to his way to Aintree victory.
In the 1928 Grand National 42 horses met the starters tape and given a month of rain had led to heavy under-foot conditions no one was expecting a glut of finishers. But no one could have predicted just two horses would complete the course with one being remounted to do so.
This time the carnage came at the Canal Turn on the first circuit, it left just seven horses in the race. One by one they succumbed to the conditions until three horses remained at the penultimate obstacle. One fell there, and when Billy Barton fell at the last (the 33/1 shot later remounted), amateur rider Bill Dutton crossed the line ahead on 100/1 shot Tipperary Tim.
4: Battleship (1949)
In 1949 Vincent O’Brien became the first trainer to fly horses to the UK for a race. Suffice to say in 1938 when Battleship was sent from America to contest the world’s greatest steeplechase he first had to endure a long sea crossing.
But while he had won the American Grand National in 1934 (he is the only horse to win both races) he had plenty going against him. At 15.1 hands he was a tiny horse, nicknamed by the press as the ‘American pony’. Complicating things further his rider, Bruce Hobbs, was an inexperienced 17-year-old who stood over 6ft tall.
Flat-bred by the mighty Man o’War and an entire (he had not been gelded) he had looked a non-stayer in his prep-races so went off a dismissive 40/1 shot. There was no fluke about his fast finishing victory though and he returned to America in July 1938 aboard the SS Manhattan where he got a hero’s reception.
Battleship is the last entire to have won the National.
5: Bob Champion & Aldaniti (1981)
In July 1979 it was declared very unlikely Bob Champion would live for another year not alone ride again or contest a Grand National. But as brave as Aldaniti, the horse he rode to National victory who had overcome so many injuries, the 33-year-old overcame adversity to give cancer sufferers everywhere hope.
The truly inspirational story was turned into a brilliant movie (1984’s Champions staring John Hurt and Edward Woodward) and Bob Champion has been raising money for cancer research via his Bob Champion Cancer Trust since 1983.
* Grand National odds correct at the time of writing. All odds are subject to change.