There are many anniversaries to be celebrated during the 2017 Randox Health Grand National, and one of them will be of the most unexpected victory in 1967. A horse no-one ever thought could win did just that 50 years ago. Foinavon and his jockey -John Buckingham – entered the history books.
This year, John’s widow and 70 of their closest friends and family will be coming to Aintree to mark the anniversary.
It’s being marked in a special BBC Merseyside tribute by the well-known racing correspondent Mike Hughes, who was the last person to interview John.
This Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National marks fifty years to the very day of the most extraordinary race in Aintree history.
Foinavon was the 100/1 winner in 1967 but the huge price about the winner was only part of the story.
Given the challenging nature of the course of the world’s most famous race, there’d been the usually array of fallers on the first circuit. Becher’s Brook has a fearsome reputation as one of the most difficult fences in National Hunt racing, but all the horses left standing on the second circuit managed to jump it.
Next up was the 23rd fence, the smallest on the course, nobody could have foreseen what was to happen.
A loose horse, Popham Down refused and turned away from the fence – preventing almost every other horse from clearing the fence. Except one. Foinavon was thirty lengths off the pace, and under the expertise of jockey John Buckingham , managed to pick a way through and jumped Becher’s like a stag.
The favourite for the race Honey End remounted and was making up ground but Foinavon drew clear to win the race in emphatic fashion.
John Buckingham was the toast of the weighing room and his fellow jockeys praised him to the heavens. Incredibly John only got the ride on Foinavon on the Wednesday before the race after three jockeys had turned down the ride. The night before the race he slept on two armchairs in a nearby Guest House.
Foinavon’s victory was so unexpected that even the horse’s owner and trainer were elsewhere on the day.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the race, BBC Radio Merseyside have put together a documentary, called simply “Foinavon”
It will be broadcast this Wednesday night on Merseyside Sport 6-7pm.
The programme includes an interview with the hero of the day John Buckingham. I travelled down to Chipping Warden to speak to John in early December last year. He couldn’t have been more charming and informative. Sadly John died unexpectedly a couple of weeks later.
It was the last interview he ever did.
On Randox Health Grand National day this Saturday, John’s wife Anne and seventy of their friends and family are coming to Aintree to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the day that John and Foimavon wrote their names in sporting history.
You can listen to “Foinavon” on Wednesday night on Merseyside Sport at 6.15 pm, or on www.bbc.co.uk/radiomerseyside or on the BBC iPlayer for Radio App.
For more information please contact Randox PR on 028 9442 2413 or email RandoxPR@randox.com