Tiger Roll wins back-to-back Randox Health Grand Nationals
The sponsor of the Randox Health Grand National has congratulated Tiger Roll, Davy Russell, Gordon Elliott and Michael O’Leary as they secured their spot in the history books at Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National.
Dr. Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director of Randox Health, had high praise for both Aintree Racecourse and his Randox Health team, saying;
“We were delighted to once again partner with the Jockey Club and Aintree Racecourse, together bringing the Randox Health Grand National to the millions who avidly awaited the unfolding of this iconic event.
“Over the last two years of our sponsorship, the theatrics that this Festival has produced have been second-to-none and this, our third year, was no exception. The atmosphere was electric and the cheers of the crowd deafening as Tiger Roll, steered by Davy Russell, stretched himself ahead of the competition to become the first consecutive winner of this most famous race since the days of Red Rum.
“It is a tale which will be forever etched in the history books of Aintree Racecourse and steeplechase racing.
“Congratulations to Tiger Roll’s jockey Davy Russell, trainer Gordon Elliott and owner Michael O’Leary who once again delivered a fairytale of determination and dedication as the small but mighty Tiger Roll stormed to victory for a second time.
“Whilst our partnership with the Randox Health Grand National and the wider Jockey Club is an opportunity for us to spread our message of preventative health, it is also a chance to show our commitment, at a national level, to this wonderful sport. I have been a keen equestrian all my life and Randox, historically, has given its name to many local Point-to-Point and Polo meetings near our headquarters in Northern Ireland.
“It’s the perfect fit, therefore, to unite our company ethos, of helping people to extend and enjoy their lives, with the people’s race, the Randox Health Grand National. Together, we can encourage people to live healthier for longer, in order to enjoy events such as this glorious Festival for as long as possible.
“Our message of preventative health is an important one, particularly in a health-conscious world, and that’s why we have been offering the public a 20% discount across all our health packages and services over the course of the Randox Health Grand National and until the end of April 2019.
“This year, we also highlighted our STI at-home test kit Confidante. Sexual health is a serious issue but all too often such infections are stigmatised and access to services may be problematic – causing considerable difficulties for individuals who believe they may benefit from testing. This can lead to increased health challenges at a personal level, and potentially much higher rates of infection.
“Confidante allows for 10 STIs to be tested in a private and fully confidential manner, with the results provided directly to the individual. Improving ease-of-access to such testing is an important issue to support the health needs of those who require testing of and to help reduce the overall rates of sexual infections within society.
“The Randox Health Hub at Aintree Racecourse provided race-goers with an opportunity to engage with Confidante directly through our Secret Cinema where viewers entered a private booth, unaware of the humorous short film which awaited them. Many were in good spirits as a camera caught their reactions and all were entered in to a draw to win a FitBit on each day of the Festival
“I would like to thank the millions who joined us at the Randox Health Grand National 2019 to witness history being made – whether in person at Aintree Racecourse or tuned in to the screen or airwaves. We look forward to continuing our partnership in the coming years as we deliver the world’s most famous steeplechase and share our preventative health message.”
For more information about the Randox Health Grand National 2019 please contact the Randox PR team by emailing email@example.com or phone 028 9442 2413.
School pupils across Liverpool are today enjoying an exclusive sneak-peek of the 2019 Randox Health Grand National trophy, as part of a tour hosted by Olympic Gold Medallist and Aintree ambassador Sam Quek, and acclaimed former jockey Carrie Ford.
The trophy, which has travelled to King’s Leadership Academy, Maricourt Catholic High School and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, will be officially unveiled to the public during the Opening Ceremony of the Randox Health Grand National Festival on Thursday 4th April.
Etched in solid silver and gilded with gold, the 2019 trophy, which has been designed for the third year by Shannon O’Neill, is aptly shaped like a human antibody, to carry again the sponsor’s message of health and science which so successfully resonated with the racing fraternity in 2017 and 2018.
“We’re incredibly excited to unveil the 2019 Randox Health Grand National trophy during this year’s Opening Ceremony,” said Dr Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director of Randox Health.
“Our sponsorship of the world’s greatest race is incredibly special to us, as it is a powerful way to share our preventative health message across the globe. With its unique design, the trophy reflects the outstanding science on which Randox Health is based and the use of world class antibodies to identify disease.
“At the base of the trophy, a collection of Randox Biochips – our most innovative health testing technology – have also been brought to the fore. We’re thrilled that with each new trophy we can reflect on the scientific advances of the year gone by and share a new chapter of the Randox story.”
Those who have the opportunity to view the stunning Randox Health Grand National trophy up close, will notice small spherical structures within the stem of the festival’s most coveted prize. Alluding to proteins, one of the building blocks of the human body, this design element draws attention to an area of research in which Randox is investing significantly.
Dr FitzGerald continued; “We strongly believe that the future of healthcare lies in proteomics, the study of proteins. By utilising this innovative method of disease detection, we can identify illness within an individual before it becomes symptomatic. Proteins are released into the blood at the very earliest stage of disease development and, when they are detected, serve as the earliest warning to initiate preventive care.
“Whilst Randox leads the world in proteomic Biochips – the screening for multiple proteins at the same time – there is still much to be done. We can currently test for hundreds of different proteins at once, however, we know that there are up to 30,000 different proteins that we may wish to monitor.
“As we continue to develop diagnostic tests for these proteins, we can begin to imagine a world in which sickness is actively prevented at the earliest stage, rather than managed. In proteins lies the key to living healthier for longer.”
Another popular element returning to the presentation of the winning Randox Health Grand National prizes are team trophies. In 2017, their first year as sponsor, Randox Health introduced the concept of presenting the entire winning team with a trophy, to celebrate the combined effort that goes in to achieving such a special victory. In 2018, they went to trainer Gordon Elliott, jockey Davy Russell, and head groom Louise Dunne.
The Randox Health Grand National trophy will be available to view in the Randox Health Hub at Aintree racecourse at 11:30am and 15:30pm on each day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival.
Hot off the heels of its first ever Randox Health Grand National, global healthcare company Randox returned this weekend to Bushmills to again host its International Polo Tournament. Renowned polo players from across the world joined the founder of the Co Antrim-based firm, Dr Peter FitzGerald, to play in the coastal town.
Following a successful event last year, which was the first of its kind held in Northern Ireland, the 2017 Randox Polo hosted almost 450 guests, including Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs. Joan Christie OBE, and Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Joan Baird, who delivered the match ball of the first polo game. Former Miss Northern Ireland and fitness blogger Tiffany Brien, added a touch of glamour to the event.
On display was the company’s latest venture – the Randox Health Mobile Clinic. The unveiling of the bespoke Mercedez-Benz vehicle marks a departure from traditional models of healthcare provision, as the company’s advanced health screening programmes are now available to people anywhere in the country, using its travelling team of trained scientists and phlebotomists.
It was a victory for the Randox team in their first game of the tournament, as they went head-to-head with Scotland, but it was the Republic of Ireland team who emerged winners of the International Polo Tournament when they scored more goals than Team Randox in the final match of the day.
Randox, a recognised supporter of the arts, launched the weekend with a performance from Camerata Ireland Cameratino, an ensemble composed of acclaimed Irish flautist Eimear McGeown, and a String Trio including Violinist Sarah Sew, Violist Nathan Sherman and Celloist Gerald Peregrine, in Dundarave Estate.
The musical element continued on Saturday with a Beating of the Retreat by the Royal Irish Regimental Band, including the highly popular “Highland Cathedral,” and a unique version of “Run” by Snow Patrol.
Local Bushmills residents weren’t put off by the wet conditions, and turned out to watch both the polo tournament, and the fireworks display which rounded off the event.
Randox Founder and Managing Director, Dr. Peter FitzGerald, a keen horseman who played in the polo tournament, commented;
“Given that our inaugural tournament in 2016 received such positive feedback from the Bushmills community, we are delighted to have been able to once again bring the event to the beautiful North Coast and its residents, and to bring the Randox Health message to our Polo guests. By prioritising your health and wellbeing you can make the most of life’s special moments and occasions – like this great polo tournament.
“We’re very lucky that the resilient spirits of the local Bushmills community weren’t dampened by the rain, and everyone was able to enjoy a wonderful afternoon together on the beautiful north coast.”
For more information about the Randox Polo Tournament in Bushmills contact the Randox PR team: Call 028 9442 2413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Returning to the home of 2017 Randox Health Grand National winner One For Arthur, the sponsor of the world’s greatest horse race is hosting an international polo tournament in the heart of Scotland this weekend.
Not only is Scotland known for some of the biggest names in horse racing but the country, which was this week voted by tourists as the most beautiful country in the world, also hosts an impressive polo scene – Randox has been hosting international polo tournaments there for over 15 years. This year the global healthcare company is hosting internationally renowned polo players from countries including Argentina and South Africa at Errol Park in Perthshire, where teams will play in front of hundreds of spectators.
In celebration of Scotland’s rich equestrian heritage and talent, guests of honour at this year’s Randox Polo will include the winning trainer from this year’s Randox Health Grand National, Lucinda Russell, and ‘Golf Widow’ Belinda McClung.
Randox Founder and Managing Director, Dr. Peter FitzGerald, who is himself taking part in the Randox Polo Tournament, commented;
“There are few sports that come close to the speed of the action and the thrill of the chase in a competitive polo match, but there is one that springs to mind. Winning the Randox Health Grand National, the world’s most famous horse race, is achieved by only the very best in this field, and I am delighted that five months after I handed over the trophy, the winning trainer and owner, Lucinda Russell and Belinda McClung, are joining us in Perthshire at our international polo tournament. It is through events like these that we are able to share our Randox Health message with the public, and by taking care of our health we are able to make the most of life’s special moments and occasions.”
Unveiled at this weekend’s Randox Polo tournament will be the health firm’s first Mobile Health Clinic, designed to meet the increasing demand for the healthcare service which has stemmed from the sponsorship of the Randox Health Grand National, and to make the world’s most advanced and personalised health check accessible to all.
Dr. FitzGerald continued;
“Our new mobile services marks a departure from traditional models of healthcare provision and is in line with our passion for innovation. We’re delighted to be able to offer guests to our polo event our unique Randox Health technology, so that anyone who wants to take their health into their own hands, can do so.”
Please contact Randox PR for more information: Call 028 9442 2413 or email email@example.com
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
The countdown to the Randox Health Grand National continues, with only two weeks to go before the first day of the Festival.
And there’s no one who knows the history of the race better than Aintree Racecourse Chairman, Rose Paterson. Today she shares her memories of her favourite horse, Foinavon, and why his unexpected Grand National win in 1967 has become an iconic moment in the history of the great race.
Foinavon is the Forrest Gump of Grand National history, the horse who became immortal despite his best endeavours.
Bred in the purple by the great stallion Vulgan, he was bought as a youngster by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, one of the pre-eminent National Hunt owners of her generation and sent to Tom Dreaper, the Willie Mullins of his day, along with another young horse, Arkle. Both horses were named after mountains on the Westminsters’ Invernesshire estate.
However, while Arkle went on to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups and become the benchmark for NH greatness, Foinavon’s trajectory was in a different direction. Pat Taaffe, Dreaper’s stable jockey, said of him “I never came across a horse with less ambition.”
The final straw was when after a heavy fall, Taaffe scrambled to his feet, desperately worried for Foinavon, who had failed to rise. He found him sitting comfortably on the ground, eating grass.
It was a short journey from this incident to Doncaster sales, where he was snapped up by small time trainer and part-time farrier John Kempton, entirely because he had qualified for the Grand National and one of his few owners, Cyril Watkins, was desperate for a runner. By this time, Foinavon had acquired a white goat named Suzie as a companion, who travelled everywhere with him and with whom he developed a love/hate relationship.
A year later, after 17 consecutive losing runs, Foinavon was ready to have a go. He had already run in the Gold Cup three weeks earlier, at 500-1 and no less than twice since then, without distinction. His jockey, John Buckingham, was the trainer’s third choice and neither owner or trainer could be bothered to make the five hour journey to Aintree.
When the disaster caused by loose horses Popham Down and April Rose unfolded at the smallest fence on the course, universally described as “the one after Becher’s,” Foinavon was so far behind the leaders that he was able to pop a gap in the fence and trundle on to the Canal Turn, leaving a scene of mayhem in his wake.
It was the combination of an intelligent, experienced jockey and an unusually placid horse that probably won him the race.
At the time, the result was seen as a disaster and an embarrassing fiasco. 50 years on, Foinavon’s win seems an iconic moment in the history of the great race.
It was about luck, fate, the victory of the outsider, the 100 – 1 dream come true.
Not for nothing was the first winner of the Grand National called Lottery and there is an equally good reason why the 7th and 23rd fence is now known as Foinavon.
For more information about Randox Horse Tales please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com
A giant replica of the 2017 Randox Health Grand National trophy is being installed at Aintree Racecourse ahead of the world’s greatest horse race. The design was unveiled for the first time today during the Northern media lunch.
The statue standing at almost 6 meters, which will be seen by over 600 million people during the three day festival, depicts the same level of detail as the real trophy. The stunning piece is solid silver gilded with gold, and depicts horses galloping through strands of DNA.
A spot will be marked out near the statute directing race-goers where to stand to get a picture of them ‘holding’ the trophy. It is part of Randox Health’s plan to get the nation to #FeelLikeAWinner during the festival, even if they won’t be at Aintree. They hope people at the racecourse will share the trophy images on social media with people at home posting selfies with their cherished trophies!
Dr. Peter FitzGerald, Founder and Managing Director of Randox Health, commented;
“With the Randox Health Grand National being the greatest horse race in the world we wanted to give everyone a chance to feel like a winner throughout the festival. We’re very proud of the trophy and its one people can enjoy too. We want to give everybody the opportunity to feel part of this year’s festival even if they’re not here, which is why we’re encouraging them to share their own trophy selfies with the racing fans at Aintree. The Randox Health Grand National is a national occasion we want to share and we hope that we can encourage that.”
John Baker, Managing Director for Aintree Racecourse, commented;
“We’re delighted and honoured to work with Randox as a long term partner and we look forward to many years of success. With less than three weeks to go until the Randox Health Grand National Festival, we’re in great shape with the Aintree site looking tremendous and ticket sales going very well. We’re anticipating three days of thrilling racing with high quality entries and we look forward to plenty of fun and excitement off the track as well. The Aintree and Randox teams are working extremely hard to put on the best possible experience for our racegoers so we look forward to opening the gates on Thursday 6 April and welcoming everyone for a fantastic three days.”
The official reveal of the trophy statue has come after the announcement that for each of its five years of sponsorship, Randox Health, the title partner of the Randox Health Grand National, will create a unique winner’s trophy, and each member of the winning team – trainer, jockey and groom – will receive their own trophy in recognition of the teamwork that goes into achieving such monumental success.
The coveted trophy was unveiled by Sir Anthony McCoy and Dr Peter FitzGerald at the Weights Evening Reception at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
For more information about Randox Health Grand National Horse please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com
With less than three weeks’ to go before the Randox Health Grand National, we’re really starting to feel the excitement!
Those who’ve ridden over the famous fences at Aintree never forget it. The most successful female jockey of all time, Katie Walsh, shares her memories of Seabass in the 2012 Grand National, when she came third.
I remember every single bit of it. You don’t forget things like that.
It was a fantastic time and I had some brilliant months in the lead up to it. I won a couple of good races in the build up to the Grand National.
And for Seabass to be the horse that I rode that day, made it all the more magical. This is definitely at the top of my list.
He’d been trained by my father and we’ve been involved with horses for so long that we know how hard it is to have a horse for the Grand National – things can change every day. It’s like someone saying, “I’m going to be President.” That’s how slim the chances are for it to all work out, so I really appreciate how lucky we were to be there.
Seabass is a gorgeous horse and I absolutely love him.
The biggest difficulty we had was keeping him sound. Seabass was a lovely horse but he wasn’t the easiest to keep sound. You see that a lot in elite athletes – sometimes it’s just incredibly difficult to stay fit. And to be in with a shot of getting into the National, you have to keep a horse high enough in the handicaps so it’s constant work – you’ve got to be really careful what you do and how you treat them.
If you look back at his record, Seabass was off for a couple of seasons simply because he has legs of glass, he’s really fragile. There were many different problems over the years which had to be treated and we did a lot of swimming with him. A lot a lot of work went into minding his legs!
The actual race – I could tell you every moment. It was like a dream, the whole ride was fantastic and everything worked out super! Seabass travelled so well – it was a competitive year that year and on another he might have won.
But I was over the moon when we crossed the line in third.
It meant a lot to people that a female jockey had done so well. It featured heavily in the interviews I did afterwards and still does to be honest.
The whole family were there– Ruby wasn’t actually riding himself that day, he’d had a fall earlier. So they were all watching. We’re a pretty special unit – very close – and they were thrilled for us.
Once it was over though, I went straight into the usual routine. In fact I jumped in the car and went to Newmarket. Life goes on!
But once you’ve achieved something like that in the Grand National life does change. Off the back of it I became an Aintree ambassador which is a huge honour and something that I absolutely love.
I can’t wait for the Randox Health Grand National this year!
For more information about Randox Horse Tales please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com
There was only one horse that Oliver Sherwood wanted to write about when he was asked to take part in Horse Tales – his 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds. He was the horse of a lifetime for the Lambourn-based trainer who was hooked the moment he saw him. Clouds tragically died earlier this year and Sherwood says he misses him every day.
The minute I saw him, I knew there was something special. Of course, we all think that. But there was something about Clouds that I just liked from the start.
I had come to look over Mr Hemmings’ young horses when I first saw Clouds. He was a raw, barely broken three year old, and I saw an individualism about him, a character that appealed. From that moment I wanted to be the one to train him.
I’m sure other trainers saw Clouds’ potential too but every time I went to Mr Hemmings’ place, I’d mention to Mick Meagher, the manager, how much I liked him. However I really didn’t expect to get him, so when Mr Hemmings started allocating his horses and Mick called to say they were sending him to me, I was surprised and delighted.
When we started the serious training, I thought he was above average. You can’t be certain – I’ve seen before how horses show form but then can’t perform on the racecourse. That didn’t happen with Clouds. He won on his debut at Wetherby in February 2012, crossing the line 10-15 lengths in front. Right then I knew my gut had been right – he was going to be special. I started hoping and planning for the Hennessey Gold Cup.
He had a summer holiday after that and thickened out. When he came back, he won a handful of hurdles, and came second in the EDF Final the Saturday before Cheltenham, carrying top weight. We were certain that hurdles would be a stepping stone for him.
He was a natural chaser. In 2014 – 15 he won at Carlisle and then won the Hennessey. The rest is history. He won at Cheltenham in January though disappointed in the Gold Cup. But then he won at Aintree in 2015 and that put him on a different level.
As with so many fairy tales from the National, it was unexpected. I’d thought it was too soon for him, but I was persuaded to give it a go. It was a sensational victory. It was the second fastest time – 8 minutes 56.8 seconds, and he did it with 11 stone 9 pounds – almost the top weight. In fact no other horse had carried a higher weight and won at Aintree since Red Rum in ’74. His jockey – Leighton Aspell – said it was the best ride he’d ever had over the fences.
I was staggered by how worldwide the National is. For many trainers you want to win the Gold Cup, it’s the 100m sprint, but when I was being interviewed for the first time by broadcasters in Australia, the US and Japan after winning in 2015, they saw it as the pinnacle.
One thing is absolutely true though – you’ll never forget it. You try to explain to people who have never had horses – but you simply can’t express the thrill of seeing your horse in your colours pass the finishing post in the lead. It was Sir Fred Pontin trying to get that across to Mr Hemmings that got him into racing in the first place. He’d won with Specify in 1971, and showed Mr Hemmings the trophy. He ended up bequeathing it to him in his will – by which stage Mr Hemmings had already won one himself with Hedgehunter.
God puts you on this planet and you are what you are. Clouds, he was a performer, a competitor. He loved to race. He was a nervous horse, a bit spooky but he got more confident as he grew older. He was the proverbial gentle giant, he always wanted to please. He loved his work, he was always very keen to get out and race. Leighton was the only one who schooled and raced him.
Clouds’ last race was his best ever performance. He won by a head in a photo-finish in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham but suddenly suffered a severe pulmonary haemorrhage and despite the best efforts of the team on the course, he died just afterwards.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction from people. There have been over a thousand letters – never mind emails and Facebook messages – from all over the world. My wife has responded to every single one of them. People responded to him- they saw he was a trier and they loved that. People could relate to him – in a way he became the people’s horse.
When he won at Aintree thousands of people came out to see him when he came home. Everyone celebrated his win, and that depth of feeling continues today. Our local open day has been renamed after him, and in the village a bench will be placed in his memory thanks to the local council and the Jockey Club. At a party on Saturday here, we still had kids coming up and asking about Clouds. It’s just staggering the impact he had and the inspiration he gave to so many. I am certain he’s bringing a lot of new people into racing.
He was cremated and his ashes were returned to the Isle of Man where Mr Hemmings lives. His shoes will be mounted on a wooden plaque, and his best races inscribed on it. We’ve still got the plaque which was mounted on his box after the won the Grand National.
I’ll never forget Clouds. He will always be in my memories and those of the whole team here in Rhonehurst. Yet I’m glad he went out on a high. I’d rather that than have him suffer an injury. Death happens to us all – I would love to go as he did.
For more information about Randox Horse Tales please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com
This week in the third edition of Horse Tales we are thrilled to hear from Mike Hughes, Sports Broadcast Journalist for BBC Radio Merseyside.
Mike talks about Red Rum, “The Greatest Horse of Aintree,” and how the race conditions have changed since the millennium bringing with them the best chasers competing to win the world’s most famous race:
Even a cursory glance down the list of previous Grand National winners will highlight some seriously talented racehorses. Factor in the way the race conditions have changed since the new millennium, not to mention the incredible prize money on offer, then it’s not surprising that the very best chasers around are now competing to win the world’s most famous race.
But whatever the future holds for the race that sits at the centrepiece of the three day Aintree festival, there will only ever be one horse that can lay claim to being “The Greatest” that the famous old course has ever seen.
The Red Rum story is a remarkable one by any sporting standards. His love affair with the Grand National knew no bounds. In 1973 he came from “another parish” to pounce and steal victory on the run-in from Australian wonder horse Crisp. He became a National Hero from that point onwards. He broke the course record that year and the time has only been bettered once since.
Red Rum defended his Grand National title in 1974 with an incredible performance. Under the guidance of Brian Fletcher, he pretty much cruised around Aintree as if he owned the joint. He won the race with a swagger and poise that hasn’t been seen since. It was also an outstanding weight carrying performance. Red Rum was top weight in 1974. No horse carrying top weight has won it since.
In the 1975 & 1975 Grand National’s Red Rum was a gallant second. Firstly running a previous Gold Cup winner L’escargot close and then finishing runner up to the well handicapped Rag Trade.
By the time of the 1977 Grand National surely the passing of the years would diminish the chances of another Aintree ” day to remember” for Red Rum. Despite carrying another welter burden and being now aged 12, he put in yet another display of near faultless jumping over the toughest of fences and delivered another emphatic Grand National success. The only horse to win the race three times.
The courage of the horse is highlighted by the fact that he was engaged to run in the Grand National in 1978, but withdrew on the eve of the race due to a minor injury.
If the romantic notion of a horse who was housed in a stable behind a used car showroom in Southport, isn’t enough to convince you of Red Rum’s place in the pantheon of sporting greats then consider this.
If it wasn’t for Red Rum, then the Grand National as a sporting spectacle beyond compare, would probably not exist.
Red Rum and his loveable and outrageous trainer Ginger McCain began writing folklore history at the very same time that the world’s greatest race was under real threat of losing its Aintree home. The owners of the course in the mid 70’s were The Walton Group, property developers who outlined various proposals for Aintree, none of which would have allowed the Grand National to continue.
Red Rum became the popular galvanising force that made ordinary people take notice of this once a year event again. He was the horse and the story that put the Grand National back on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.
When we remember this year as the fortieth anniversary of Red Rum’s third and final Grand National victory we need also to think back ten years earlier, April 7th 1967. It was the horse’s first ever Aintree appearance, as a two year old in a five furlong flat race. Red Rum was never known for his flat racing pedigree, but this was the day he fell in love with this very special racecourse. He dead-heated for first place.
Red Rum’s record and his place in history means that he really is “The Greatest Horse of Aintree”