The 50th anniversary of ‘Foinavon,’ the most unexpected Grand National winner
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
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”
For more information about Randox Horse Tales please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com