It’s Grand to Win the National!

Three times Grand National winner Brian Fletcher

Here at ‘Horses and Courses’ we highlight the racecourses on which racing  legends are made, whether we’re taking about legendary horses , jockeys or trainers. It’s more often than not the big occasions held at these racecourses that really put you in the history books. The Cheltenham Festival, the Royal Ascot, The Grand National and so on. This is especially true of the Grand National as, rather than various races sharing the spotlight, it’s one stand out event. If you win at the National, you’ve set yourself apart, it’s as simple as that.

The Grand National takes place annually at the Aintree racecourse, Liverpool. First run almost 180 years ago, it’s understandable why the race has captured the hearts of racing fans here in the UK as well as abroad. With prize money of £1,000,000 plus, the race draws in a who’s who of group one winners, top jockeys and the best horse trainers. Winning the race is huge.  With horses oozing quality, paired with Grand National jockeys who either knows the course like the back of their hand, or are so skilled as to outfox all others on the day, every Grand National has racing fans on the edge of their seats.

We all remember West Tip winning the National in the mid 80’s, and Mom Mome surprising all with his win at huge odds in 2009. One horse who certainly shone in terms of Grand National successes has to be punter favourite Red Rum , who won the event an unbelievable three times. Very few race goers and lovers of the sport will draw a blank when Red Rum’s name is mentioned, even if they were born well after his impressive wins in 1973, 1974 and 1977. The beauty of Red Rum’s performances is that, while he was always given a hope prior to the race, winning was never a forgone conclusion, which gave punters the opportunity to cash in again and again.

No man is an island as the saying goes, and the same applies to horses, so the focus turns again to Grand National jockeys. Red Rum wouldn’t have been able to achieve this National feat without the efforts of a world class jockey. On two of the three wins Brian Fletcher was the jockey tasked with riding Red Rum to victory. Interestingly he’d won the Grand National previously too, in 1968 as the jockey on Red Alligator at the tender age of 20. In fact, he’s the only jockey in recent times to hold the accolade of winning the event 3 times. Historically the feat was also achieved by Lester Piggott’s Grandfather, Ernie Piggott, and George Stevens.

And what of the trainers that marry this unique combination of equine ability and talented jockey. Well again there is a connection in history, because Red Rum’s trainer is tied first for the greatest number of Grand National wins as trainer with four wins, the three Red Rum wins and an impressive return to form in 2004 with Amberleigh House. Around the same time Fred Rimell also achieved 4 Grand National wins as trainer. Prior to that the only person to equal this record was George Dockeray way back in the 1800’s, so it’s a rare a event by any measure.