Every year, the Grand National thrills sports fans across the world. As one of the most notoriously difficult national hunt races of the year, it’s a spectacle which attracts millions of viewers, many of whom enjoy a flutter on the race in the horse racing betting exchange.
Thankfully, the Grand National returns this year after being cancelled in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’ll be a welcome sight to see the 40 horses lining up for starter’s orders once again, and a sign that things are slowly inching back towards reality.
Of course, the Grand National is a race that boasts a rich history, and there have been plenty of colourful characters and sensational horses that have graced Aintree over the years. With excitement building ahead of the 2021 race, let’s take a look at some Grand National legends.
Captain Martin Becher
If you’re a regular viewer of the Grand National, you’ll be more than familiar with Becher’s Brook, one of the toughest jumps in the race. The fence is named after Captain Martin Becher, who unfortunately fell at the brook in the inaugural Grand National, way back in 1839.
Becher was a major player in the formation of the Grand National, having devised the idea of a ‘Great Chase of the North’ along with William Lynn. The former soldier won the first of these races in 1836, and the Grand National was born from that.
Plenty of trainers have enjoyed success in the Grand National two years running, but only one man has trained the winner in three consecutive editions of the race. Vincent O’Brien holds that particular record, having won it each year between 1953 and 1955. The achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that it was a different horse that triumphed each time.
In 1953, Early Mist was the winner with Bryan Marshall in the saddle, and the same jockey rode Royal Tan to victory. O’Brien’s hat-trick was completed in 1955 when Quare Times emerged triumphant with Pat Taafe on board. O’Brien is an icon in both jumps racing and flat racing, having won the British Champion Trainer award in both disciplines.
You can’t have a Grand National legends list without including the great Red Rum, a three-time winner of the famous Aintree showpiece. The first of these triumphs was in 1973, when the Ginger McCain-trained horse delivered on his status as joint pre-race favourite, and a year later it was sweet success once again for Red Rum, McCain, and jockey Brian Fletcher.
Perhaps the third victory for Red Rum was the most impressive. In 1977, three years after his second Grand National win, Red Rum came storming back to win as a 12-year-old. To this day, Red Rum is the only horse to have won the race three times, and with Tiger Roll not competing this year, that record looks set to remain intact for a while longer.
Yes, the news that Tiger Roll will not be competing for a third successive Grand National triumph came as a blow to many racing fans, but his two wins in 2018 and 2019 mean he is a modern legend of the race. Given the difficulty of the race, the Grand National is incredibly difficult to predict, but Tiger Roll delivered on his status as favourite in 2019 to defend his crown.
Michael O’Leary of Gigginstown House Stud made the decision that Tiger Roll would not compete in 2021, citing what he felt was an unfair handicap rating. While it’s a shame he won’t get the chance to match Red Rum’s record, Tiger Roll is still a Grand National great in our eyes.