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Famous UK Grand National Horses
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The Grand National has produced a wonderful array of stories throughout its illustrious history including some pretty memorable jockeys, trainers and more importantly Grand National horses. Here 'Grand National Free Bets' looks at possibly the most remarkable horses ever to grace the Aintree.

Red Rum
It was over 30 years ago now that Red Rum recorded the first of the three victories in the Grand National that earned him pride of place in the record books forever. He still remains the only horse to have won the Grand National three times and, as that statistic suggests, the great horse was a phenomenon. Bred to be a sprinter, Red Rum went on to win the gruelling four-and-a-half mile chase in 1973, 1974 and 1977, overcoming a potentially crippling foot disease in doing so. On March 31, 1973, he started 9/1 favourite for his first Grand National. However, by the time the runners had reached the Chair the giant Australian chaser, Crisp, who was shouldering top weight of 12st, had built up a massive lead and appeared unstoppable. But, conceding 23lb to Red Rum, he slowly began to falter at the famous Elbow after being more than 15 lengths in front of his rival at the last. Red Rum wore Crisp down, getting up on the line to beat him by three-quarters of a length in a then record time of 9 min 1.9 sec, knocking nearly 20 seconds off Golden Miller's previous best under 12st 2lb in 1934 - this new record would stand for the next 16 years.

Red Rum won four more races before collecting his second Grand National, this time carrying the maximum weight of 12st. Giving 1lb to the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, L'Escargot, Red Rum started third favourite at 11/1, racing off a mark nearly two stone higher than for his 1973 victory. He was the first to achieve the double since Reynoldstown in 1936. Only three weeks later, Red Rum won the Scottish Grand National as the 11/8 favourite under 11st 13lb. It was then presumed that, having reached a zenith, Red Rum's talent would gradually decline in keeping with the rolling years. Between the autumn of 1974 and the spring of 1976, he ran in 18 chases, winning twice and being placed seven times. But he also gallantly failed to resist first L'Escargot and then Rag Trade in the 1975 and 1976 Grand Nationals.

Red Rum died on Wednesday, October 18, 1995 and was buried by the winning post on Aintree's Grand National course. His grave is marked by an engraved stone listing his Grand National record, and a life-size bronze commemorates this legendary horse, along with a race staged at Aintree's Festival Meeting, the Red Rum Chase, named in the great horse's memory.

Aldaniti
There was hardly a dry eye among the crowd when Aldaniti won the Grand National in 1981. It was a victory for both courage and determination in the face of adversity. In late 1979, Bob Champion, the successful jockey, was told that he had cancer and only months to live, while Aldaniti had almost been retired because of leg trouble. Against all the odds, the gallant partnership held on to beat Spartan Missile, ridden by John Thorne, a 54-year-old grandfather and amateur rider. The winner's true-life story inspired the 1983 film Champions, starring John Hurt. Aldaniti died at the age of 27 in March, 1997. Bob Champion made a full recovery and, with the help of Aldaniti, has raised millions of pounds for cancer research. Aldaniti's name was a jumble from the names of four grandchildren of his breeder, Tommy Barron: Alastair and David Cook plus Nicola and Timothy Barron.

The Pitmans
The Pitman family has a special association with the Grand National. In 1983, Jenny Pitman became the first woman to train a winner of the race when Corbiere beat Greasepaint. She followed up this victory in 1995 with Royal Athlete who succeeded at the long odds of 40/1, but experienced heartbreak when Esha Ness "won" the 1993 void race. Mark, her son, must have gone through similar emotions when he was caught by Seagram when riding Garrison Savannah in 1991, also trained by his mother. Years earlier, Richard Pitman, then-husband to Jenny and Mark's father, was caught even closer to the winning post by Red Rum, the Aintree specialist, when he partnered the gallant top weight Crisp in 1973. Mrs Pitman was awarded an OBE in the 1998 New Year's Honours List and in the same year fought a successful battle against cancer. She has now retired from training but Mark Pitman is carrying on the family tradition.

Devon Loch
The 1956 National is remembered more for the defeat of Devon Loch than for the victory of E.S.B. Owned by Her Majesty The Queen Mother, Devon Loch had the race won when he inexplicably gave a half-leap just 50 yards from the finish, sprawling and unseating Dick Francis, the unfortunate jockey, and leaving the crowd stunned. Afterwards, The Queen Mother famously said "That's racing". Debate still rages as to why the incident happened - according to some reports, Devon Loch suffered a cramp in the hindquarters and this caused the collapse. However, other reports claim that a shadow thrown by the water jump (which horses only jump on the first circuit of the Aintree course) may have confused Devon Loch into thinking another jump was required and - confused as to whether he should jump or not - he half-jumped and collapsed. Reports that the horse had suffered a heart attack were dismissed, as Devon Loch recovered far too quickly for this to have been the case. Whatever the truth, the incident so puzzled Francis that he became a thriller writer, inventing mysteries himself. Over the decades Francis has learned to be as philosophical. In compensation, his wife Mary once said that had he won the Grand National there would have been no bestselling autobiography and no thrillers.

"As I said in my autobiography, an ambulance came by and the driver said, ‘Jump in the back!’ I was never more pleased to get away from all the people who were rushing towards me." What happened? "I’ve thought about it time and time again...I remember jumping the last fence and I could hear the crescendo of cheering building up in the stands. There were 500,000 people there that day. They were all cheering for the Queen Mother. She was there and the Queen was there and Princess Margaret was there. I never thought about it at the time but I heard them cheering and I just rode to the finish. I was winning easily. I didn’t have to pick up my stick or anything like that. I’ve looked at the newsreel time and again and as the horse approaches the water jump – which this time round he didn’t need to cross – you can see him prick up his ears and gallop past it. As it pricked up its ears – Christ! – his hindquarters refused to act and down he went on to his belly. How I didn’t fall off him I don’t know."

Foinavon
Foinavon sensationally won the 1967 National in bizarre circumstances. At the smallest fence on the second circuit, the 23rd, the riderless Popham Down cut right across the course causing a pile-up that almost brought the entire field to a standstill. John Buckingham, Foinavon's jockey, was able to steer his mount wide of the melee and thus won on the 100/1 outsider. The Aintree executive named the fence in honour of the horse. Fence 7 or 23 (depending on the circuit), at 4ft 6in, one of the smallest jumps on the course, is situated between the more daunting Becher's Brook and Canal Turn.

Foinavon has sometimes been likened to a slow plodding carthorse, but records show that his 1967 winning time was one of the fastest in this gruelling race. Equally, this so called no-hoper had taken part in some top class races before attempting the National and he had finished fourth in a King George and took part in a Gold Cup at Cheltenham, so perhaps his odds of 100/1 may have been a bit generous (although the Tote SP was 444/1). Nevertheless, his owner was so unenthusiastic about his chances that he was not even at Aintree for the race. Buckingham said later that at the time he did not realize that they were the only pair to jump the fence at the first attempt but he just kept going. Although some 17 horses remounted and finished the race the distance Foinavon had "stolen" at the fence meant that he lead over the final seven fences to go on to collect his prize, 15 lengths clear of the fast-closing favourite, Honey End and Red Alligator.

 
 
 
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