No race in the world compares with the drama, sense of history and achievement of winning the Grand National.

Whilst the 30 formidable fences have been modified and the course is now less than 4 and a half miles, the race still attracts a worldwide audience and victory is still the big dream for aspiring riders, trainers and owners.

The race was first officially run in 1839, although a variation of the race had taken place in previous years.

The Grand National was founded by William Lynn, a syndicate head and proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel, on land he leased in Aintree from William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton. Lynn established a course and built a grandstand, and Lord Sefton laid the foundation stone on 7 February 1829

There is much debate regarding the first official Grand National; most leading published historians, including John Pinfold, now prefer the idea that the first running was in 1836 and was won by The Duke, who followed up the next year. A horse called Sir William won in 1838 but it is believed that these races were run at Maghull rather than Aintree and consequently most historians do not count them as “true” Grand Nationals.

The Grand National took national prominence in the aftermath of a number of events that took place in 1838 and 1839.

Firstly, the Great St. Albans Chase, which had clashed with the steeplechase at Aintree, was not renewed after 1838, leaving a major hole in the chasing calendar.

The arrival of the railway in Liverpool meant that transport to the racecourse was possible and then a committee was formed to better organise the event.

A top class field assembled for the 1839 renewal and the race was won by a horse who’s name came to symbolize the nature of the race: Lottery.

By 1843 Edward Topham, a respected handicapper and prominent member of Lynn’s syndicate, had turned the chase into a handicap after it had been a weight-for-age race for the first four years, and took over the land lease in 1848.

The course has undergone countless changes over the years and in 2013 the race used a new fence build to help reduce the number of casualties – there were just 2 fallers. Other major changes in recent years have included levelling the ground on the landing side of Becher’s Brook – while the brook itself is now completely covered.

The start has also been moved further away from the masses in the grand stands, which has served the dual purpose of helping to calm the 40 runners and also reducing the distance from the start to the first fence – with a view to slowing the field down in the early stages of the race.

These moves have attracted controversy and criticism that the course is now too “soft”; however it remains to be seen how much impact the changes will have and that can only be gauged over time.

Of all the horses to win the Grand National, three should be highlighted above all others: Manifesto, Golden Miller and Red Rum.

Manifesto was born in 1888 and ran in the race a record 8 times, winning twice, finishing third on 3 occasions and fourth once. His last attempt took place in 1904 when he was 16 years of age and still managed to finish eighth!

The great Golden Miller became enshrined in history by virtue of his unprecedented five Cheltenham Gold Cup successes. However, he also won the Grand National of 1934, breaking the track record in the process – and becoming the only horse to win both races in the same season.

Red Rum will need little introduction to racing fans. In five attempts at the Grand National, he won the race an unprecedented 3 times and was second on his other two attempts. He also dead-heated at Aintree as a two year-old!

For a race with such a long history there are of course a million different stories and achievements. Some of the more memorable races to recount include the 1928 running when only two horses finished and Tipperary Tim won the race at 100/1.

Foinavon’s 1967 triumph is the stuff of legend as the race effectively came to a halt at the fence after Becher’s Brook, the smallest on the course. Horse after horse refused and Foinavon, tailed off, managed to creep through the melee and clear the obstacle and gallop on to victory – again at 100/1. The fence has ever since been known as the Foinavon Fence.

Red Rum
Copyright www.cranhamphoto.com

The 1973 renewal was perhaps the greatest ever race. The gallant Australian champion Crisp had travelled to England and shown enough class to win the Champion Chase over 2 miles at Cheltenham.

Under a huge weight burden, he lead and jumped spectacularly, building up a huge advantage of almost a fence. His exquisite jumping was never before or since matched as he made the big green obstacles seem like hurdles. However, cross the Anchor Bridge Road for the final time, his lead was visibly being cut into but a young horse with far less weight: Red Rum.

Agonisingly, as Crisp ran out of momentum, that long, tiring run from the elbow, suddenly became Mount Everest to Crisp and Richard Pitman, while Red Rum continued to close. Still almost too painful to watch, Red Rum passed Crisp in the final strides to get up and record the first of his 3 wins in the race.

The pair shattered the course record and given the context of what Red Rum achieved, Crisp arguably had an impossible task and ran the greatest ever Grand National race in defeat.

In 1975 L’Escargot won the race, beating Red Rum and completing the Gold Cup-Grand National double – although his Gold Cup victories had taken place at the start of the decade.

Bob Champion and Aldaniti overcame cancer and serious injury to record an emotional win in 1981, beating the gallant John Thorne aboard his wonderful hunter Spartan Missile.

Corbiere was a memorable hero in 1983 in soft ground, crowing Jenny Pitman the first woman to train a Grand National winner. A year later the race had 23 finishers, the most in its history, as Hallo Dandy beat the luckless Greasepaint, who was runner-up for the second consecutive year.

West Tip was a popular winner in 1986 and would run in 6 Grand Nationals in total, placing in 3 more renewals, while Maori Venture in 1987 gave popular owner, 92 year old Jim Joel a fantastic triumph.

Rhyme N’ Reason was another memorable winner in 1988 and two years later Mr Frisk was spring-heeled in setting the course record – which was never again broken, before the race was shortened in 2013.

In 1991 the sponsors Seagrams tasted victory with their horse Seagram, who denied Garrison Savannah the distinction of matching Golden Miller’s feat of winning the Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season in the final strides of a pulsating renewal.

Party Politics proved a popular winner in election year in 1992 but was denied back to back victories in 1993 when the combination of false starts and protestors saw the race voided. The following year’s race nearly didn’t take place either as heavy rain pounded Liverpool; however Miinehoma proved a brave winner as just 6 horses finished the course.

In 1997 a terrorist threat caused the racecourse to be abandoned just before the off and the Grand National was run for the first time on a Monday. Amid the kerfuffle, Lord Gyllene proved a most able winner of the race with some spectacular jumping on fast ground.

The following year conditions were completely opposite as Earth Summit summoned masses of stamina to record a memorable victory over the popular grey Suny Bay, who like Greasepaint before him, filled the runner-up spot in consecutive years.

Two Grand National heros: Ballabrigs (left) and Hedgehunter, both won the great race for Trevor Hemmings and appear in tomorrow's parade Image reproduced with the kind permission of Michael Meagher

Two Grand National heros: Ballabriggs (left) and Hedgehunter, both won the great race for Trevor Hemmings 
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Michael Meagher

After a hiatus of 24 years, Bobbyjo became the first Irish-trained winner of an era dominated by the Emerald Isle. Papillon, Monty’s Pass, Hedgehunter, Numbersixvalverde and Silver Birch all followed up between 2000 and 2007.

During that period Red Marauder won an epic race in 2001 when the mud flew and only 4 horses completed the course, with Blowing Wind and Papillon having remounted. The 2004 renewal went to Amberleigh House and provided Donald “Ginger” McCain with a fourth success in the race after his three victories with Red Rum.

Mon Mome sprung another 100/1 shock in 2009 and multiple Champion Jockey Tony McCoy finally claimed Grand National glory in 2010 aboard Don’t Push It, after 14 previous attempts. Ballabriggs kept the McCain name in the Grand National conscience in 2011 as Ginger’s son Donald won the race and Neptune Collonges became the first grey winner in 51 years in 2012.

Aurora's Encore wins the 2013 Grand National Image reproduced with the kind permission of Aintree Racecourse Photograph by GROSSICK RACING 07710461723

Aurora’s Encore wins the 2013 Grand National
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Aintree Racecourse
Photograph by GROSSICK RACING 07710461723

The changes to the course and good ground resulted in fewer falls and a large number of finishers in 2013 – but the result was as unpredictable as ever, as 66/1 shot Aurora’s Encore earned victory for Sue Smith and Yorkshire.

Pineau De Re wins the 2014 Crabbie's Grand National Photograph by Steven Cargill

Pineau De Re wins the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National
Photograph by Steven Cargill

In 2014 the race went to the Dr Richard Newland trained Pineau De Re, who had an unorthodox preparation as he ran third over hurdles at Kempton Park in his last race before the National. His jockey Leighton Aspell had retired from race riding for almost two years before making a comeback in 2009.

Many Clouds and Leighton Aspell celebrate winning the National in April Image by Steven Cargill

Many Clouds and Leighton Aspell celebrate winning the National in April
Image by Steven Cargill

A year later, that man Aspell was back in the winners’ enclosure as the Oliver Sherwood trained Many Clouds impressed under a big weight to beat Saint Are in what proved a popular victory.

Rule The World ridden by David Mullins after winning the Crabbies Aintree Grand National.
Image supplied by Horse Racing Ireland; Photo: Grossick Racing

The 2016 Grand National produced an extraordinary winner in Rule The World.

Trained by Mouse Morris, the gelding had been a talented hurdler, but had fractured his pelvis.

After many runs over fences, he finally broke his chasing maiden in the Grand National!

One For Arthur winning the Grand National
Image supplied by The Jockey Club

In 2017, it was the turn of Scotland, as the Lucinda Russell-trained One For Arthur emulated Rubstic in 1979 by landing the biggest prize of them all.

Tiger Roll beats Pleasant Company in the 2018 Grand National
Image supplied by The Jockey Club

The following year saw Irish domination, with Irish-trained horses filling the first four places.

In a thrilling finish, former Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll, also at the time a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner, narrowly beat Pleasant Company.

The Gordon Elliott gelding went on to add a fourth Cheltenham Festival success in 2019.

 

Official Grand National winners:

Year Winner Age Weight (st-lb)
1839 Lottery 9 12-00
1840 Jerry 10 12-00
1841 Charity 11 12-00
1842 Gaylad 8 12-00
1843 Vanguard 8 11-10
1844 Discount 6 10-12
1845 Cure-All 7 11-05
1846 Pioneer 6 11-12
1847 Mathew 9 10-06
1848 Chandler 12 11-12
1849 Peter Simple 11 11-00
1850 Abd-El-Kader 8 09-12
1851 Abd-El-Kader 9 10-04
1852 Miss Mowbray 7 10-04
1853 Peter Simple 15 10-10
1854 Bourton 11 11-12
1855 Wanderer 10 09-08
1856 Freetrader 7 09-06
1857 Emigrant 11 09-10
1858 Little Charley 10 10-07
1859 Half Caste 6 09-07
1860 Anatis 10 09-10
1861 Jealousy 7 09-12
1862 The Huntsman 9 11-00
1863 Emblem 7 10-10
1864 Emblematic 6 10-06
1865 Alcibiade 5 11-04
1866 Salamander 7 10-07
1867 Cortolvin 8 11-13
1868 The Lamb 6 10-07
1869 The Colonel 6 10-07
1870 The Colonel 7 11-12
1871 The Lamb 9 11-05
1872 Casse Tete 7 10-00
1873 Disturbance 6 11-11
1874 Reugny 6 10-12
1875 Pathfinder 8 10-11
1876 Regal 5 11-03
1877 Austerlitz 5 10-08
1878 Shifnal 9 10-12
1879 The Liberator 10 11-04
1880 Empress 5 10-07
1881 Woodbrook 7 11-03
1882 Seaman 6 11-06
1883 Zoedone 6 11-00
1884 Voluptuary 6 10-05
1885 Roquefort 6 11-00
1886 Old Joe 7 10-09
1887 Gamecock 8 11-00
1888 Playfair 7 10-07
1889 Frigate 11 11-04
1890 Ilex 6 10-05
1891 Come Away 7 11-12
1892 Father O’Flynn 7 10-05
1893 Cloister 9 12-07
1894 Why Not 13 11-13
1895 Wild Man From Borneo 7 10-11
1896 The Soarer 7 09-13
1897 Manifesto 9 11-03
1898 Drogheda 6 10-12
1899 Manifesto 11 12-07
1900 Ambush II 6 11-03
1901 Grudon 11 10-00
1902 Shannon Lass 7 10-01
1903 Drumcree 9 11-03
1904 Moifaa 8 10-07
1905 Kirkland 9 11-05
1906 Ascetic’s Silver 9 10-09
1907 Eremon 7 10-01
1908 Rubio 10 10-05
1909 Lutteur III 5 10-11
1910 Jenkinstown 9 10-05
1911 Glenside 9 10-03
1912 Jerry M 9 12-07
1913 Covertcoat 7 11-06
1914 Sunloch 8 09-07
1915 Ally Sloper 6 10-06
1919 Poethlyn 9 12-07
1920 Troytown 7 11-09
1921 Shaun Spadah 10 11-07
1922 Music Hall 9 11-08
1923 Sergeant Murphy 13 11-03
1924 Master Robert 11 10-05
1925 Double Chance 9 10-09
1926 Jack Horner 9 10-05
1927 Sprig 10 12-04
1928 Tipperary Tim 10 10-00
1929 Gregalach 7 11-04
1930 Shaun Goilin 10 11-07
1931 Grakle 9 11-07
1932 Forbra 7 10-07
1933 Kellsboro’ Jack 7 11-09
1934 Golden Miller 7 12-02
1935 Reynoldstown 8 11-04
1936 Reynoldstown 9 12-02
1937 Royal Mail 8 11-13
1938 Battleship 11 11-06
1939 Workman 9 10-06
1940 Bogskar 7 10-04
1941–45 no race due to World War II
1946 Lovely Cottage 9 10-08
1947 Caughoo 8 10-00
1948 Sheila’s Cottage 9 10-07
1949 Russian Hero 9 10-08
1950 Freebooter 9 11-11
1951 Nickel Coin 9 10-01
1952 Teal 10 10-12
1953 Early Mist 8 11-02
1954 Royal Tan 10 11-07
1955 Quare Times 9 11-00
1956 E.S.B. 10 11-03
1957 Sundew 11 11-07
1958 Mr. What 8 10-06
1959 Oxo 8 10-13
1960 Merryman II 9 10-12
1961 Nicolaus Silver 9 10-01
1962 Kilmore 12 10-04
1963 Ayala 9 10-00
1964 Team Spirit 12 10-03
1965 Jay Trump 8 11-05
1966 Anglo 8 10-00
1967 Foinavon 9 10-00
1968 Red Alligator 9 10-00
1969 Highland Wedding 12 10-04
1970 Gay Trip 8 11-05
1971 Specify 9 10-13
1972 Well to Do 9 10-01
1973 Red Rum 8 10-05
1974 Red Rum 9 12-00
1975 L’Escargot 12 11-03
1976 Rag Trade 10 10-12
1977 Red Rum 12 11-08
1978 Lucius 9 10-09
1979 Rubstic 10 10-00
1980 Ben Nevis 12 10-12
1981 Aldaniti 11 10-13
1982 Grittar 9 11-05
1983 Corbiere 8 11-04
1984 Hallo Dandy 10 10-02
1985 Last Suspect 11 10-05
1986 West Tip 9 10-11
1987 Maori Venture 11 10-13
1988 Rhyme ‘n’ Reason 9 11-00
1989 Little Polveir 12 10-03
1990 Mr Frisk 11 10-06
1991 Seagram 11 10-06
1992 Party Politics 8 10-07
1993 race void
1994 Miinnehoma 11 10-08
1995 Royal Athlete 12 10-06
1996 Rough Quest 10 10-07
1997 Lord Gyllene 9 10-00
1998 Earth Summit 10 10-05
1999 Bobbyjo 9 10-00
2000 Papillon 9 10-12
2001 Red Marauder 11 10-11
2002 Bindaree 8 10-04
2003 Monty’s Pass 10 10-07
2004 Amberleigh House 12 10-10
2005 Hedgehunter 9 11-01
2006 Numbersixvalverde 10 10-08
2007 Silver Birch 10 10-06
2008 Comply or Die 9 10-09
2009 Mon Mome 9 11-00
2010 Don’t Push It 10 11-05
2011 Ballabriggs 10 11-00
2012 Neptune Collonges 11 11-06
2013 Auroras Encore 11 10-03
2014 Pineau De Re 11 10-06
2015 Many Clouds 11 10-06
2016 Rule The World 11 10-06
2017 One For Arthur 11 10-06
2018 Tiger Roll 8 11-09

 

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