Abandoned last year as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Grand National that never was still leaves an empty space in the minds of many racing fans, both across the land and afar.
But things are looking up. And nothing stops the train this year. In the wake of the Cheltenham Festival, National Hunt hardly slows down until its seasonal end at the end of April. The month, subsequently, begins with three action-packed days at Aintree Racecourse, a superb amphitheatre that is the heart of the community in north Liverpool.
Whether the allegiance lies with Everton or their red counterparts across Stanley Park, there aren’t many things that can halt a Scouser’s love affair for their football club. However, the Grand National holds nearly as much prestige to those in the north west of England.
Baking weather. Glorious green turf. 70,000 racegoers.
The nation really does come to a halt.
Sadly, the stands will remain empty for this year’s Festival but eyes far and wide will be glued to the Melling Road, nonetheless. So instead, we’ll reflect on happier times when hoards of people were able to gather and enjoy the brilliance of the people’s race unfold in front of their very eyes.
Here’s your last ten winners. How many did you back?
Don’t Push It – AP McCoy/Jonjo O’Neill/JP McManus (10-1 JF) | 2010
After the 100-1 shock of Mon Mome twelve months earlier, the 2010 renewal of the National was slightly easier to predict. “Firsts all round” was the infamous quip from commentator Richard Hoiles as the 10-1 joint-favourite Don’t Push It gave all connections the sweet taste of victory in the race.
Ballabriggs – Jason Maguire/Donald McCain Jr/Trevor Hemmings (14-1) | 2011
The previous winner would go close and finish third, but this was Ballabriggs’ day in the sun as the Donald McCain Jr trained 10-year-old wrote his name in the history books. A former winner of the Kim Muir, the son of Presenting was not deterred by the step up to four-and-a-half miles, holding off Oscar Time by just over two lengths to take home the winnings. Not to mention he was owned by Trevor Hemmings; I’ve a feeling you’ll see his name pop up again soon.
Neptune Collonges – Daryl Jacob/Paul Nicholls/John Hales (33/1) | 2012
A familiar name to many, Neptune Collonges was another deserved winner of the National nine years ago. Unfortunate that he was trained in the same yard as the legendary Kauto Star and Denman at the time, the grey would often play third fiddle to his two classier stable-mates. However, a switch to the bigger fences worked the oracle, and off a very workable mark of 157, he scored a memorable success in Liverpool in what would be his last racecourse appearance. Not exactly a bad way to bow out.
Auroras Encore – Ryan Mania/Sue Smith/Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont & David P van der Hoeven (66/1) | 2013
The lowest weighted and biggest priced horse in this list, Auroras Encore had to lump just 10st 3lbs and sat 35th in the handicap as he sealed a nine-length romp at huge odds in 2013. Ryan Mania became the first Scottish rider to win the National for 117 years in doing so, and at 23, he was just 12 years older than the horse under him.
Pineau De Re – Leighton Aspell/Dr Richard Newland/John Provan (25/1) | 2014
Despite only winning one chase under the stewardship of Dr Richard Newland, Pineau De Re saw off allcomers in 2014 under Leighton Aspell. The Worcestershire yard entered the National under the radar with their contender going off at 25s, but won easily under a jockey riding him for the first time.
Many Clouds – Leighton Aspell/Oliver Sherwood/Trevor Hemmings (25/1) | 2015
That man again. Leighton Aspell secured back-to-back National’s aboard the legendary Many Clouds in what was remarkably Trevor Hemmings’s third win in the race. His beloved Clouds had ran in the Gold Cup a month before, having won the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (formerly the Hennessy) earlier that season. It was the biggest weight-carrying victory in the race since Red Rum’s success in 1974, lumping 11st 9lbs from pillar to post six years ago, and was the quickest National win since Mr Frisk in 1990.
Rule The World – David Mullins/Mouse Morris/Gigginstown House Stud (33/1) | 2016
Remarkably a maiden over steeple chase fences, Rule The World denied market leader The Last Samurai on the line to seal the biggest prize of them all under the now-retired David Mullins. It was a first victory in the race for Gigginstown, but was certainly not the last…
One For Arthur – Derek Fox/Lucinda Russell/Deborah Thompson & Belinda McClung (14/1) | 2017
A winner of the Classic at Warwick two months before, One For Arthur saw off Cross Country winner Cause Of Causes four years ago. He became only the second trained Scottish winner of the race, and Russell claimed a fourth scalp for female trainers in doing so. He had to overcome two false starts, too…
Tiger Roll – Davy Russell/Gordon Elliot/Gigginstown House Stud (10/1 & 4/1) | 2018/19
The little warrior. So good we’ve had to condense this into one. Tiger Roll recorded a Cheltenham Festival and Grand National double two years in a row to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back National’s. Davy Russell had to wait years for a first success in the race, but just like London buses, two arrived at once. Carrying 6lbs more, he was even more impressively the second time and solidify his status as an Aintree great. Sadly, there will not be a third tilt in 2021, but he will forever be remembered as a National Hunt legend.
To find out more on this year’s Grand National Festival, which starts on Thursday 8th April, head this way.