Ah The Grand National. A three-day celebration of equine sporting prowess where millions of people win money, lose more money and drink Liverpool dry. For those of us who arenât into horse racing, thereâs always the possibility of a bit of scandal to keep us amused, so itâs really a win-win situation. We’ve compiled our favourite National moments to keep you occupied whether youâre praying for a winner, or just waiting to see if thereâs a pile-up.
In 1993, The Grand National was declared âvoidâ after two false starts, a load of animal rights protestors on the course and a winner with the second-fastest time ever.
30 of the 39 riders didnât notice that the race had been called back for a second false start and took off around the track as the recall man failed to put up his flag, which would have warned the riders.
11 riders completed one lap before realising their mistake, but 7 never did, and finished the full race, meaning that the Jockey Club had to declare the race void as it couldnât have been re-run under those circumstances. This proved to be a real shame for winner 50-1 outsider Eliot Ness, ridden by John White, and also for the bookies who had to pay back over Â£75 million in bets placed. Our hearts still bleed for them.
Despite the title, this race has absolutely nothing to do with any lake-related disasters in Devon. It actually refers to the 1956 race, which is notorious for one reason: poor old Devon Loch. Winning after having cleared all the fences and with only 10 horses left in the race, Devon Loch inexplicably jumped in the air and landed on its stomach, then standing up again but was unable to continue the race. Nobody has been able to figure out why Devon Lock jumped, but various theories have included the horse having cramp in its hindquarters, jumping after being confused by a shadow, or, as jockey Dick Francis supposed, the loud roar of the crowd in anticipation of the finish unnerved the horse. Either way, itâs one of the finest examples of a dive youâll see outside of the Champions League.
Since then, the phrase âto do a Devon Lochâ has become popularised in English, and is used to describe a sudden failure of a team or person expected to claim victory. For example, the headline in the Telegraph fro 2005 which said: âRooney in the saddle as United pray for a Devon Loch collapse [from Chelsea].â?
A horse without a rider can be quite unpredictable, as almost the whole field of the 1967 Grand National found out when Popham Down, after finding itself liberated from its jockey, decided that the best way off the course was in front of everyone else, and not over the jumps.
This allowed 100-1 shot Foinavon, ridden by John Buckingham, to circumvent the crowd and race off to victory. Fence 7 (and also fence 23, on the second lap) on the course is now called âFoinavonâ to commemorate the bizarre race (scroll to about 4:30 in the video to see what happens).
Sometimes strange things happen at the Grand National for serious reasons, and in 1997 the race had to be postponed after two coded bomb threats were received, reportedly from the Provisional IRA. Jockeys, stewards and 60,000 spectators were evacuated from the ground, but all vehicles were locked in the car park.
The race was run on the Monday, 48 hours after the scheduled start time, and organisers offered free admission in an effort to fill the stands. Unsurprisingly, people arenât desperate to go to places where thereâs recently been a bomb scare.
1973 saw the legendary Red Rum win its first Grand National in one of the most famous editions of the race. Red Rum ran down Crisp with only four fences left, it looked like Crisp â joint favourite with Red Rum to win the race â had an easy victory, but Red Rum fought back an managed to edge the victory by three-quarters of a length. Who said horse racing was boring? Us? Never…