Anthems & Fanfares - In 1991 the National parade was preceded by music for the first time when "Fanfare for the Common man" was played through the tannoy. In 1993 the fanfare was played live for the first time. Between 2002 and 2004 the National Anthem was sung live by four Opera Singers during the preliminaries. The National Anthem was re-introduced before racing in 2013. Welsh opera stunner Katherine Jenkins did the honours. This tradition continues but since 2013 we no longer have the fanfare.
Bechers Brook - The last horse and rider to jump the old style Bechers in a race before the fence was modified in October 1989 was Polar Nomad & Alan Merrigan in the 1989 National. The first combination to clear the new look Bechers were New Halen & Luke Harvey in the 1990 John Hughes.
Baptism of Fire - Irish jockey Pat Malone who partnered outsider Thinking Cap in 1990 was not only having his first ride in the National but his first ride in the UK. Eddie Dempsey did even better. His winning ride on Caughoo in 1947 was also his first ride (and visit) in the UK.
Black Humour ran in the 1991 Champion Hurdle, 1993 Cheltenham Gold Cup and 1994 Grand National. He fell in each race.
Champion Hurdle - It is perhaps not surprising that the Champion Hurdle has not been seen as a stepping stone en-route to an attempt at Aintree glory. Whilst great hurders have found success over fences only Sir Ken in the fifties won a major race at Aintree and that was the Mildmay chase. Nine horses have run in the Champion Hurdle & Grand National. Of these L`Escargot, Chatham, Black Humour, Astonville and Contraband have run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup as well. Astonville & Contraband have the dubious distinction of running in all three events in the same year.
The full list of National/Champion Hurdle runners is as follows :-Beau Normand (1964 National) - 1962 Champion Hurdle (7th), Specify (1970-72) - 1967 (20th), L`Escargot (1972-75) - 1969 (6th), Chatham (1995-96) - 1991 (9th), Black Humour (1994) - 1991 (fell), Blowing Wind (2001-04) - 1999 (bd), Katarino (2003) - 2000 (7th), Astonville (2005) - 2005 (11th), Contraband (2008) - 2008 (13th)
Cheek -Pieces - A familiar site on horses now they were unheard of until the early noughties. It is now not uncommon to see horses sporting them in the National but it was only in 2002 that first fence casualty Red Ark became the first National runners to sport them.
Derby Form - The Derby is not a race to spot future National runners but Permit who failed to finish in 1970 & 1972 finished unplaced in Royal Palaces Derby in 1967.
Dead-Heats- With no photo finish facility at Aintree in 1972 the judge awarded a dead heat for third place between Black Secret and General Symons. However if you look at the finish closely most would give the verdict to Black Secret. The only other dead heat given for a National placing (this time with the aid of a photo finish camera) was in 1995 when Into the Red & Romany King were both awarded fifth place.
Dreams - The week before the 2014 National I had a dream where I saw the winner of the National being led into the winners enclosure. His jockey was sporting a white cap with green spots. The following day I trawled through the entries and found that the famous Johnson family colours (blue, green sleeves, white cap and green spots) were being sported by The Package who had a decent each way chance. I don`t really believe in the providence of dreams but recalled that one lucky punter had dreamt the colours of Foinavon winning in 1967 so I thought why not. I didn`t study the form for the race and relied solely on my unconscious thoughts. Going down to Bechers I thought we had a chance but eventually he weakened but he did finish. Ironically the winner, Pineau de Re was sporting white and green colours but there wasn`t a spot in sight. I also dreamed in 2017 that David Pipe trained the winner of the National.....he didn't.
False starts & Fiascos - Everyone knows about 1993 and the infamous "race that never was" but did you know that there were four other false starts before this disaster. The first occurred in 1952 (the year after the worst start in National history which led to a mad dash to the first and a record number of fallers at the fence) and the race was delayed by ten minutes. When they did get off there was another mad dash to the first where ten horses fell, just one less than the previous year. (J K Pyes book "A Grand National Commentary" has excellent photos of both this false start and the start in 1951). In 1988 Repington and five other horses broke the tape causing considerable delay and the following year (interestingly Keith Browns first attempt at starting the National) Bob Tisdal broke the tape. When Brown let them go the second time the unfortunate horse was facing sideways and was left at the start. After the shambles of the 1993 race the new starter Simon Morant tended to let the horses walk up to the tape and let them go and his starts for the 1994 and 2001 races are particularly impressive. False starts in 2006, 2007 (followed by horrendous attempts by starter Peter Haynes to get the horses lined up), two in 2009, another one in 2010 and the start was pretty horrible in 2012. Another false start in 2014 (after assistant starter Simon McNeill got knocked to the ground) and 2017. The false start is now something of a Grand National tradition.
Gold Cup - The following ran on both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in the same year.Addington Boy - 1999 (5), Alexander Banquet - 2002 (6), 2004 (8), Alverton - 1979 (1), Astonville - 2005 (10), Ballycassidy - 2005 (8), 2006 (14), Bassnet - 1968 (4), Behrajan - 2003 (5), Bonanza Boy - 1989 (4), 1990 (8), Cerium - 2009 (11), Challenger du Luc - 1998 (7), Chives - 2003 (7), Contraband - 2008 (pu), Cool Ground - 1992 (1), Cornish Rebel - 2006 (18), Davy Lad - 1977 (1), Docklands Express - 1992 (3), Double Thriller - 1999 (4), Dubacilla - 1995 (2), Ebony Jane - 1994 (ur), Foinavon - 1967 (7), Fortinas Palace - 1972 (5), Frenchmans Cove -1963, Garrison Savannah - 1991 (1), 1993 (7), 1994 (pu), Gay Trip - 1970 (6), 1972 (8), Glandford Brigg - 1975 (4), 1976 (5), Go Ballistic - 1997 (4), High Ken - 1975 (5), Idle Talk - 2007, Iron Man - 2008 (pu), Iznogood - 2006 (15), Joes Edge -2006 (13), Kellsboro Wood - 1969 (pu), Knowhere - 2008 (5), 2009 (9), L`Ami - 2007 (7), L`Escargot - 1972 (4), 1974 (4), Lord of Illusion - 2006 (18), Lord Windermere - 2015 (pu), Lotoray - 1960 (10), Many Clouds - 2015 (6), Marlborough - 2002 (4), Master H - 1978 (3), Master Oats - 1995 (1), Miinnehoma - 1994 (7), 1995 (3), Money Market - 1976 (4), Monkerhostin - 2007 (4), Mon Mome - 2010 (3), More Than That - 2017 (6), My Will - 2009 (4), 2010 (7), Nahthen Lad - 1997 (pu), On His Own (2016) - 16 (8), Otter Way - 1978 (pu), Nicholaus Silver - 1963, Nuaffe - 1995 (ur), Rhyme `n` Reason - 1988 (f), Roman Bar - 1976 (9), Rough Quest - 1996 (2), 1998 (f), Royal Auclair - 2005 (7), 2006 (9), Royal Frolic - 1979 (pu), Run For Free - 1994 (9), Saphir du Rheu - 2017 (5), Spanish Steps - 1973 (6), Spartan Missile - 1981 (4), Suny Bay - 1998 (5), 1999 (pu), Synchronised - 2012 (1), Take the Stand - 2005 (2), Teaforthree - 2014 (8), The Dikler - 1975 (pu), 1976 (8), The Fellow - 1994 (1), The Last Fling - 2000 (pu), The Midnight Club - 2012 (9), The Thinker - 1989 (f), The Vintner - 1980 (f), Tidal Bay - 2011 (pu), Tricky Trixter - 2010 (9), Triolo D`Alene - 2014 (10), Weird Al - 2012 (pu), West Tip - 1987 (4), 1988 (6), 1989 (ref & ur rem 5), What A Friend - 2011 (4), What A Myth - 1967 (3), Whats Up Boys - 2002 (5), Yahoo - 1991 (8), Young Hustler - 1994 (3), 1995 (5), 1996 (5), You`re Agoodun - 2003 (9)
Greys - They are the housewifes favourite but apart from 1961 winner Nicholaus Silver, second placed Suny Bay in 1997 & 1998, Whats Up Boys in 2002, King Johns Castle in 2008 and the wonderful Neptune Collonges in 2012 (only the third grey winner in the history of the race) greys have not had the best luck in the National. The full list of grey National runners since 1960 are as follows :- 1961 - Nicholaus Silver (1st), 1962 - Nicholaus Silver (7th), 1963 - LovingRecord (pu), Nicholaus Silver (10th), Owens Sedge (7th), Wingless (fell), 1964 - Flying Wild (fell), 1965 - Loving Record (8th), Tant Pis (9th), 1966 - Flying Wild (pu), Loving Record (12th), 1967 - Forecastle (pu), 1968 - Forecastle (pu), 1969 - Peccard (ur), Tam Kiss (ur), The Beeches (4th), 1970 - All Glory (fell), The Beeches (fell), 1973 - Grey Sombrero (fell), 1976 - Prolan (fell), 1977 - Willy What (fell), 1982 - Loving Words (bd remounted 3rd), Man Alive (fell), 1983 - Tower Moss (fell), 1984 - Two Swallows (6th), 1987 - Dark Ivy (fell), Smiths Man (11th), 1988 - Brass Change (fell), Smiths Man (pu), 1989 - Sergeant Sprite (fell), 1990 - Pukka Major (ur), Stars Delight (pu), 1992 - Stay On Tracks (9th), 1995 - Desert Lord (fell), 1997 - Dextra Dove (pu), Suny Bay (2nd), 1998 - Diwali Dancer (fell), Suny Bay (2nd), 1999 - Kendal Cavalier (7th), Suny Bay (13th), 2000- Kendal Cavalier (12th), Senor El Bettrutti (fell), Suny Bay (13th), 2002 - Birkdale (10th), Carryonharry (fell), Gun `n` Roses II (fell), Kingsmark (4th), Whats Up Boys (2nd), 2004 - Kingsmark (9th), Royal Atalza (pu), Whats Up Boys (bd), 2006 - Ross Comm (fell), 2007 - Kanjar D`Allier (fell), The Outlier (ur) , 2008 - D`Argent (ur), King Johns Castle (2nd), 2009 - Reveillez (bd), 2010 - Beat the Boys (pu), Character Building (9th), King Johns Castle (refused to race), Piraya (pu), 2011 - Character Building (15th), Piraya (19th & last), Quilobet (ur), Silver By Nature (12th), 2012 - Alfa Beat (fell), Chicago Grey (bd), Neptune Collonges (WON), Swing Bill (10th), 2013 - Chicago Grey (pulled up), Quel Esprit (pulled up), Swing Bill (6th), Tarquinius (8th), 2014 - Our Father (ur), Rose of the Moon (fell), Swing Bill (9th), Walkon (pu), 2015 - Ballycasey (unseated rider), Portrait King (fell), Unioniste (fell), Corrin Wood (pulled up), 2016 - Ballycasey (unseated rider), Unioniste (), 2017 - La Vaticane () .
Jimmy Miff a faller in 1980 & 1982 ran one hundred and fifty two races between 1975 and 1990. He ran in the Triumph Hurdle as a four year old in 1976 and won the Midlands National in 1979 (he ran in the race six times). As far as I am aware no National runner ran in as many races.
Jockeys - Martin Lynch`s first experience of the National was brief as in 1981 he was unseated at the very first fence by Barney McClyvie. He had to wait an incredible eleven years before he got another chance when he was called up at the eleventh hour to replace the injured Adrian Maguire on Gold Cup winner Cool Ground. Amateur Norman Mitchell boasts what I believe is the record wait between rides thirteen years between finishing unplaced on Dunno in 1974 and then pulling up on Run For Free in 1987.
Jonjo O`Neill one of the greatest jockeys we have ever seen had a wretched Grand National career. He never got round in eight attempts despite riding two National favourites in Rag Trade and Alverton. His record reads as follows : 1973 - Glenkiln (fell Chair), 1976 - Meridian II (fell 13th), 1977 - Sir Garnet (unseated rider second Canal), 1978 - Rag Trade (pulled up 21st), 1979 - Alverton (fell second Bechers), 1980 - Another Dolly (fell first Bechers), 1982 - Again the Same (pulled up first Canal Turn), 1983 - Beacon Time (baulked & unseated rider 20th). He has done better as a trainer - his first runner Clan Royal finished second in 2004 and he won the race with Don`t Push It in 2010.
Least successful horse - Art Prince owned by Liverpool businessman Terry Neill and trained by Martin Pipe ran in two Nationals in 2000 and 2001. He fell at the first both times.
Least successful jockey - Cheshire solicitor John Carden rode in five Nationals between 1974 and 1982. In 1974 he rode Huperade who had been a fairly useful chaser in his day and had finished in the 1972 Topham Trophy. The intrepid pair were brought down in a melee at the Canal Turn first time. That was the furthest Mr Carden ever got. Two years later he rode Huperade again and came down at the first and ended up in hospital. Undeterred they tried for a third time a year later and fell at the first again. Huperade bade farewell to the National but Mr Carden was not finished as in 1981 he rode Bryan Boru and they managed to clear three fences before refusing at the fourth. 1982 saw Mr Cardens last attempt on board Rathlek who had finished in 1981 and pulled up in the latter stages of the 1980 race. Sadly with Mr Carden Rathlek didn`t get so far as they were the last of the ten fallers at the first. As a child considering a career in the law (I ended up a solicitor - never managed to become a racing commentator) I was fascinated by Mr Cardens attempts and he was something of a hero of mine. Tragically he was left a tetraplegic following a fall in a hurdle race at Southwell in 1993 suffering the hangmans break (similar to the fate that befell Superman actor Christopher Reeves) yet he continued to practice law until his retirement ten years later. I was saddened to learn that Mr Carden died in July 2010.
Maryland Hunt Cup - Americas premier timber race bears little resemblance to the National except for its long distance of four miles. Run in April it is not feasible for a horse to run in both races in the same season. Two Maryland Hunt Cup winners, Jay Trump & Ben Nevis triumphed in the National after their heroics in their native land. Two winners have failed at Aintree, Bewleys Hill (the only horse to date to be officially trained in the United States - the others all lodged with British trainers) in 1987 & Uncle Merlin in 1990. Both had their Aintree experience end at Bechers. The last Maryland Hunt Cup winner to be entered for the National was the grey Buck Jakes in 1998. He failed to sparkle in his prep races and did not make it to Aintree.
Not Keen - King Johns Castle disgraced himself on his second visit to Aintree by refusing to start. He became the first horse since the war to behave this badly and in 2014 we saw Battle Group misbehave although he did get away for the false start but then decided he had done enough.
Officials - Ever wondered who is in charge of Aintree ? No - well these were the clerks of the course at Aintree from 1946 - John Crocker-Bulteel (National meeting), 1946-47 (Joint Clerks) J.Ryder-Ryan & Cedric R.Manning, 1947 (Summer Meeting-1949 (Autumn meeting) - Sir Kenneth Gibson, 1950-56 - Major Peter Beckwith-Smith, 1956 (Autumn meeting) -1973- Jim Bidwell-Topham, 1974-1975 - Major Peter Beckwith-Smith, 1976-1988 - John Hughes, 1989-1992 - John Parrett, 1993 (acting) - Rod Fabricius, 1994 -1998 - Charles Barnett, 1999-2001 - Ian Renton, 2002 - Andrew Tulloch My sincere thanks to John Southward who provided me with the correct list of clerks from 1946-56.
Outsiders - Everyone knows about Foinavon and the other 100-1 winners Tipperary Tim in 1928 , Caughoo in 1957 and now Mon Mome in 2009 but what about that unconsidered outsider you had 50p each way on ? Since 1946 where we saw the second Jack Horner and the fourth Housewarmer start at 100-1 only Uncle Barney (3rd 1952), Gay Navaree (4th 1962), Over The Deel (3rd 1995), Camelot Knight (3rd 1997) and Philson Run (4th 2007) have reached a place at odds of 100-1.The longest odds of a National starter has been 500-1. The horses to have been that friendless in the market have been Midday Welcome & Never Tamper in 1983, Mount Oliver & Late Night Extra in 1986 and in 1987 in what was possibly the second worst National field of modern times seven horses started at these ridiculous odds, Cranlome, Gala Prince, Brit, Valencio, Lucky Rew, Le Bambino and Spartan Orient. Cranlome actually finished fourteenth the best ever performance by such an outsider.
Parade of Champions - From 1978 until 1994 Red Rum led the parade and in 1987 at the conclusion of his sponsored walk Aldaniti and Bob Champion paraded in front of the stands. In 1991 the first formal parade of champions took place with five former winners Hallo Dandy, Last Suspect, Maori Venture, Rhyme `n` Reason and Little Polveir gathering by the Red Rum statue. The parade was next held in 1997 before racing and is now a permanent feature on Grand National day. Bobbyjo is the only National winner since 1991 who never took part (sadly neither will 2015 hero Many Clouds, the best National winner since Red Rum)
Retirement - When Dick Saunders won the 1982 National on Grittar, he immediately announced his retirement from riding duiring his post race interview with the BBCs David Coleman. 1987 winner Maori Venture was retired the following day by owner Jim Joel who in a very sporting gesture gave the horse to his jockey Steve Knight. 2012 winner Neptune Collonges was another hero who was retired the moment he passed the winning post.
Starters - Since 1993 the starter of the National is under as much pressure as the trainers and riders. Since 1968 the starters have been 1968-1970 - Alec Marsh, 1971-1978 - Major M Everleigh, 1979-1983 - Captain Dick Smalley, 1984 - Captain Michael Sayers, 1985 - Major John Mangles, 1986 -1988 - Captain Michael Sayers, 1989-1993 - Captain Keith Brown, 1994-1995 - Simon Morant, 1996 - Gerry Scott, 1997-2003 - Simon Morant, 2004-2007 Peter Haynes, 2008-09 Sean McDonald, 2010 - Hugh Barclay.
Tips and Betting - My first ever visit to a betting shop was on Grand National day in 1984 when I entered Ladbrokes in Robertson Street, Hastings and placed 50p each way on Broomy Bank. Since then I have backed the winner seven times which isn`t a bad strike rate - it would have been eight if Esha Ness had counted. For posterity here are my National punts - 1984 - Broomy Bank (8th), 1985 - Lucky Vane (pulled up) ,1986 - Mr Snugfit - (4th),,1987 - Classified (unseated rider), 1988 - Border Burg (pulled up), 1989 - Bonanza Boy (8th),, 1990 - Mr Frisk (1st) ,1991 - Seagram (1st), 1992 - Twin Oaks (5th), 1994 - Mr Boston (fell), 1995 - Country Member (fell 1st) , 1996 - Superior Finish (4th) , 1997 - Avro Anson (6th) , 1998 - Earth Summit (1st), 1999 - Bobbyjo (1st), 2000 - The Last Fling (7th), 2001 - Hanakhan (fell), 2002 - Paris Pike (fell 1st), 2003 - Amberleigh House (3rd), 2004 - Amberleigh House (1st), 2005 - Hedgehunter (1st), 2006 - Numbersixvalverde (1st), 2007 - Point Barrow (fell 1st), 2008 - King Johns Castle (2nd), 2009 - Can`t Buy Time (fell), 2010 - Mon Mome (fell), 2011 - State of Play (4th), 2012 - West End Rocker (fell), 2013 - Cappa Bleu (2nd), 2014 - The Package (12th), 2015 - Saint Are (2nd), 2016 - Saint Are (pulled up). 2017 - Pleasant Company (9th).
Velka Pardubicka - With the opening of the Cross Country course at Cheltenham in 1995 the National has lost its appeal to our friends from the Czech Republic.The timing of the National in early April doesn`t help as it is run before the Czech jumps season has even started. However the Velka has featured on the CV of several Eastern European and British National runners.Reljef (USSR), Grifel (USSR), Stephens Society, Baroney Fort, Essex (CZ), Valencio (CZ), Fraze (CZ), Quirinus (Slovakia), Its A Snip, Superior Finish, Djeddah, Supreme Charm, Celtic Giant, Luzcadou, Takagi and Nadover have all run in both races.
Xtraordinary coincidence - In 2009 Priests Leap was quietly fancied for the National but trailed in fourteenth place of seventeen finishers. Twelve months later he finished tailed off last of ....fourteen finishers. Across the Bay also has finished fourteenth two years running in 2013 and 2014 but he would have been a lot closer had he not nearly been carried out at half-way going from first to last in a matter of strides. Irish challenger Colnel Rayburn pulled up in both his National starts in 2005 & 2006 at the twenty seventh fence. Simon also came down at Valentines second time two years running in 2007 & 2008. Dual Cheltenham Foxhunters winner Earthmover saw both his Nationals end at the fourth fence in 2000 & 2001.