Even with the modifications it still takes something to complete the course (it was the fences now it is the jockeys being told to pull up when beaten - nine were pulled up in the closing stages in 2017). So for 2017 here is a tribute to those brave brave horses that quietly completed to cross the line, sometimes a very long way behind - sometimes even when the winner was half way on his way to the winners enclosure. Some last places runners in particular caught my eye.
1960 - SKATEALONG (8th) - RR Harrison (66-1)
1961 - IRISH COFFEE (14th) - J.Magee (50-1)
1962 - CLEAR PROFIT (17th) - T J Ryan (66-1)
1963 - DANDY TIM (22nd) - Laurie Major (50-1)
1964 - SEA KNIGHT (15th) - Mr P.Nicholson (66-1) - A fairly useful hunter chaser Sea Knight ran in four Liverpool Foxhunters Chases between 1963 & 1967 winning in both 1963 and 1965. However there was a far greater gap in class between the amateur runners and seasoned handicappers than there is today which is perfectly exampled by his performance in the National in 1964. Last across the Melling Road.....he stayed there. Already adrift by the fourth fence he plodded on at his own pace completely oblivious to the horse race going on in front of him. By the Anchor Bridge he was over a fence behind, by second Bechers two fences and as the leaders battled it out past the Anchor Bridge second time Sea Knight was clambering over the fence after Valentines. Sea Knight was not unique though, watch those wonderful black and white Nationals of the sixties in particular the head-on view at Bechers and the third last and most years you can spot one or more runners miles behind the others. In those days it was all about completing the course. Not sure you would get away with it today though.
1965 - MOYRATH (14th) - B.Richmond (100-1)
1966 - LOVING RECORD (12th) - B.Hannon (50-1)
1967 - GAME PURSTON (18th) - Ken White (66-1)
1968 - QUINTIN BAY (17th) - Willie Robinson
1969 - LIMETRA (14th) - Paddy Broderick (50-1)
1970 - ASSAD (7th) - Josh Gifford (28-1)
1971 - COMMON ENTRANCE (13th) - Mr M Morris (100-1) - Today he is best known as one of Irelands leading trainers who sent out War Of Attrition to lift the Gold Cup in 2006 and of course Rule the World in the 2016 National. But for some of us with longer memories "Mouse" Morris was a pretty good Irish rider in the seventies both as an amateur and professional winning an Irish National and Queen Mother Chase. Now for us anoraks he deserves special mention here for Common Entrance, the missing horse of seventies Nationals. All form books will say that after a fall at the Chair he was remounted to finish last of the thirteen finishers. But scour all the footage and you cannot see him. The BBC show him in last place approaching the Chair but his fall is not captured. Movietone do feature him jumping the water in splendid isolation but that is it. Did he really finish ? Having looked again at the head on at second Bechers and the third last I think you can just about see a "speck" in the distance - crossing the Melling Road and by the Canal. If this is Common Entrance then he was further behind than any other horse at these stages and he can take the honour for being the furthest behind of any National finisher in the modern era.
1972 - ROUGH SILK (9th) - David Nicholson (25-1)
1973 - MILL DOOR (17th) - Peter Cullis (100-1) - The story of Mill Door and his journey man rider Peter Cullis told in Chris Pitts excellent book "Go Down to the Beaten" which is reviewed elsewhere in this site. Mill Door was probably the least talented horse to run in a National of the seventies, an average point to pointer who had never won under rules. He would not have got within a million miles of the National today but in those days you qualified if you finished in the first four in a race over the National fences and he had finished a very remote last of four finishers in the previous years Foxhunters. To be fair he ran credibly on the first circuit, was seventh at first Bechers but was steadily dropping back and only had five behind him at half way. His rider who was in the twighlight of his career and had been looking to ride in a National for many years let him hunt his way round at his own pace. By second Canal he was three fences behind runaway leader Crisp and four out he was one of several baulked by loose horses. He was put to the fence a second time, popped over it and finished. Mill Door changed hands soon afterwards but ran in the following years National and was similarly behind when perhaps remembering events of the previous year he fell four out.
1974 - PRINCESS CAMILLA (17th) - Martin Blackshaw (28-1)
1975 - RAG TRADE (10th) - John Francome (18-1) - What a difference a year makes - whilst horses have won a National first time and then hated it second time round (Anglo, Last Suspect, Miinnehoma, Bindaree) it is rare for it to be the other way round. In 1975 Rag Trade gave the impression that he absolutely hated the place, sulking in rear throughout and making sloppy mistakes to finish a very distant last of ten behind L'Escargot & Red Rum - who would have though he would turn the tables so emphatically on Rummy a year later.
1976 - INDIAN DIVA (16th) - Mr Nicky Henderson (100-1)
1977 - SAUCEY BELLE (11th*) - R F Davies (200-1)
1978 - NEVER ROCK (15th) - Kevin Mooney (50-1)
1979 - PRIME JUSTICE (7th) - A K Taylor (200-1) - The forgotten horse of 1979, an unconsidered outsider he was in the rear throughout although apart from a mistake at the fifth he jumped soundly enough. In a race of substantial grief not one of the BBC commentators noticed him. With just seventeen standing at the water, Peter O' Sullevan named all the survivors except him, after second Bechers when there were just twelve left in the contest Julian Wilson missed him and with just a handful left three out John Hanmer didn't mention him either. He finally got a mention by Sir Peter....after he had completed the course a distant seventh. Whilst only nine he didn't run under rules again.
1980 - ROYAL STUART (4th) - Philip Blacker (20-1)
1981 - CHEERS (11th) - Peter Scudamore (20-1)
1982 - CHEERS (8th) - Mrs Geraldine Rees (66-1) - GRAND NATIONAL ANORAK FACT - Cheers is one of only two horses to have twice finished last in the National. The other ? Former National hero Gamecock who ran in six consecutive Nationals between 1886 & 1891 winning in 1887 and finishing third in 1886. He only once failed to complete the course so it seems a little churlish to mention his two last places in 1889 & 1891. As for Cheers... two runs and two last places. In 1981 he had genuine each-way prospects but, partnered by champion jockey Peter Scudamore he never really got into the race and leaving his hind legs in the water didn't help his chances. He was struggling from second Bechers and finished a long way behind Aldaniti. However, whilst his performance that year would not have got a mention in the press twelve months later he became the most famous last placed horse in National history. Even the BBC cut away from triumphant Grittar and Dick Saunders to show Cheers complete the course. The horse could barely raise a canter. However the state of the horse was not the story it was that his rider Geraldine Rees (only the fourth of her sex to compete in a National) had become the first female rider to complete the course. It may have been better if the BBC had not shown them as so exhausted was Cheers that it looked as if he was close to collapse. I am sure that any professional rider would have pulled him up as he had been in rear for most of the race. Oh well.....it was the eighties and Mrs Rees was very blonde and very pretty.
1983 - DELMOSS (10th) - Bill Smith (50-1)
1983 - CANFORD GINGER (23rd) - Colin Brown (100-1)
1985 - CAPTAIN PARKHILL (11th) - Chris Grant (100-1)
1986 - GAYLE WARNING (17th) - Mr Sandy Dudgeon (50-1_
1987 - INSURE (22nd) - Mr Charlie Brooks (45-1)
1988 - LEAN AR AGHAIDH (9th) - Guy Landau (10-1_
1989 - MR BAKER (14th) - Michael Moran (100-1)
1994 - ROC DE PRINCE (6th) - Jonathan Lower (100-1)
1995 - FOR WILLIAM (15th*) - Conor O'Dwyer (100-1)
1996 - SURE METAL (17th) - Donald McCain Jnr (200-1)
1997 - EVANGELICA (17th) - Robbie Supple (33-1_
1998 - KILLESHIN (6th*) - Sean Curran (25-1_
1999 - COOME HILL (17th) - Steve Wynne (25-1)
2000 - CELTIC GIANT (17th) - Bruce Gibson (100-1)
2001 - PAPILLON (4th*) - Ruby Walsh ()
2002 - MELY MOSS (11th*) - Norman Williamson (25-1)
2003 - SOUTHERN STAR (14th) - Dominic Ellsworth (66-1)
2004 - DAVIDS LAD (11th) - Timmy Murphy (12-1)
2005 - SHAMAWAN (21st) - Shay Barry (200-1)
2006 - FOREST GUNNER (9th) - Miss Nina Carberry (33-1)
2007 - GALLANT APPROACH () - Jimmy McCarthy (33-1)
2008 - MILAN DEUX MILLE () - Tom Malone (125-1)
2009 - CORNISH SETT () - Nick Scholfield (33-1)
2010 - PRIESTS LEAP (14th) - Philip Enright (100-1)
2011 - PIRAYA (19th) - Johnny Farrelly (100-1)
2012 - MIDNIGHT HAZE () - Sean Quinlan (80-1)
2013 - ANY CURRENCY () - Ian Popham (100-1)
2014 - HAWKES POINT () - Ryan Mahon (50-1)
2015 - DOLATULO () - Dougie Costello (66-1)
2016 - MANY CLOUDS () - Leighton Aspell (8-1jfav)
2017 - WONDERFUL CHARM () - Ms Katie Walsh (28-1)