With the Grand National less than two weeks away, we begin our build up by taking a look at five unfancied outsiders who defied all expectations to win.
1928 – Tipperary Tim (100/1)
It’s often said that prior to the start of the 1928 Grand National, William Dutton, who was riding 100/1 shot Tipperary Tim, was told “Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall”, words which soon proved to be startlingly prophetic.
The race was run in treacherous conditions, a thick mist compounding extremely heavy going after several weeks of rain in the build up. A fall on the first circuit of the track caused mayhem and only seven horses of the original pack of 42 emerged with their riders still seated.
The punishing conditions continued to take their toll and as they approached the final fence, just two horses remained; Billy Barton and Tipperary Tim. Astonishingly, Billy Barton fell at the last before remounting and finishing the race but it was too late to stop Tipperary Tim who crossed the line in first place as the only horse not to fall.
1967 – Foinavon (100/1)
Like Tipperary Tim before him, Foinavon was an outsider who benefited from a huge pile up out in front.
This time the melee occurred on the second circuit when a loose horse, Popham Down, blocked the frontrunners just as they were set to jump causing an almighty pile up which none of the leaders managed to avoid. Foinavon was so far behind that his jockey, John Buckingham, was able to avoid the ruck and, nearly 14 seconds later, safely jumped the fence.
Many of the unseated riders were able to remount their horse and give chase but it ultimately proved fruitless, Foinavon had established too much of a lead and went on to win.
The incident became so famous that the fence was officially renamed the ‘Foinavon Fence’, which it remains to this day.
1985 – Last Suspect (50/1)
Last Suspect’s victory in ’85 was one of the most dramatic in National history, both in terms of the events of the race and the circumstances in which he was entered to begin with.
Regarded as a talented horse with good pedigree, Last Suspect was owned by the Duchess of Westminster. Yet the decision had been taken not to enter him in the race due to an unfortunate tendency to lose interest mid-race and pull up.
Jockey Hywel Davies, though, had run Last Suspect to victory several times previously and contacted the Duchess directly in a bid to convince her to enter him. She granted her permission, telling Davies; “It’s your neck so if you want to break it, carry on.”
Davies’ had actually suffered serious injury a year earlier, suffering a fall that had knocked him unconscious and caused his heart to stop before he was resuscitated.
As a pair, Davies and Last Suspect had overcome long odds just to enter the National, yet the manner in which they eventually won was even more remarkable.
At the final fence, Last Suspect was trailing Mr. Snugfit and the second placed Corbiere, ridden by a young Peter Scudamore, by around five lengths. He remained in fourth place until the final furlong before going up the gears as they entered the home strait. Suddenly he rocketed past his competition, stealing a narrow victory with only yards to go.
2009 – Mon Mome (100/1)
A more familiar name, Liam Treadwell, had a dream Grand National debut when he rode 100/1 shot Mon Mome to glory in 2009.
The horse had been anonymous for much of the race, hovering amid the pack, yet when the early pacesetter, Black Apalachi, fell, Mon Mome gradually crept into contention.
In one of the most open Grand Nationals in memory, right up until the last fence there were still numerous horses in contention, although My Will, with Ruby Walsh on top, as well as Comply Or Die and State Of Play seemed the most likely victors.
Yet it was Mon Mome who jumped the fence impeccably before demonstrating a turn of pace that the others couldn’t match, streaking away to eventually win by 12 lengths and cement his and Liam Treadwell’s places in the history books.
2013 – Aurora’s Encore (66/1)
Aurora’s Encore was a marginally shorter starting price than Mon Mome but the story was very similar; an unfancied horse winning after a majestic leap over the last, giving his jockey the win in their debut Grand National.
On this occasion Ryan Mania was the beneficiary and subsequently became the first Scottish jockey to win the race in over a century. He later admitted that, prior to the race, he had considered retiring but opted to stay on, a decision that proved very wise. He did eventually retire a year later after struggling to keep his riding weight down.
The race was also notable for the success of new safety measures which were designed to protect the horses, after several deaths in the previous years that had put the event under scrutiny. The attending crowd cheered the announcement that every starting horse was safe, even if they hadn’t been able to cheer the bookie-friendly result.