The Grand National is the biggest steeplechase globally and brings the whole of the UK to a standstill as the vast field of long-nosed thoroughbreds lines up and gets ready to tackle one of the most fearsome jumps courses to be found anywhere on the planet.
With an event steeped in so much history, it is no surprise that the legends of the sport have been made at Aintree down through the generations.
Here we take a look at just some of those legendary horses and jockeys, who wrote their names into the history books by wowing horse lovers everywhere with their performances.
Not all horses are made equal, with only the very best coming out on top at the Aintree Grand National.
Red Rum – Perfect Equine Tipple
Believe it or not, there was a time in the seventies when the Grand National was losing its wider appeal among the British horse racing public.
Cue the arrival of one of the most gifted racehorses ever to set foot on the Aintree turf, Red Rum, who breathed new life into the race when he won it back-to-back in 1973 and 1974, before coming agonizingly close to achieving a hat trick of Grand National triumphs.
When all the bookies and tipsters were writing him off, he then pulled a huge win out of the bag in 1977, confounding the critics to decimate the field and write himself into racing folklore forever. It is the sort of story that online tipsters are still on the lookout for to this day, but it remains to be seen if the Liverpool crowd will ever roar as a load for another horse quite as they did for Red Rum all those years ago.
Picking a winner from the Grand National’s massive field of runners is always tricky, but that does not stop people from having a go.
Tiger Roll – Michael O’Leary Clips Tiger Roll’s Wings
All the talk in the run-up to the 2021 Grand National was that the Gigginstown House Stud operation funded by Ryanair owner Michael O’Leary would not be entering Tiger Roll in the race, citing overzealous handicapping.
This robbed punters of the opportunity to back the horse delivered for them in the 2018 and 2019 versions of the race.
However, this should not tarnish this incredible horse’s legacy, especially seeing as he is one of only three horses to have claimed five wins or more at the Cheltenham Festival, which makes him a shoe-in for the horse racing hall of fame.
Foinavon – Never Stop Running
When the field set off in 1967, Foinavon’s odds of 100/1 seemed too short because no one connected to the horse thought it had a cat in hell’s chance of winning the Grand National.
But strange things can happen on such a treacherous jumps course, and so it was that virtually the whole field was spooked by a loose horse, causing chaos at one of the fences.
The only horse to not get caught up in the craziness was Foinavon, who before the race had been so unfancied that his regular jockey and trainer had abandoned him to go to other races around the country.
It just goes to show that the Grand National always has the potential to spring a shock or two.
Don’t Push It – More About Jockey Than Horse.
Usually, everyone in the racing world is at pains to remind people that the sport is all about the horses, but sometimes that is not entirely true because jockeys also have such a large part to play in the narratives that unfold on race day.
Such was the case in 2010, when at the fifteenth attempt, champion jockey Tony McCoy finally brought his Grand National drought to an end, riding Don’t Push It to glory in front of an adoring crowd, who were cheering every bit as much for McCoy down the final stretch as they were for the JP McManus-owned long nose.