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The Grand National’s Most Famous Horses

On the 9 April 2022 at 17:15pm the best steeplechase horses, jockeys and trainers gather at Aintree to race in the longest and most prestigious horse race in the National Hunt season. The Grand National is run over four miles and two and a half furlongs with two laps of the Aintree race course featuring 30 fences. Watched by a 75,000-capacity crowd cheering their favourite horse to the finishing post, the prize money on offer is greater than any other steeplechase race in Europe. A massive £1 million of prize money is shared among the most successful horses on the day with the winner collecting a staggering £561,300. Now that would not be a bad day at the races!

The horses that run in the Grand National are usually older compared to those that race in the flat season. Usually, steeplechase horses will start racing at a minimum age of four or five years and their careers can continue into double figures, with retirement not later than by 12 years. The minimum age for entry into the Grand National is seven years with the ability to demonstrate a track record of finishing fourth or better on numerous occasions. The horses need to mature before taking on the demands of the National Hunt season with more frequent soft ground to navigate and fences to jump, not to mention having a jockey steering the way. They require massive power, stamina and courage to handle the courses and compete with the best.

There is not one particular breed of horse that dominates steeplechase but mostly they are thoroughbred with an Anglo-Irish or French lineage, as these are particularly well known for their jumping prowess. Sometimes they are introduced to flat racing in order to help them develop and become used to race day surrounds. The horses will be trained to build up their fitness and stamina, often having a lot of cross-country rides and then practice jumping, galloping and turning.  The training needs to be persistent as the horses have a lot of downtime between races as they rarely run more than 10 times per calendar year.

So, with this in mind which horses have shone the brightest and placed their name in the history books at the world’s most famous steeplechase race, the Grand National?

Red Rum

Where better to start than the most famous and successful Grand National steeplechase horse. Red Rum won the Grand National three times, a feat that has never been replicated in the 180 years plus history of the race. Red Rum was foaled in 1965 and went on to win the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977. What makes the story amazing is that Red Rum was purchased as a crippled seven- year-old suffering from an inflammatory bone disorder, and trainer Ginger McCain went about his business and reconditioned the horse. Taking the horse to the train in the sea and on the sand, he managed to maximise the horse’s abilities that led Red Rum to his first win in 1973. Brian Fletcher was the jockey on this occasion as Red Rum charged through from 15 lengths down in second and in the last 100 yards passed the long-time leader Crisp who had a 23-pound weight disadvantage. The finish was close with only three quarters of a length separating the two and a record winning time of 9:02 was set that was not broken for another 17 years. The same jockey rode Red Rum to back-to-back victories the following year and this time it was more convincing, beating L’Escargot by seven lengths. Red Rum became the first horse in nearly 40 years to complete a double and three weeks later he went on to win the Scottish Grand National.

In the following two Grand Nationals, Red Rum could not quite live up to expectation when he finished second behind L’Escargot in 1975 and Rag Trade in 1976. Now twelve years of age, Red Rum miraculously won by 25 lengths in 1977 as Tommy Stach rode him to victory making Noel Le Mare the most successful owner of a horse running the Grand National.


Aldaniti was named after his breeders four grandchildren and came to recognition in the 1978/79 National Hunt season by finishing third at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and second in the Scottish Grand National. Unfortunately, in 1979 the horse endured a serious career threatening leg injury that required over one year to remedy.

Having set about the recovery, Aldaniti returned to the race track in 1981 and showed great form that led to entry in the Grand National. Credit to the horse as he was second favourite on the day and was leading by the eleventh fence only to stay out in front for the remainder of the race. The favourite Spartan Missile was chasing Aldaniti down towards the finishing post but he still managed to win by four lengths. What made the win even more fitting was that this horse, owned by Nick Embiricos, was ridden by Bob Champion who had recovered from cancer. The following year saw Aldaniti and Bob Champion fall at the first fence at the Grand National. Aldaniti also had a film made after him called Champion, where he played the lead role.


This horse has been included as it was the winner of the first Grand National back in 1839. Hopefully the time keeper was paying attention that day as Lottery still holds the record of the slowest ever winning time at 14 minutes and 53 seconds. That said, a commentator claimed Lottery could trot faster than rivals galloped maybe explaining the reason why. However, there was serious respect for this horse as some race organisers would not allow the winner of the Cheltenham Steeplechase to participate in their race programme, that horse being Lottery. Ridden by Jem Mason, trained by George Dockeray and owned by John Elmore, Lottery fell at the wall in the 1840 Grand National and had a heavy weight burden in 1841 that provided a severe disadvantage to his chances of winning.  Perhaps Lottery could have been even more successful? During the Grand National win of 1839, another horse, The Duke ridden by Captain Martin Becher, was leading until he was dismounted. As he took cover in the brook below the fence the racehorses jumped past and the fence was named Becher’s Brook.


In 1967 Foinavon won the Grand National under exceptional circumstances. For starters his trainer wanted to jockey the horse, however his size made is necessary to find a suitable jockey. Priced at 100/1, three jockeys turned down offers to ride Foinavon, instead opting for another horse with better chances. The owner wanted to find a bargain priced jockey and three days before the race John Buckingham, with no prior Grand National experience agreed to ride the horse.

Foinavon ultimately had a fence named after him when on the second lap all hell broke loose with the remaining 28 runners out of a starting 44 approaching Becher’s Brook. There were some dismounted horses still running at the front that created obstruction at fence 23 and a pile up ensued. At that moment the leader Rondetto cleared the fence but his jockey fell while somehow Foinavon cleared the fence unharmed.

Looking behind, John Buckingham found he and Foinavon 30 lengths clear with six fences to go. The favourite Honey End was still in the running but the fortunate lead could not be compressed giving an unlikely and famous victory.

While none of these horses are due to run this year, it is always a thrilling race and it brings plenty of opportunities to bet big. Head over to the sportsbook to start placing your Grand National bets.

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