We may have been robbed of seeing Tiger Roll make history in the flesh, but this Saturday at 5pm on ITV, the Virtual Grand National can give us some light relief.
Whilst we have no real Grand National to enjoy, I have taken the time to rewatch some classic renewals and picked out my personal all-time favourites.
1. Don’t Push It: Tony McCoy finally ends his National wait
When you win over 4,000 races, you achieve so much. However, the jewel missing from Tony McCoy’s crown was the Grand National. With each passing year, it seemed to become a bigger and bigger talking point.
Second to Gold Cup winner Denman in his novice chase days, Don’t Push It got his first crack at the Grand National in 2001 and galvanised up the run-in by AP McCoy, he beat off the attention of Black Apalachi to cross the line clear.
The twenty-time Champion Jockey stood up in the irons as a delighted crowd saw the 10/1 joint-favourite land the prize.
2. Red Rum gets up to break Crisp’s heart in the 1973 Grand National
When you say ‘Grand National’ the name most people will associate with the race, whatever their knowledge of the sport, would be Red Rum. A horse that is said to have saved the Grand National, Rummy won the race on three occasions. He has a ridiculously impressive highlight reel to pick from.
Being too young to recall him in the flesh, it was his first victory I picked out. The way he stays on to pip a tired Crisp is an amazing sight. The pair were joint 9/1 favourites and finished well clear of the rest of the field.
This clip is a brilliant piece of racing nostalgia. The chance to hear the famous voice of the late Sir Peter O’Sullivan is also an added bonus.
3. Mon Mone shocks the world at 100/1
Perhaps in recent years, the changes to the National course have made the chances of a shock a bit more unlikely with more runners getting round and less drama at fences.
Mon Mone, back in 2009, provided the biggest-price winner of the race since Foinavon in 1967. With two to jump there was still a group of about 15 with a chance, all fairly tightly bunched. It was anyone’s race. As we reached the final fence, Mon Mone took it up to pull clear and give Liam Treadwell a win on his first-ever ride in the race.
4. Many Clouds clear for a stunning 2015 Grand National win
One of the saddest days on the racecourse I have ever experienced was the loss of Many Clouds when he went down on his shield at Cheltenham. He was universally loved and his Grand National win came after a busy season.
He was successful on seasonal reappearance at Carlisle, before going on to claim the Hennessey at Newbury under a big weight. The grade two at Cheltenham in January followed, and he went into the Gold Cup with many expecting a big run. In truth he never really looked like winning that day, so it was quite remarkable that he turned round so quickly.
When they turned for home, he seemed to be the one to beat and pulling into the home straight, the race was his. One of the factors often I feel is overlooked when considering great Grand National horses is the weight he carried. The last horse to carry more and win was Red Rum back in 1977.
5. Tiger Roll makes it back to back Grand National wins
To win one Grand National is amazing. To win two is something incredibly special. I have picked his second win in the race. Coming to the elbow, favourite backers would have been as calm as you like. This horse may be small in stature but jumps economically and has the heart of a lion.
It is with great sadness he has been robbed of going for three wins in a row; an achievement that would have put him on the front and back pages nationwide.
Gordon Elliott deserves huge credit for his handling of the horse and often will mention the change to the cross country fences as what sparked this horse back into life. It is hoped he will stay in training for another year and perhaps get one more chance to claim another Aintree Grand National next season.