Auroras Encore

Auroras Encore  Auroras Encore won the Grand National in 2013 – the first year in which the race was broadcast on Channel 4 – and, in so doing, became the first Yorkshire-trained winner of the iconic steeplechase since Merryman II, trained by Neville Crump, in 1960. His trainer, Sue Smith, also became only the third woman to saddle a National winner, after Jenny Pitman, with Corbiere in 1983 and Royal Athlete in 1995, and Venetia Williams, with Mon Mome in 2009.

Having failed to trouble the judge on his first five starts of the 2012/13 National Hunt season, including a fall in a veterans’ handicap chase at Doncaster on his fourth start, he was allotted just 10st 3lb for the Grand National and, understandably, sent off as a 66/1 outsider. However, having survived mistakes at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit and the fence after that on the second, he tackled the leader, Teaforthree, at the final fence and was driven out to beat Cappa Bleu by nine lengths.

His jockey, 23-year-old Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the National, later reflected on his victory, saying, “There are no words to describe it. I got a dream ride round. I couldn’t believe my luck.”

A fortnight later Auroras Encore tried, but failed, to become the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National and the Scottish Grand National, at Ayr, in the same season. He was badly hampered at the second fence and, after a couple of subsequent mistakes, was tailed off when pulled up with five fences to jump.

Auroras Encore ran his last race in the Sky Bet Chase, formerly the Great Yorkshire Chase, over 3 miles at Doncaster in January, 2014. At 50/1, he finished last of nine finishers, beaten 62 lengths, behind The Rainbow Hunter, but was subsequently found to have fractured his off foreleg in the process. After an operation to insert screws into the injured leg, it was announced that he would not race again.

Bindaree

Bindaree  Notwithstanding his victory in the 2002 Grand National – which, of course, was a fabulous achievement in its own right – Bindaree is the horse credited with resurrecting the career of trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. Bindaree was his second National winner, after Earth Summit in 1998, but the farmer-turned-trainer had claimed that he never really wanted to be a racehorse trainer and already told Raymond Mould, owner of Bindaree, that he was giving up at the end of the season. Later reflecting on his decision to carry on training, Twiston-Davies said, “”If we’d been second in the National I’d have sold all this [Grange Hill Farm in Naunton, Gloucestershire] and gone away.”

Having taken the lead at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, Bindaree was carried wide by a loose horse two fences later, at the Canal Turn, and headed at the final fence by What’s Up Boys. However, with a 3-length deficit to make up, Bindaree was switched to the inside by jockey Jim Culloty at the “Elbow”, halfway up the run-in, and produced a powerful finishing effort to overhaul the leader in the final 75 yards and win by 1¾ lengths.

With stable jockey Carl Llewellyn electing to ride better-fancied stable companion Beau, with whom he parted company at the fourteenth fence, Bindaree was due to be ridden by Jamie Goldstein. However, Goldstein had broken his leg in a fall at Ludlow the previous week, allowing Culloty to become the first jockey since John Burke, in 1976, to complete the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grand National double in the same season.

Spartan Missile

Spartan Missile  Spartan Missile never won the Grand National, but was the outstanding hunter chaser of his day and won the Fox Hunters’ Chase, over 2 miles 5 furlongs on the National Course, twice, in 1978 and 1979. Bred, owned, trained and ridden by 54-year-old amateur John Thorne, Spartan Missile returned from a year out through injury to contest the 1981 Grand National, for which he started 8/1 favourite.

In order to fulfil his dream of riding a National winner, Thorne came out of retirement to take the ride on Spartan Missile and wasted down to 11st 5lb, or just 3lb overweight. In the 1981 National, Spartan Missile lost his place following a blunder at the first fence on the second circuit, but crossing the Melling Road for the final time had moved back up into fifth place, although he still appeared to have no chance of catching the leaders, Aldaniti and Royal Mail.

A bad mistake at the second last fence knocked the stuffing out of Royal Mail, but passing the furlong marker, just as Aldaniti appeared to have the race in safe keeping, Spartan Missile appeared on the scene, putting in what BBC commentator Peter O’Sullevan called “a storming finish”. Sadly for Thorne and Spartan Missile it was not to be; Aldaniti, ridden by Bob Champion, stayed on well to win by 4 lengths for a fairytale triumph. Tragically, John Thorne was killed in a fall from a young horse at Bicester point-to-point less than a year after riding Spartan Missile in the Grand National.

Golden Miller

Golden Miller  Owned by trainer Basil Briscoe, Philip Carr and, finally, the Honourable Dorothy Paget, Golden Miller has the distinction of being the most successful horse in the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The horse once described by racing journalist Sidney Galtrey as “a god on four legs” won the Blue Riband event at the Cheltenham Festival five years running between 1932 and 1936.

However, fresh from his third Cheltenham Gold Cup win, in 1934, Golden Miller also won the Grand National and remains the only horse ever to have won both races in a single season. Trained by Basil Briscoe and ridden by Gerry Wilson, Golden Miller won the National by 5 lengths from Delaneige in a time of 9 minutes 20.4 seconds. In so doing, he broke the course record, of 9 minutes 30.0 seconds, set by The Huntsman in 1862; his winning time wouldn’t be beaten until 1974, when Red Rum beat Crisp in a time of 9 minutes 1.9 seconds.

It’s often said that the Grand National is the supreme test of horse and rider and, despite winning in 1934, Golden Miller failed to complete the National Course on four other occasions. On his first attempt, as a six-year-old, in 1993, he fell at the Canal Turn on the second circuit. In 1935, he was sent off the shortest-priced favourite in the history of the race, despite carrying 12st 7lb, but unseated rider Gerry Wilson at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit. In 1936, trained by Owen Anthony and ridden by Evan Williams after Dorothy Paget fell out with previous trainer Basil Briscoe, he fell at the Canal Turn on the first circuit and in 1937 he refused at the same fence where he’d unseated Gerry Wilson two years earlier.

Manifesto

Manifesto  Manifesto may no longer be a household name, but his exploits around the turn of the twentieth century earned him a place in the inaugural Grand National Hall of Fame at Aintree Racecourse. In a ten-year period, Manifesto ran in the world famous steeplechase a record eight times, winning twice, in 1897 and 1899, and finishing in the first four on four other occasions. In fact, his 1899 victory, which came under 12st 7lb, equalled the weight carrying record in the Grand National.

Manifesto made his debut in the Grand National, as a seven-year-old, in 1895, when finishing fourth to Wild Man Of Borneo. He returned the following year, but parted company with his owner, Harry Dyas, who’d replaced previous jockey Terry Kavanagh, after colliding with a rival at the first fence. Undeterred, Dyas, who was a notorious gambler, sent Manifesto to Curragh trainer Willie McAuliff. The following season Manifesto was back at Aintree where, reunited with Terry Kavanagh, he was sent of 6/1 favourite and duly obliged, winning by 20 lengths.

In 1898, Manifesto was sold to John Bulteel for £4,000 and transferred to Willie Moore. However, he missed the National after escaping from his box and injuring himself. He was back at Aintree in 1899, though, shouldering 12st 7lb to a five-length victory over Ford Of Fyne.

Manifesto never won the Grand National again, but put up some fine weight carrying performances in defeat. In fact, he finished third three times, under 12st 13lb in 1900, under 12st 8lb in 1902 and under 12st 3lb in 1903. It was only on his eighth, and final attempt, as a sixteen-year-old, in 1904 that he finished outside the first four after completing the course. On that occasion, he finished an honourable eighth behind Moifaa.

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