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.