Fred Winter

Fred Winter Frederick Thomas “Fred” Winter CBE was a leading figure in British National Hunt racing for nearly four decades. Despite the fact that he “was not a natural steeplechase jockey”, at least not according to his brother, John, he rode 923 winners and became Champion Jockey four times. On his retirement from the saddle in 1964, Winter turned his attention to training and, in 24 seasons, saddled 1,557 winners and became Champion Trainer eight times. He also has the distinction of being the only man to have both ridden and trained two Grand National winners.

His first success in the National, as a jockey, came in 1957 aboard Sundew, trained by Frank Hudson. Sundew has run in the National in the two previous years, falling at the fourth last fence in 1955 and at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, when ridden by Winter, in 1956. However, on their second attempt, Sundew and Winter made most of the running and drew away in the closing stages to win by 8 lengths.

Winter rode his second National winner, Kilmore, trained by Ryan Price in 1962. Ridden patiently, Kilmore made headway to chase the leader, Gay Navaree, at the fourth last fence. Winter produced the 12-year-old to lead jumping the final fence and he cleared away on the run-in to beat Wyndburgh – who, coincidentally, had also finished second to Sundew five years earlier – by 10 lengths.

Winter didn’t have to wait long to win the Grand National as a trainer. In fact, he did so at the first time of asking, with Jay Trump, ridden by American amateur rider Tommy Smith, in 1965. Amazingly, Winter won the National again in 1966, this time with Anglo, ridden by Tim Norman. The 50/1 chance jumped up into second place on the inside at Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit, took the measure of long-time leader Forest Prince jumping the last and strode right away to win by 20 lengths.

Winter later remarked on his good fortune, saying, “It was almost embarrassing standing in the winners’ enclosure again when you think of all the people who have been training horses for years and always had the luck go against them at Aintree.”

Fred Rimmell

Fred Rimmell Thomas Frederic “Fred” Rimmell was National Hunt Champion Trainer on four occasions, in 1960/61, 1968/69, 1969/1970 and 1974/75, but earned his place in the Grand National Hall of Fame by virtue of saddling four different horses to win the famous steeplechase. His winners were ESB in 1956, Nicolaus Silver in 1961, Gay Trip in 1970 and Rag Trade in 1976.

On the first occasion, ESB was, as jockey Dave Dick later admitted, “a terribly lucky winner”, after the leader, Devon Loch, inexplicably collapsed on the run-in at Aintree, just 50 yards from the winning post. Fortunate though he may have been, ESB still recorded the fourth fastest winning time in the history of the Grand National.

Five years later, Nicolaus Silver, ridden by Bobby Beasley, won what was, at the time, the richest ever National, worth £20,000 to the winner. On good to firm going, the eight-year-old was left in the lead when Fresh Winds unseated his rider at the first open ditch on the second circuit and was one of seven horses who pulled clear approaching the home turn. He and Merryman II, the previous year’s winner, were stride for stride between the last two fences, but Nicolaus Silver led over the final fence and drew clear on the run-in to win by 5 lengths. In so doing, he became the first grey to win the Grand National since the Lamb in 1871.

In 1970, Gay Trip, ridden by Pat Taafe, was noted “running away” by commentator Julian Wilson as the much-reduced field approached Becher’s Brook on the second circuit and, from the home turn, had only Dozo, ridden by Eddie Harty, for company. It soon became clear that Gay Trip was going, by far, the better and he duly strode away for a facile, 20-length win.

In 1976, Rimmell won his fourth, and final, Grand National with Rag Trade, ridden by Jimmy Burke. Red Rum, making his second attempt at an unprecedented third Grand National win, led crossing the Melling Road for the final time, but was tackled on the run-in by Rag Trade who, in receipt of 12lb, stayed on to win by 4 lengths.

Dick Francis

Dick Francis The late Richard Stanley “Dick” Francis, who died in February, 2010, at the age of 89, was a man of many talents. He was champion jockey in the 1953/54 National Hunt season, racing correspondent for the Sunday Express for 16 years and an international bestselling writer, winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel on three occasions.

However, for all his achievements, Francis has passed into Grand National folklore as the jockey of Devon Loch, whose dramatic collapse at Aintree, with the race at his mercy, in 1956 remains as much a mystery as it always was. Not that Francis was suspected of any wrongdoing or apportioned any blame for the incident; in fact, he burst into tears as the magnitude of his loss sank in.

Devon Loch, owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and trained by Peter Cazalet, had mastered his nearest pursuer, ESB, on the famously long run-in at Aintree, but as he approached the wings of the water jump – which is jumped just once during the National – on his inside, he pricked his ears. What happened next has been a matter for conjecture for decades but, for whatever reason, Devon Loch half fly-jumped into the air before slithering to the turf in an unceremonious belly-flop.

Francis believed that Devon Loch was simply overwhelmed by the noise of the crowd cheering him to the finish, but various other theories have been put forward over the years. Cramp and exhaustion, attempting to jump an imaginary fence, slipping on a muddy patch and even breaking wind violently as the result of an overtightened girth have all been suggested.