Aldaniti & Bob Champion

Few, if any, Grand National stories can rival that of the 1981 winner Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion. Indeed, the heart-warming tale was described by the late Josh Gifford, who trained Aldaniti, as ‘the stuff of dreams’ and immortalised in the 1984 film ‘Champions’.

Aldaniti was a talented, if fragile, steeplechaser with a history of leg trouble. In 1979, he had finished third, albeit well beaten, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and second in the Scottish National at Ayr, where he led over the final fence. However, the following November, at Sandown, he broke down badly and was confined to his box, in plaster, for six months. In fact, he would have been humanely euthanised if the veterinary surgeons had had their way.

Meanwhile, Champion, 31, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was faced within the unenviable choice of a maximum eight months to live or a maximum 40% chance of survival if he embarked, immediately, on a ‘barbaric’ course of chemotherapy. Unsurprisingly, he chose the latter and was promised by Gifford that his job as stable jockey would be waiting for him upon his return.

Return he did, albeit after seven months in and out of hospital, as did Aldaniti. They were reunited in the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot in February, 1981, winning easily, and Aldaniti suddenly became a leading fancy for the Grand National. At Aintree, Aldaniti was sent off 10/1 second favourite and, despite overjumping the first fence, took the lead early on the second circuit and was never headed thereafter. On the run-in, favourite Spartan Missile briefly looked dangerous, but Aldaniti stayed on well in the closing stages to win by 4 lengths.

Grand National 2021? Yes Please

Grand National 2021? Yes Please If ever there was a year that was better best forgotten it just has to be 2020. Who amongst us doesn’t want to slam the door shut on this unexpected horror show of a year? Businesses closed, elderly and vulnerable shielding, hospitals spilling over, boozers turned into ghost towns, the list goes on. The only saving grace in all of this, is that I don’t have to see the mother-in-law for a few months, but still…

The cruelest twist of fate had to be the temporarily (though it seemed to go on forever) disappearance of competitive sport from our TV screens. Thankfully we did get to drink in the ever enthralling Cheltenham Festival, but directly after that it was lights out across the sporting world. Having the 2020 Grand National replaced by a virtual version was a bitter pill to swallow for many racing fans. To this day I think they should’ve gone ahead with the real deal (just without the crowds). It’s such a shame as many punters were practically already on the edge of their seats wondering whether Tiger Rolls was going to make it three in a row for trainer Gordon Elliot.  Of course now we’ll never know, but on the plus side we may well still know in 2021, so as they say, the best things come to those who wait. Many will of course be keeping an eye on sites like grand-national.uk (<- if owner, email me) in order to avoid missing out on the latest Grand National news, tips and free bet offers. Who can blame them!

So what does the Grand National 2021 have in store for us? Good question. First and foremost it will bring the nation together for a rare moment of sporting unity. Whether a professional gambler or casual punter we’ll all pause to appreciate this, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing. It may well be that the crowds are not on the course (time will tell!), but still, office sweepstakes and having a punt on a horse because it has the same name as your Nan will all be top of the agenda. And who are the bookmakers favouring to take the aintree Grand National crown in 2021? Well, it’s perhaps a little too early to say, but Tiger Roll is once again currently in the mix (20-1 with several bookies) , and several others such as Presenting Percy, Jett and the one and only Burrows Saint are also up there too. Considering what this year hold, at minimum the Grand National 2021 will by default almost, be a race to remember.