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.

John Thorne

John Thorne The late John Thorne, was tragically killed in a point-to-point fall in 1982, will always be remembered as the amateur rider who, at the age of 54, nearly fulfilled his lifelong ambition of winning the Grand National. Thorne was, of course, the jockey of Spartan Missile, the horse who finished second to Aldaniti in the 1981 Grand National. Champion jockey John Francome offered to take to take the mount in the National, but Thorne declined, opting to come out of retirement to ride Spartan Missile himself, at 3lb overweight.

Whether Francome could have won on Spartan Missile, who was eventually beaten 4 lengths, has been hotly debated over the years. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Thorne bred, owned and trained the horse, not to mention having ridden him to victory in Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree, over the National fences, so had every right to ride him in the National.

Spartan Missile was a big, strong, powerful horse and a good jumper, characteristics which made him the leading hunter chaser of his day and, arguably, of all time. He started 8/1 favourite for the 1981 Grand National, although Thorne insisted that the bookmakers were taking an “exaggerated view” of his chances. In any event, the “old bloke” – as Jenny Pitman derogatorily called Thorne when discussing the race – had the ride of his life in the National.

Although hampered, more than once, and left lying out of his ground from Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit, Spartan Missile gradually crept into the race and jumped the final fence in third place behind Aldaniti and Royal Mail. Halfway up the run-in Thorne conjured a “storming finish” from the nine-year-old but, despite closing to within 2 lengths of Aldaniti at one point, Spartan Missile had to settle for second place.

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.