Notwithstanding his victory in the 2002 Grand National – which, of course, was a fabulous…
Owned by Andrew Wates, trained by Terry Casey and ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, Rough Quest won the Grand National in 1996 and, in so doing, became the first winning favourite since Grittar in 1982. The 10-year-old had his stamina to prove, having previously never won beyond 3 miles 1 furlong, but had finished 19 lengths clear of the third horse when second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup two weeks previously and consequently looked well handicapped under just 10st 7lb.
Fizgerald was having just his second ride in the race, after coming a cropper at the first fence on Tinryland the previous year but, having made steady headway throughout the second circuit, he produced the favourite to tackle the leader, Encore Un Peu, in the final 200 yards. As he took the lead, though, Rough Quest hung left, towards the inside running rail, slightly hampering the eventual runner-up. David Bridgwater, the jockey aboard Encore Un Peu, momentarily snatched up – somewhat theatrically, in the eyes of most observers – so, although Rough Quest stayed on to win by 1¼ lengths, a stewards’ inquiry was almost inevitable.
Having emerged, unscathed, from what is often billed as “the ultimate test of horse and rider in National Hunt racing”, Rough Quest and Mick Fitzgerald then had to survive a 10-minute stewards’ inquiry into possible interference in the closing stages. The general consensus was that the result would stand, which it did. Afterwards, Fitzgerald couldn’t wait to tell anyone who was listening, “I’ve not enjoyed nine minutes so much for a long time. Sex would be an anticlimax after that.”
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