Picking the winner from a field of 40 each year is a tricky business to…
Silver Birch registered a remarkable victory in the 2007 Grand National, not because he wasn’t entitled to win, nor because his narrow defeat of McKelvey was anything out of the ordinary, but because his fledgling trainer, Gordon Elliot, had only saddled three winners, and none of them in his native Ireland. Elliot, 29, had only taken out his training licence in early 2006 but, nevertheless, became the youngest trainer ever to win the Grand National.
Three seasons earlier, when trained by Paul Nicholls, Silver Birch had won the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 3 furlongs, on the National Course at Aintree and the Welsh National, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Chepstow. He had been favourite for the Grand National before injury ruled him out, but when he returned, after an absence of 394 days, he failed to complete the course twice in three starts before falling at the Chair in the 2006 Grand National, won by Numbersixvalverde.
After finishing a one-paced third, of three finishers, in an open point-to-point at Castletown-Geoghegan the following November, Silver Birch was sold out of Nicholls’ yard for £20,000 at Doncaster Sales and joined Gordon Elliot. His new owner, Kildare farmer Brian Walsh described him as “in a right old state” but, gradually nursed back to health, Silver Birch finished second in what is now the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival prior to another crack at the National.
Ridden by Robert Power, Silver Birch jumped superbly in the National, bar a slight peck on landing after Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. He led over the final fence and stayed on well on the run-in to hold the strong-finishing McKelvey by three-quarters of a length, with Slim Picking a further 1¼ lengths away in third place.