Joss Naylor and Clan Royal were the fancied horses prior to the 2004 Martell Cognac Grand National, with both listed as 10-1 chances before the off. An overcast day at Aintree did nothing to dampen the excitement for this blue ribbon steeplechase event and the crowd were full of voice as the runners and riders stood at the tape.
The race started with no problems and the 39 strong field jostled for position over the first few fences, with three outsiders Kelami, Luzcadou and Artic Jack ridden by Dominic Elsworth all falling at the first fence.
Going over Becher’s for the first time, the field was still bunched together, with Irish owned and trained Hedge Hunter leading from compatriot Al Capone in second place. Gunner Welburn, who went close to winning in 2003, was also well placed in behind, in third.
Half way round this most challenging of courses, the field had spread out considerably, with the leaders having to contend with a number of riderless horses. The fancied, 9 year old 11-1 shot Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, led the field by a couple of lengths from Martin Pipe mount, Puntal and Lord Atterbury in 3rd.
Over Foinavon, the field was stretching out, with 3 horses surging clear. They included 10-1 joint favourite Clan Royal, Hedge Hunter and long shot, Lord Atterbury who were putting clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack that featured the 2003 National winner, Monty’s Pass.
Going into the 2nd last, it looked to be between these three, with Amberleigh house trailing some 10 lengths back. However, this was a pivotal moment in the race, as Hedge Hunter Fell and Amberleigh House found a second wind.
Through the elbow, it was apparent that the 13 year old Amberleigh House, ridden by Graham Lee and trained by legend, Ginger McCain, had the beating of the other two. He reigned Clan Royal and Lord Atterbury in to pass them both on the nearside, crossing the line 2 lengths clear, much to the delight of owner A L Dickel, who had in that moment, become £348,000 richer.
The J P McManus owned Clan Royal stayed on for 2nd, with Lord Atterbury coming home in 3rd.
It was another Irish win, as Lee punched the air in front of the jubilant Aintree crowd.