For the second year running, the John Smith’s sponsored Aintree Grand National endured a false start, as outsider Cloudy Bays encroached over the tape on the start line. Though it took some time, the field managed to regroup in time to successfully get started, which was met with a raucous cheer from the Aintree faithful.
There were three big favourites going into this one, with the irish pair Joe’s Edge and Point Barrow backed into 8-1 joint favourites, along with english horse Monkerhostin, ridden by Richard Johnson.
Once the race had begun, the early lead was taken up by last year’s winner, Numbersixvalverde who was returning with Irishman Niall Madden again in the saddle. Cloudy Bays was still perhaps affected for his earlier mistake, as he lost almost 10 lengths before getting going after the field.
Point Barrow’s race was over very early on, as he fell at the first fence along with the Alan King trained Tikram. Going over Becher’s Brook for the first time, the field was still quite tightly packed with only a few fallers. By fence 10, rank outsider Naunton Brook was leading the field by about 5 lengths, with Denis O’regan on Ballycassidy close behind.
Going over the Chair, the longshot was still in front with a 3 to 4 length lead, with Ballycassidy still in attendance. Robbie Power was getting more out of Silver Birch, resulting in the Brian Walsh horse making steady progress towards the front.
The lead changed hands a few times before Becher’s was cleared for the second time, as the mare, Libertine hit the front ahead of Ballycassidy and Slim Pickings, with Silver Birch in 4th.
The field began to stretch from 5 fences out and a number of strays were causing a problem for the remaining riders. With 16 horses still in the race, Slim Pickings headed for home in the lead with Barry Geraghty in the saddle. Having cleared the last fence the better, Silver Birch hit the front and stayed there to win, just edging out McKelvey who staged a spirited comeback.
So it was another Irish triumph in the National, with rider Puppy Power, trainer Gordon Elliott and Owner Brian Walsh taking the plaudits, the title and the £399,140 prize money.