Saturday 22 September 2018

100-1 Outsider Mon Mome Storms to Victory at the 2009 Grand National

Having won the Irish Grand National in 2007, it was Butler’s Cabin ridden by Tony McCoy that headed into the 162nd running of John Smith’s Grand National as the 7-1 favourite. A sun drenched Aintree saw a flawless start and the gathered thousands roared their approval as the 40 strong field got under way.

Two fell at the first fence, with Barry Geraghty on Golden Flight and Himalayan Trail having their races cut short before they’d had a chance to get going. Irish Invader led heading to the 2nd fence with Paul Townend in the saddle, but a pack of up to 20 other riders were close enough to take over at any moment. The second fence saw Ollie Magern and Brooklyn Brownie join the list of fallen horses.

Becher’s Brook

The 11-1 shot, Black Apalachi, ridden by Denis O’Regan was the first to clear Becher’s Brook for the first time, closely followed by the Willie Mullins trained Irish Invader and Silver Brook, the winner of this race just two years previously. These three surged ahead at the Canal Turn, with the rest of the field jostling for position.

Crossing the Melling Road and approaching the Chair, the runners began to spread out and Black Apalachi continued to make the running with Butler’s Cabin some 10 lengths back in 12th. Not much changed over the next few fences, but it was all change when both Black Apalachi and Silver Birch fell when well placed over Becher’s.

This left Hear the Echo ridden by Davy Russell at the head of the race with Offshore Account just in behind. Around ten other riders were within 3 to 4 lengths, so it was still anyone’s race going over Valentine’s for the second time. The leading group included a number of challengers, including Mon Mome, the pre race favourite Butler’s Cabin and last year’s winners, Comply or Die.

All to Play For

15 horses were still tightly grouped together 2 fences out, with Ruby Walsh on My Will leading. Comply or Die looked to have stolen a march over the last, but it was Mon Mome ridden by Liam Treadwell in his first ever National that finished the strongest, winning by a clear 12 lengths.

In doing so, Mon Mome had just become the French trained horse to win this race for more than 100 years and the 100-1 shot had left the bookies amongst the happiest people present on the course that day.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Comply or Die Wins it For David Johnson, Claiming the 2008 John Smith’s Aintree Grand National Title


For the first time in 3 years, the Aintree Grand National started without a hitch and with No Full in front over the first fence. Unusually, there were no fallers or refusals, meaning the bunched 40 strong field stayed intact. That changed at the second however, when three horses - King John’s Castle, Black Apache and L’ami exiting, with the latter resulting in a visit to hospital for Mick Fitzgerald.

Going over the fourth fence, it was Milan Deux Mille and Mr Pointment heading the now 31 strong field. The early leader, No Full, ridden by Shay Barry, clipped Becher’s jumping it for the first time, which effectively ended his race.

The Water Jump

Shortly after completing half of this prestigious steeplechase, the Tommy Mullins ride, Chelsea Harbour, ridden by fellow Irishman Davy Russell, took the lead overtaking Mr Pointment, Simon, D’Argent and Comply or Die in the process. By the time Becher’s was jumped for the second time, the remaining field was down to 12, which dropped to eleven shortly after with Point Barrow pulling up.

The remaining riders were tightly packed as they turned for home, with the David Pipe Horse, Comply or Die narrowly in front of the other 11 riders with virtually nothing between them. In that group were the grey, D’Argen, Ruby Walsh on Hedgehunter, Simon and Barry Geraghty on Slim Pickings.

The Last

Comply or Die stayed in contention and after jumping the last the most strongly, the much fancied joint 7-1 favourite gained a lead that he wouldn’t relinquish, achieving the first win by a british horse since Red Marauder in 2001. J P McManus finished a creditable 2nd on King John’s Castle and was followed by Willie Mullins mount Snowy Morning coming in 3rd.

Timmy Mullins called it “the win of my career” and that it was just what he needed after a particularly difficult year for him in his personal life. It was also a big deal for owner David Johnson, who was successful in the National at the 21st time of asking. For once, the might and guile of the Irish had to settle for second place.

Sunday 16 September 2018

The Nation's Love for The Grand National

Everyone has their own take on sport. Personally for me watching F1, Golf or Cricket is like watching paint dry. I just can't get into these particular sports even though for many they're clearly nothing short of engrossing. Similarly not everyone loves horse racing. For some, race meetings happening day in, day out don't mean a great deal, and they much prefer a punt on the football or something along those lines.

What I have found though, is that even people who proclaim not to be at all interested in horse racing, can't help but get drawn into the excitement of the Aintree Grand National. Whether it's an office sweepstake or a bet for a pint against a mate, the Grand National is one of those sporting events that inevitably gets the whole nation glued to their screens. A 4 miles 3½ furlongs steeplechase over 30 fences, it's captivating each and every time it comes around. Of course the outcome of the race also feeds into the casual punters view of it. Either the hard luck stories start to come out, or for those that did somehow pick the winner, they suddenly view themselves as being 'in the know'. God forbid they predict the winner two years in a row, they shift to savant mode. Friends and family start asking them for racing tips. Their once lack of interest and complete lack of knowledge of racing is rendered irrelevant in favour of their water diviner-esque Midas touch!

There are other types of Grand National gambler of course. There are professional gamblers, with a genuine and thorough knowledge of racing (though the Grand National can still be a crap shoot as there are so many variables), the 'I'll have a pound each way on....' crowd, the Outsider hunters looking for that once in a life time gigantic odds win, and the inevitable "I liked the name of the horse, the first part of it is the same name as my great uncle' types. Good luck to all of them I say, they help to make up what betting on the Grand National is all about.

Of course the excitement around the Grand National should be of no surprise, as it's been a sporting mainstay for longer than most of us have even been alive. The first official Grand National took place all the way back in 1839 and it's gone from strength to strength since. The stories the race tells  build history upon history. Whether it's Red Rum winning three times (1973, 1974, 1977), or horses winning at crazy odds like Mon Mome, trained by Venetia Williams, at 100-1 with bookmakers (and god knows what on the exchanges), these are all moments that are written and will remain. Not many people can say they're written into the history of a time, place or occasion, so it's no wonder that an event like the Grand National attracts equine excellence and the best jockeys, trainers and owners in the racing world.

Monday 3 September 2018

Ireland Joyous Again as Robbie “Puppy” Power Narrowly Wins the 2007 Grand National

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.

They’re away!

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.

Becher’s Brook

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.