Shakalakaboomboom and Seabass were the hot favourites in the lead up to the 2012 Aintree National, with both backed into 8-1 joint favourites. Overcast skies were thankfully not accompanied by rain, as the excitement of the race reached fever point. It was this excitement that may have played its part in Tony McCoy’s mount Synchronised unseating the jocky at the tape, escaping the clutches of the stable hands and running free onto the course.
This was followed by further delays, as two false starts ensued from the over keenness of several riders. The anticipation reach fever pitch, as well as the fear that a repeat of the 1993 ‘non-race’ debacle could be realised.
Fortunately, that was not the case, as the race got under way to enormous cheers from the Aintree crowd.
The 80-1 outsider Viking Blond was the only faller at the first and all but Tom Scudamore on Junior and West End Rocker managed to clear the second unscathed. Neptune Collonges was the early front runner, closely followed by almost the entire field, with the race yet to take shape.
Over Becher’s for the first time, it was Katie Walsh ahead on Shakalakaboomboom, with the field stretching out as this tough fence reduced the field down to 33 with the exit of the ill fated Synchronised after unseating champion jockey A P McCoy. Going over Canal Turn, the order the remained the same at the front, with the other favourite Seabass well placed in 3rd.
The race reached its halfway point with Planet of Sound around 4 lengths ahead of a now 24 strong field and the pace was proving too much for many of them, causing the remaining runners to spread out over almost half a furlong.
After much jostling for position and several more fences, Becher’s was fast approaching with Richard Johnson on Planet of Sound leading, Shakalakaboomboom second and the 14 year old Hello Bud in third
The National course was really taking its toll, as Foinavon was cleared with the runners down to 16, who were themselves spread out, with the same three horses vying for the title and Neptune Collonges running well a few lengths back. The pace picked up turning for home with 8 horses within touching distance of the front and it was promising to be a tight finish.
Over the final fence, there was nothing to choose between Seabass, Neptune Collonges and Shakalakaboomboom and the excitement remained right to the line, with the Grey Neptune Collonge involved in a photo finish with Richie McLernon after making an amazing comeback to steal it on the line.
One of the most excitingly close Nationals on record was called in Neptune Collonge’s favour by the Judge and it was a fairytale for the horse who was running his last ever race, jockey Daryl Jacob and John Hales who had finally got himself a winner at the 52nd attempt.
What a day. What a race.