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Thursday, 14 March 2019

Grand National Outsiders


The Grand National is often billed as the most unpredictable race in the world. However, for all the vagaries of a race typically contested by a huge field and run over 4¼+ miles and 30 idiosyncratic fences, the Grand National winner has been returned at a treble-figure price just five times in 180 years.


The first 100/1 winner of the National, Tipperary Tim, didn’t come along until 1928, 89 years after the first ‘official’ running of the race. Trained by Joseph Dodd and ridden the amateur William Parker “Bill” Dutton, Tipperary Tim won by virtue of all the other 41 starters, bar one, failing to complete the course. The eventual second, Billy Barton, parted company with jockey Tommy Cullinan at the final fence, but was remounted, at the second attempt to finish a distance behind the winner.



Lo and behold, having waited nearly a century for a 100/1 winner of the National, the next one arrived the very next year, in 1929. That year, the ditch at the Canal Turn was filled in, but the winner, Gregalach, nonetheless faced 65 rivals in the largest field ever assembled for the Grand National. Trained by Thomas Leader and ridden by Robert Everett, made stealthy headway to tackle Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, and favourite, Easter Hero at the second-last fence and win by 6 lengths.


The 1947 Grand National was shrouded in tangibly thick fog and won by another 100/1 outsider, Caughoo, trained in Ireland by Herbert McDowell and ridden by little-known jockey Edward Dempsey. Caughoo came home 20 lengths ahead of his nearest rival, Lough Conn, ridden by Daniel McCann, who subsequently accused Dempsey of concealing his mount in the fog near the Melling Road on the first circuit and rejoining on the second. After a fracas, and a court case, photographic evidence eventually revealed that Caughoo had, in fact, jumped Becher’s Brook twice, so must have completed two full circuits of the course.


The seventh fence on the Grand National Course – also, of course, the twenty-third fence – has, since 1984, been officially called ‘Foinavon’. Foinavon won the 1967 Grand National at 100/1 and is commemorated for being the only horse to avoid a melee caused by a loose horse, the aptly-named Popham Down, at the fence which now bears his name. With all the remaining runners falling, being brought down or refusing, Foinavon was left well clear, eventually winning by 15 lengths.


The fifth, and final, 100/1 outsider to win the National, Mon Mome in 2009, won fair and square, by 12 lengths, on a sunny day and was one of seventeen finishers. His performance appeared no fluke, but he was settling an old score for his trainer, Venetia Williams, who had been knocked unconscious when her mount, Marcolo, a 200/1 outsider, fell at Becher’s Brook on her only attempt in the National as an amateur rider, 21 years previously.