Wednesday, 25th Apr 2018
The Grand National at Aintree is the race which grips the nation and considered the ultimate test for National Hunt horses and riders.
Run over an extended 4m 2f, a field of 40 runners jump 30 unique fences during two laps of the Merseyside venue – including famous obstacles like Becher’s Brook and The Chair. It has been broadcast live in the UK since 1960 and is watched by an estimated 600 million people in over 140 countries worldwide.
Over the years it has produced some heart-warming stories and thrilling finishes, but also seen some monster gambles landed.
The first of those was way back in 1866 when Salamander won at 40/1. His owner-trainer Edward Stidd had £1000 on him and scooped winnings equivalent to £3,300,000 in today’s money.
Since then, there have been a number of winners that have given the bookies a right bashing. Here are some of the best:
Legendary Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien became the only trainer ever to win three consecutive Grand Nationals, and his first first Aintree hero was Early Mist.
Owned by “Mincemeat” Joe Griffin, the horse had been in the stable for only a few months before lining up for the stamina-sapping contest, but O’Brien was ultra-confident and told Griffin to have a decent bet.
Being a renowned big stakes punter, Griffin did not hesitate to take his word as gospel and backed Early Mist to win £100,000 – the equivalent of over £2,000,000 in today’s money.
In the race itself there was hardly an anxious moment for him as Early Mist cruised to a 20-length success.
O’Brien and Griffin went on to taste further Grand National success 12 months later with Royal Tan. Quare Times completed the O’Brien hat-trick in 1955.
Papillon was an 33/1 shot on the morning of the race before being tipped up by a few pundits.
A nationwide gamble then ensued which saw him sent off just 10/1 as the Grand National tapes went up.
Trained in Ireland by Ted Walsh, and ridden by his son Ruby, Papillon was hard pressed over the last fence and, after taking up the running at the Elbow, dug deep to fend off the late challenge of 25/1 outsider Mely Moss.
It was a victory for 20-year-old rider Walsh in his first-ever Grand National. Bookmakers described it as “one of the biggest National gambles in living memory” as it is estimated to have cost the industry at least £10,000,000.
The Dee Syndicate, which consisted of five members headed by Mike Futter, hit the jackpot when Monty’s Pass galloped to a 12-length success under Barry Geraghty.
Futter was known to like a punt and backed his horses a number of times at fancy big prices. He also owned a number of bingo halls in Ireland and told his customers to put their cash on the Jimmy Mangan trained gelding in the big race.
Speaking after the race, Futter said: “I started backing him at at 66/1 before the weights came out. Then I backed him at 50/1, but then after he was tipped up in the Racing Post the price got shorter – and then I had a bit more at 25/1. The biggest bet was one of £10,000 at 50/1. I reckon I have cleared £800,000.”
Futter claimed that his bingo customers had won over £1,200,000.
When legendary jockey AP McCoy ended his Grand National jinx at the 15th attempt on Don’t Push it cost the bookmakers an estimated £50,000,000.
The gelding was trained by Jonjo O’Neill and carried the famous green and gold hooped colours colours of JP McManus. This major Irish owner has long been feared by the bookmakers for his fearless punting and, after being a 20/1 shot on the morning of the race, Don’t Push it was sent of the 10/1 joint-favourite.
There is little doubt that McManus was part of the gamble, but the public were quick to jump on board and back the most successful jumps jockey of all-time. After jumping the last alongside Black Apalachi, Don’t Push It pulled away up the famous long Aintree run-in to score by five lengths.
In doing so, he also gave O’Neill and McManus their first wins in the world’s greatest steeplechase,and provided the bookies with a nightmare outcome.