Given this will be my last blog before the big race on Saturday, I will mention here and now that the Grand National is being run at Aintree this Saturday, 8th April. Why do I specify the date, you’ll soon see. The first running of the race I actually remember is the 1966 version, though I may have seen one earlier, thats the first I recall, as it was my first bet, at the age of 8! No, I didnt pay for it, my father did, a big sixpence (2.5p) each way on a horse that I picked because of the name, and nothing more. How things have changed since then, and now the heavy gambler that I am, will pick 3 horses out, and put a pound each way on each of them! Probably know as much about the racing now, as I did then, though there was a period in between when I knew a bit more.
I havent seen every race live since 1966 though. Because I was working in the betting shops in the late 70’s, and again from 1983, I missed seeing the big race during those years, until 1986! Why? Because there were no pictures in the betting shops back then! I know, sounds amazing now, but thats the way it was.
This year actually has a few related milestones, it will be 40 years since Red Rum won his last National, it will be 20 years since the ‘bomb scare’ that caused the race to be run on the Monday. But the event I’m looking back on is an even older milestone than that, going back to 8th April, 1967.
To be fair, there was definitely one horse that most serious punters would have given no glance at, as a possible winner. Perhaps a few shrewdies in the Highlands of Scotland would have backed it because of the name, but no one else would. Indeed, as history tells, neither owner, or trainer of the horse even went to Aintree that day, they thought it would be a waste of time.
In truth, 22 fences passed out of 30, they were right, the horse was still standing, but a very long way behind the leaders. Then history was made, carnage at the smallest fence on the track, and out of all that, one horse from the very rear of the field located a gap in the melee, jumped the fence, and yes, the rest was history. I’m sure, as a few of you already know, that horse was Foinavon. I found some film of the race, for those interested
Many others remounted, and chased after him, but the lead was too great, and the 100/1 no hoper had won the big race! 17 years later, that fence was named after the horse that made it famous!
Its fair to say that with all the changes to the fences in recent years, the race isnt the ferocious test it used to be. Still challenging, but not as hard all the same. So I’m not sure the same will happen again, though a 100/1 shot has won the race again since then, all the same. Who wins it this year? Who knows? But on the 50th anniversary, to the day, of that amazing race, will it be another great turn up?
Oh, that hardened young gambler, well, it took me 4 attempts to back my first winner of the race, and 3 of those were placed on the same horse. Highland Wedding, you can tell my Celtic roots! I have backed a few winners, and a few more placed horse since then, but fine, you will always remember your first winner, I guess?
Right, video time. The blog title gives the song away. Its not the greatest song of all time, but certainly works here!
Yes, I am being cynical here, I know, and I suspect many others do as well, that this Saturday, the Grand National will be ran at Aintree, as (with the exception of war years) it has been for over 150 years. The most famous historical thing, the name of the first winner was called Lottery, rather apt for said race.
One thing that many may not yet know, is that in this country at least, it will be the last time its covered by the BBC for at least the foreseeable future. No, I’m not going to go into the politics of BBC sports coverage in the last decade, but suffice to say, they have cut back rather dramatically lol!
The first Grand National I still remember is 1967, probably because of events then, more about which shortly. I must have seen them before then, just dont remember them at all. Since then, working in the industry, I’ve seen a few things concerning this race. The void race fiasco, the bomb scare that delayed the race until Monday, and of course, Red Rum and his 3 wins.
No, I’m not going to hand out tips, I dont really follow racing enough for that nowadays to be honest. Probably wont stop me throwing a few pounds at the bookies though lol! Besides which, as mentioned, its all a bit of a lottery anyway, though less so nowadays, with some of the fences tamed somewhat.
The film, no music, just film (in colour!) of that first National I still remember. What can I say, just proves you should never say a horse is out of a race until it actually is!