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Grand National 2022: Lookback at five most dramatic moments at Aintree over the years


Apr 5, 2022

With just days to go before the Grand National gets underway at Aintree Racecourse, it's fair to say the race has seen its fair share of incredible incidents in its near 200 year history.

The first Grand National was run in 1839 – It's the most valuable jump race in Europe with a prize fund of around £1m. The handicap steeplechase has an official distance of about four miles and contains 30 fences over two laps.

With an estimated 500 to 600 million people expected to watch the Grand National from over 140 countries, the race tempts millions of people who don't usually bet on horse racing into having a flutter. There will also be in the region of around 150,000 racegoers at Aintree to watch the big race alone.

READ MORE: Remembering Red Rum 'the best there ever was'

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The Grand National three day festival this year will begin on Thursday, April 7. The second day of the festival on Friday is traditionally known as Ladies Day, the festival's fun day, when racegoers can let their hair down and the boldest fashions are on display.

The Saturday culminates with the Grand National race itself, often referred to as 'the ultimate test of horse and rider', there have been more than a handful of incidents over the years that have tested not only those competing, but those watching from the stands. To mark the occasion, the Liverpool Echo has listed what we feel are the five most gobsmacking moments in the last 50 years of the race's history. Reading, Basingstoke, Berkshire

Red Rum three-time winner – 1973, 1974 and 1977

It was nearly half-a-century ago that Red Rum recorded the first of three victories in Grand National history, earning his place in the record books forever. To this day, he remains the only horse to have won three Grand Nationals.

Red Rum with Jockey Tommy Stack after winning the 1977 Grand National on April 2 1977

What makes Red Rum's story even more remarkable, he achieved all this after overcoming the bone disease Pedal Osteitis in his hoof which should have rendered him unraceable. However, he was spotted by Southport car dealer Ginger McCain who bought him and famously trained the horse on the sands at Southport beach.

Following his retirement in 1978, Red Rum died on October 18, 1995, aged 30. He is buried at the winning post of the Aintree Racecourse, which is still a destination for his fans.

1981, Aldaniti wins with jockey Bob Champion who had been given just months to live

In 1981, the Grand National was won by a horse and rider whose stories were both so unbelievable, they made a film about it. It was a tale of victory for courage and determination against adversity.

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Successful jockey Bob Champion had been told just two years earlier he only had months to live after being diagnosed with cancer. Aldaniti, the horse he rode, had almost retired because of a leg injury, but against the odds they crossed the line to victory.

Aldaniti with Bob Champion win Grand National race at Aintree in 1981

Bob Champion's life story inspired the 1983 film Champions, starring John Hurt. Bob Champion made a full recovery and, with the help of Aldaniti who died in 1997 aged 27, they raised millions of pounds for cancer research.

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1993, the 'darkest day in the race's history'

Called the darkest day in the history of the Grand National, 1993 saw chaos on the track after a series of false starts. After a second false start, 30 out of the 39 jockeys began the race despite the false start being called.

Esha Ness ridden by John White crossed the finishing line first only to discover the race had been declared void. The debacle prompted racing commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan (correct spelling) described it as "the greatest disaster in the history of the Grand National."

Horse racing Grand National Aintree April 1993 – 'the race that never was'

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It was the first and so far only time that the steeplechase was declared void. The Jockey Club decided not to re-run the race, and as a result it has often been called "the race that never was". Bookmakers were also forced to refund an estimated £75 million in bets.

1997, Grand National postponed due to coded IRA bomb threat

On April 5, 1997, phone calls to Aintree University Hospital in Fazakerley, and then a police station in Bootle, prompted emergency services to evacuate 60,000 people who had descended on Aintree Racecourse for the Grand National. Using recognised code words used by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), it was warned a device had been planted inside the racecourse, less than an hour before the big race was to start. This was one of several IRA bomb scares in the run up to the 1997 General Election.

5 Apr 1997: A sign instructs the public on the evacuation procedure due to the IRA bomb scare which postponed The Grand National to April 7th at the Aintree Racecourse

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Following the chaos, 20,000 travelling racegoers were left stranded. They were put up in hotels and emergency accommodation while also receiving offers of a roof over their heads from kind-hearted Liverpudlians.

Bomb squads carried out two controlled explosions on suspect packages at the course but neither were later discovered to have contained any threat. Following the abandonment of the race, the Grand National took place two days later on Monday, 7, 1997, in front of a crowd of 20,000 who saw Lord Gyllene gallop home to a 25-length victory.

2020, first time the race was run as a virtual simulation due to the coronavirus epidemic

In events that couldn't have been predicted by anyone, the 2020 Grand National was run as a virtual simulation due to the coronavirus pandemic which had spread across the globe. With all racing suspended, the race was run digitally, with 40 runners who would have been most likely to take part at Aintree.

A snapshot of the 2020 Virtual Grand National

The virtual race was televised by ITV, using CGI technology and special algorithms to produce the most accurate result possible. The animated race included virtual ambulances following the runners and riders around the course, and shots of the excited crowd.

The race was won by 18-1 Potters Corner with Walk In The Mill second, Any Second Now third and superstar 2018 and 2019 Tiger Roll coming in fourth.

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