The Biggest Surprises in Grand National History

The Grand National has seen some big surprises during its time
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The Biggest Surprises in Grand National History

The Grand National is probably the most famous race in the National Hunt calendar, if not the world. Many who show little to no interest in horse racing for the rest of the year will be thrilled to join in with the office sweepstake or have a bet with their friends on which horse and rider will romp home to victory. This year’s race is nearly upon us and is set to be as much of a spectacle as it is every year. Over its years and years of running there have been some races that have thrown up huge surprises. We’ll discuss a few of the biggest ones here.

Rachael Blackmore, First Female Winner

There have been many influential jockeys over the course of the Grand National and many of them female, but it wasn’t until 2021 that the race was finally won by a female, Rachael Blackmore. Taking the ride on Minella Times, Blackmore was on as good a horse as anybody else that day. The pair went off at 11/1, a short price considering that Minella Times had never won over more than 2m6f in his whole career, and even then had only won twice. To beat the competition around the 4m2f course was going to be an enormous test of endurance, for both horse and jockey.

Undeterred the pair made their way safely around the majority of the course sticking to the middle of the group. It wasn’t until the 19th fence (of 30) that Blackmore asked Minella Times to pick up the pace. The pair were out in front over the 26th fence and under clever cajoling from Rachael, they didn’t only make it home, they made it home 6 1/2 lengths in front of the next closest horse. It was a magical moment for everyone connected to the horse and rider, but also for any girl who’d ever dreamed of becoming a top jockey. The goal had finally been achieved by a woman and in impeccable style.

Mon Mome, Long Priced Winner

Mon Mome is happily living out his retirement in Herefordshire
Mon Mome is happily living out his retirement in Herefordshire

Mon Mome was the most recent big surprise winner, who flew home to an incredible 12 length victory over Comply or Die, who was heavily fancied. Despite seeming to make relatively light work of the testing fences, Mon Mome set off at a price of 100/1 that afternoon. The gelding had had just five wins in his career up until the day and this win at Aintree would be the last of his career. Out of 53 starts under official rules, he had only 6 wins to his name, but it seems this plucky gelding was built for the challenging fences and the huge endurance test that the Grand National poses.

Finding a 100/1 winner is certainly a challenge, only five horses have ever won the Grand National after receiving these odds. As the Grand National has been run more than 170 times this means that statistically, a 100/1 shot wins less than five percent of the time. If you are planning to have a bet, then backing the rank outsider probably isn’t the best strategy. However, as Mon Mome has proven, nothing is guaranteed in horse racing. A better idea would be to focus on finding the best odds and perhaps a bonus if you can. This list of the best horse racing betting sites in the UK provides information on each online bookmaker, as well as the offers that they are giving to new sign-ups and how user-friendly people find them. They’re given a five-star rating so that you can see at a glance which are ranked the most highly on factors such as customer service, payment methods and enhanced odds. Although you won’t be betting on Mon Mome anymore, who as a thanks for his service to the yard, was officially retired in 2013 and continues to live out his years at Sarah McQueen’s point to point stables in Herefordshire, you might still be able to find yourself a long odds winner.

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The Million Pound Upset

When a long shot wins, it’s an expensive day for the bookmakers and that was exactly what happened in 1963 when Ayala roared home to victory. There have been many Grand National upsets in history, but perhaps none as expensive as this one. Pat Buckley was the jockey who made the win happen but had you asked him just weeks before the race began, he’d have had no idea that he was even going to be riding in it. A fortnight before the national was set to run, racehorse trainer Keith Piggot asked Buckley if he’d like to ride in the national. At just 19 years old, this was a dream come true for Buckley, who quickly agreed to take Ayala around the course. Ayala was a 66/1 shot, in other words, more or less a no-hoper. Buckley was determined to get around the course safely and enjoy the ride, but had no dreams of winning. Yet it seemed that several people had faith in him as some big bets were made that day. As Ayala galloped past the finish post, the bookmakers lost more than £1 million, which for reference is nearly £21 million in today’s money!

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Rachael Blackmore talks to BetVictor as she makes history as the first female jockey to win Cheltenham

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Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse email: sashton@everythinghorseuk.co.uk

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