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A National Debate
by Clint Wayne
2007-04-15 10:01:57
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Well, just who is going to win this year's John Smith’s Grand National, without doubt, the greatest steeplechase in the world and a popular sporting day when many people, from toddler to grandparent, who do not normally watch or bet on a horse race are drawn to have their annual ‘flutter’ on the big race.

My first recollection of the National was watching with my whole family around our old black and white TV set in 1962 as jockey Fred Winter rode the 28 to 1 shot ‘Kilmore’ to victory. Like the whole country I was soon hooked by the shear excitement of the occasion and like every other punter was heard to be screaming those immortal words, ‘COME ON!’

As a pretty poor punter, and some would say rubbish and not be wrong, I have only managed to pick the winner four times in 43 years so if you have any sense you will stay well clear of my hot tip of ‘Point Barrow’ in today’s encounter.

One of those winners however was the heart-warming story of injury-plagued ‘Aldiniti’ partnered by jockey Bob Champion who had fought back from cancer to win glory in the 1981 race.

The Grand National is a unique test of horsemanship for the jockey and a great test of courage and stamina for the runners undergoing this four and a half mile, thirty fence extravaganza at Liverpool’s famous ‘Aintree’ course.

Horses and riders have to cope with many different types of fences including the ‘drop fence’ where the landing side is lower than the take off meaning the horse is unaware until it is in the air and then there are other fences where the landing side is higher than the take off making it a severe test.

Of course, the greatest tests are the infamous ‘Canal Turn’ fence where they have to negotiate a ninety-degree turn on landing and the formidable ‘Becher's Brook’ named after Captain Becher who was unseated from leader ‘Conrad’ in 1839.

The 1967 running was won by the rank outsider ‘Foinavon’ who was so far behind the rest of the field that jockey Johnny Buckingham was able to plot a safe path through the melee caused when two loose horses pulled up at the 23rd fence causing an almighty pile-up of horses and riders. 'Foinavon' went on to win at odds of 100 to 1 and still remains the highest priced winner.

There is no doubt about the greatest horse ever and that was ‘Red Rum’, trained by owner Ginger McCain, who won on his debut in 1973 and again in 1974, was second in the next two behind ‘L’Escargot’ and ‘Rag Trade’, a great winner seeing it was carrying the additional burden of my money, and finally in 1977 achieving his historic third win as a 12-year-old winning by a remarkable 25 lengths. ‘Rummie’ soon became a National Treasure and on his death in 1995 he was buried under a commemorative statue on his Aintree home with his nose quite rightly facing the winning post.

Good luck punters everywhere and don’t despair if you don’t win …….there’s always next year!

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Clint2007-04-14 18:50:10
I told you all that I'm rubbish as a tipster. Point Barrow the top Irish hope and race favourite fell at the first fence!! Congrats Silver Birch.

Thanos2007-04-14 19:18:22
I'm really sorry Clint!!! :)

Isaac W.2007-04-16 10:01:36
Your lack of expertise in picking a winning horse in the National is now legendary. The only good news is that you have better success at that than your beloved 'Toons' do at winning the league.

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