Who is Martin Pipe?

Martin Pipe, who officially retired, due to poor health, in April, 2006, was a revolutionary, often controversial, trainer, who dominated British National Hunt racing from the late Eighties until the early Noughties. In fact, Pipe won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship 15 times in all between 1988/89 and 2004/05, including ten seasons in a row between 1995/96 and 2004/05; indeed, he relinquished his reign as Champion trainer only briefly, to the late David Nicholson, in 1993/94 and 1994/95.

Based at Pond House, Nicholashayne, on the Devon-Somerset border, Pipe trained his first winner, Hit Parade, at Taunton in 1975 but, in his 30-year career, would amass a total of 4,180 winners, more than any other National Hunt trainer in history. He saddled 34 winners at the Cheltenham Festival including Granville Again and Make A Stand in the Champion Hurdle, in 1993 and 1997, respectively, and won the Grand National with Miinnehoma im 1994. Indeed, he trained over 200 winners in a season, including a then record 243 in 1999/2000, on eight occasions.

Pipe is credited with introducing training innovations such as blood tests, meticulous record-keeping, which allowed him to chronicle his horses’ health and interval training, all of which are commonplace in the modern training regime. His approach allowed him to boost the fitness of his horses more than any other trainer and he achieved much of his success with cheaply-bought ‘castoffs’ from other stables, which he often improved out of all recognition.

Which was the longest-priced winner of the Grand National?

The Grand National is often dubbed ‘the ultimate test for horse and rider’ and although the celebrated steeplechase has not – or, at least, not yet – thrown up the longest-priced winner in the history of British horse racing it has produced its fair share of ‘shock’ victories. All told, in 172 renewals, five winners of the Aintree marathon have been returned at treble-figure odds, all at 100/1, and collectively they share the distinction of being the longest-priced winner.

Granted that the five 100/1 chances represent less than 3% of Grand National winners, it would be reasonable to assume that they are few and far between. However, while the first 100/1 winner, Tipperary Tim did not pop up until 1928 – that is, the eighty-seventh renewal of the Grand National – he was followed in the very next year by the second, Gregalach. Another 19 years later, in 1947, in the first Grand National run on a Saturday, Eddie Dempsey steered Caughoo to a 20-length success and 20 years later still, in 1967, Foinavon became arguably the most famous, and fortuitous, Grand National winner of them all after avoiding a melee at the fence that now bears his name. Over four decades later, in 2009, Mon Mome completed the quintet of 100/1 winners, but there appeared no fluke about his 12-length victory over 2008 winner Comply Or Die.

How many jockeys have been killed in the Grand National?

The first ‘official’ Grand National was run at Aintree Racecourse in 1839 and, in 172 runnings since, the celebrated steeplechase has claimed the life of one jockey. The tragedy occurred on March 12, 1862, long before safety equipment, such as helmets and body protection, became compulsory and in the absence of adequate medical care.

The ill-fated horseman was Joseph Wynne, the son of former Grand National-winning jockey Denis ‘Denny’ Wynne, who suffered fatal injuries when parting company with his mount, O’Connell, at The Chair. The Chair, at a height of 5’3” and preceded by a 6’ open ditch, was, and still is, a formidable obstacle. However, the villain of the piece was one of his rivals, Playmate, who overjumped and fell, causing a ‘concertina’ effect, as a result of which O’Connell and another rival, Willoughby, both came to grief. To make matters worse, Playmate stumbled and fell, riderless, on top of Wynne, who was lying unconscious on the ground.

Wynne was still alive, albeit with a crushed sternum, or breastbone, when carried to the Sefton Arms Inn – now the Red Rum Bar & Grill – near the entrance to Aintree Racecourse, but died at eight o’clock that evening without ever regaining consciousness. He undoubtedly died of his injuries but, at the subsequent inquest in his cause of death, pulmonary tuberculosis, a.k.a. ‘consumption’, was identified as a contributory factor.

Which were the only two horses to beat Red Rum in the Grand National?

The cancellation of the 2020 Grand National due to the coronavirus pandemic has put paid, at least temporarily, to any attempt by Tiger Roll to win the celebrated steeplechase three years running. Of course, Red Rum won the National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977, but what is, perhaps, less well-remembered is that ‘Rummie’, as he was affectionately known, also finished second in the National in 1975 and 1976 on his only other attempts.

In 1975, despite being sent off 7/2 favourite, Red Rum was denied a third consecutive victory by L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore and ridden by Tommy Carberry, who won comfortably by 15 lengths. In 1976, Red Rum started at 10/1 and went down by two lengths to Rag Trade, trained by Fred Rimmell and ridden by John Burke.

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