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.

Should I back Easysland to win the 2021 Grand National?

If you put your faith in what statistics say, the simple answer is no, you shouldn’t. No seven-year-old has won the Grand National since World War II so, notwithstanding the fact that French-bred horses, for reasons of nature and nurture, typically mature faster than their British or Irish counterparts, Easysland will need to buck a major trend if he is to win the 2021 Grand National.

That said, Easysland has run up a sequence of seven consecutive wins in cross-country steeplechases, including the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase and the Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham, and makes no little appeal, especially at the 25/1 generally available ante post, in the 2021 Grand National. Indeed, he was snapped up by leading owner John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus in February, 2020, and rewarded the investment with an impressive, 17-length victory over dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the following month. Tiger Roll, in turn, finished 18 lengths ahead of the third horse home, Out Sam, which suggests the form is reliable enough.

According to winning trainer David Cotton, the slow going at Cheltenham was in his favour, so Easysland may need underfoot conditions to come up unseasonably soft at Aintree to be seen to best effect. Of course, he also has no experience over the Grand National fences but, as a well-balanced horse who has been schooled over a variety of idiosyncratic obstacles, victory in the celebrated steeplechase would not be a complete surprise.

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