Who, or what, was Foinavon?
Geographically, Foinavon, or strictly Foinaven, is a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. However, since 1984, the seventh and twenty-third fence on the Grand National Course has officially borne the name ‘Foinavon’ in remembrance of the Irish steeplechaser of the same name.
In 1967, Foinavon, the horse, lined up for the Grand National as a genuine 100/1 outsider. As the field approached the now infamous twenty-third fence – ironically, the smallest on the course at 4’6” high and 3’ wide – a riderless horse, Popham Down, ran down the fence, causing a mêlée. The one horse, other than Foinavon, that successfully cleared the fence at the first time of asking, Rondetto, unseated rider on landing, while the remainder of the field fell, unseated, were brought down or pulled-up. By contrast, Foinavon, ridden by John Buckingham, was pulled to the outside and managed to jump the fence cleanly.
Jumping the twenty-fourth fence, the Canal Turn, Foinavon held a 30-length lead and, while many of his rivals set off in vain pursuit, the nine-year-old maintained a sizeable advantage over the remaining obstacles. He eventually crossed the line 15 lengths ahead of his nearest rival to become the first triple-figure winner of the Grand National since Caughoo twenty years earlier.