The bookies don’t often get things wrong, but sometimes the unforeseeable, the incredible, and the downright bizarre have helped rank outsiders to win what is considered the one of the biggest horse races of all – the Grand National. While it’s not uncommon for minor outsiders to take first place, it’s extremely rare for a horse given no chance at all to make it first over the finishing line.
So if you’ve been drawn a poor pick in your office sweepstake, or think that a punt on a triple digit odds horse is just too fanciful, here are five times when rank outsiders managed to do the unthinkable.
Foinavon – 1967
Perhaps the most famous upset in the history of the Grand National, Foinavon was a 100-1 shot which managed to avoid a horrendous pile-up to storm through to victory. The horse was so unfancied that its owner did not even bother to attend the race, and the Tote ended up paying out an incredible 444-1 oods on the win.
The race had been progressing smoothly, with most of the horses clearing the dreaded Becher’s Brook without incident. The next fence, the 23rd, is one of the smallest at the Aintree course, but ended up finishing the race for almost all of the frontrunners. The riderless Popham Down collided with Rutherfords, causing a colossal pile-up and sending horses veering off in all directions, hindering others from even making the jump.
John Buckingham, however, riding on Foinavon, was far enough behind the pack to both avoid the pile-up and spot a gap to make it through safely. While some riders re-mounted and gave chase, the huge distance could not be made up and Buckingham went on to make history. The 23rd fence is now named after Foinavon in honour of the triumph.
Caughoo – 1947
One of the strangest Grand Nationals ever, 100-1 shot Caughoo stormed to victory in a day when thick fog had set over Aintree, obscuring the view of many spectators and jockeys. After the race, Caughoo’s win was so shocking that fellow jockey Daniel McCann accused winner Eddie Dempsey of hiding in the fog and only completing the circuit once. Controversy – and physical fights – erupted, although Dempsey was later vindicated and proved to have won completely fairly.
Mon Mome – 2009
Whether by statistical variance or improved access to information from bookies and punters, the days of 100-1 winners in the Grand National appeared to be at an end – until the French-bred Mon Mome became the first horse to do so for 42 years in the 2009 race.
Mon Mome had been considered strong enough to be a favourite at the Welsh National, but after some poor displays, and rider Aidan Coleman opting to switch to Stan for the Grand National, the horse took perhaps an overly-harsh tumble down the odds tables and was more or less entirely ignored going into the race. Coleman and Stan fell at the seventh fence, while the pedigree of Mon Mome told in the end, with jockey Liam Treadwell riding to victory in his first ever Grand National.
Tipperary Tim – 1928
The first 100-1 shot to win the Grand National came in auspicious circumstances. William Dutton, riding Tipperary Tim, heard a friend call out to him: “Billy Boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall!” However, in extremely heavy conditions, this proved to be prophetic – Tipperary Tim was indeed the only horse not to fall in the race, with only one other rider completing the course after leading contender Easter Hero caused an early pile-up followed by several other slips and falls. The record of only two horses successfully finishing the race is one which still stands today – and hopefully will for a long time.
Gregalach – 1929
Easter Hero managed to shake off the disappointment of 1928 and return as a favourite the subsequent year – but incredibly, another 100-1 shot would go on to victory, the only time such outsiders have ever won back-to-back.
Apart from both being won by rank outsiders, there were virtually no similarities with the bloodbath of the previous year, however – Gregalach coursed through to gain ground on the favourites and won a race in far better conditions where all but one horse safely returned to the stables at the end.
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