It is widely-regarded as the greatest test in jump racing; the toughest examination of a horse’s jumping ability, lung capacity and ability to handle the big stage.
From the devilish Chair to the terrifying Becher’s Brook, horse racing’s tallest and most feared jumps combine with a testing 4m 4f stretch in the most treacherous of conditions. With all that in mind, surely only the finest entrants should win the race each and every time?
Well, that is very rarely the case. Only three favourites have won the Grand National in the last 17 years, and in the last two decades the average price of the winner at the bookmakers has been around the 23/1 mark. Indeed the 2015 winner, Many Clouds, was a cool 25/1, and he became the first horse in 15 years to finish the course in under nine minutes.
This just goes to show what can happen when you place your faith in a long-priced outsider, so instead of sticking with those at the head of the betting market, why not take a look at the runners and riders slightly lower down the pecking order?
To whet your appetite for this year’s renewal, here are some of the longest-priced (and most interesting) winners in Grand National history.
Mon Mome (100/1)
Mon Mome was considered a bit of an old nag in the lead up to the big race, hence why his price drifted out to 100/1 after a positive start to the 2009 season. But his trainer, Venetia Williams, had a plan.
She kept him out of the spotlight of bigger meetings to train her steed specifically for the longer stretch of the National, and it was clear the ruse had worked given the grace and power that Mon Mome showed in floating over the obstacles.
He eventually sailed home by more than 12 lengths ahead of Comply Or Die, the 2008 winner who was expected to go well again.
Tipperary Tim (100/1)
Another 100/1 shot to claim the big prize, the tale of Tipperary Tim is a cautionary one. While a huge outsider, his odds of winning were greatly slashed when the other 41 horses in the field all fell!
The 1928 Grand National was ridden in typically early spring conditions here in good old Blighty, with mud and mist the two dishes of the day. This caused absolute carnage on the track; especially when Easter Hero fell on the approach to Canal Turn which in turn forced another 34 horses to hit the deck or unseat their riders.
By the last fence the remaining seven had been whittled down to just two: Tipperary Tim and 33/1 shot Billy Barton. The latter took a tumble over the final hurdle, and while jockey Tommy Cullinan was able to remount and guide his charge home, by then our 100/1 hero had already crossed the finish line.
The 1928 renewal remains in the history books to this day for the smallest number of finishers.
The third of our quartet of 100/1 winners was Foinavon, a surprise winner who became so famous that he even had his own fence named after him at Aintree.
The 1967 renewal will always be remembered for the carnage that took place at the 23rd hurdle – known today as the Foinavon. A loose horse had kept up with the pack but refused to jump the obstacle, which caused chaos all around him and led to many of the favourites either being taken out or severely hampered.
One horse was untroubled by the rumpus: Foinavon, and he would go on to enjoy the most famous of shock wins in the history of the renewal.
In this day and age of multiple TV angles, 3D technology and Lord knows what else, there is little room for debate as to how a sporting event has panned out (although occasionally rugby and cricket umpires still get decisions wrong even with technological backing, but that’s a different story for another day).
In 1947 though, on a day blessed with thick fog, things were less-so clear cut. Cue Caughoo’s victory in the Grand National, in which several onlookers accused jockey Eddie Dempsey of deliberately missing fences to ensure his mount stayed the course. It was even reported that Caughoo missed up to twenty of the thirty obstacles.
The result stood, however Dempsey was treated to some rather physical retribution from his fellow jockeys in the weighing room afterwards.
Mr Frisk (16/1)
Mr Frisk is a notable Grand National winner in more ways than one. He holds the record for the fastest completion of the famous Aintree course, charging to the tape in 8:47 – a full 14 seconds faster than the previous quickest mark set by Red Rum.
While Mr Frisk wasn’t a long-priced winner back in 1990, it is important to note that he was only seventh in the betting hierarchy, with the likes of Brown Windsor (7/1), Bigsun (15/2) and Durham Edition (8/1) ahead of him in the pecking order.
And so the moral of this story is that punters should not be afraid to seek out their picks for horse racing’s biggest prize further down the bookmakers’ lists.