Bob Champion and Aldaniti entered Aintree folklore in 1981 as the pair recorded one of the most unlikely victories in the history of the John Smith’s Grand National. Champion had been given only a 40 percent chance of living after being diagnosed with cancer two years earlier, while Aldaniti experienced such a catalogue of injuries that connections believed he would never race again.
This year, to mark the 30th anniversary of that fairytale success, Aintree Racecourse is hosting a special one-off contest, the Aintree Legends Charity Race, supported by John Smith’s.Proceeds will go to the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, which was founded in 1983 and has so far raised £12 million, which is approximately£400,000 for every fence of the Grand National that Bob and Aldaniti jumped.
The race will be run on the Flat over a mile and five furlongs at the beginning of John Smith’sGrand National day, Saturday, April 9. The jockeys consist of 10 Grand National winning riders as well as two legends of the weighing room.
Graham Thorner enjoyed one of his finest moments in the saddle when partnering Well To Do to victory in the 1972 Grand National.The son of a Somerset farmer, Thorner spent his entire riding career as stable jockey to Oxfordshire trainer Captain Tim Forster and was champion jockey for the 1970/71 season with 74 winners. He went on to train. Thorner was also heavily involved with the 1980 winner Ben Nevis as he advised successful jockey, amateur rider Charlie Fenwick, about how to tackle the Grand National fences. A merchant banker and then a car dealer, Fenwick became only the second American to win the world’s greatest chase and the amateur also took one of the most prestigious chases in the USA, the Maryland Hunt Cup, five times.
Ben de Haan will forever be associated with Corbiere’s success in the 1983 Grand National,whose trainer Jenny Pitman became the first women to send out the winner of the famous race. De Haan took out a training licence after retiring from the saddle in 1993.
Hywel Davies made an extraordinary recovery to partner Last Suspect to win the 1985 Grand National. The jockey was so seriously injured after a fall at Doncaster in February, 1984,that his heart failed seven times on the way to hospital. Davies went on to record 762 wins in a career that spanned 17 years before his retirement in 1994. He is still involved in the sport and acts as a commentator on Welsh language channel S4C, while his son James has continued the family tradition by becoming a successful jockey.
Brendan Powell broke his arm on his first Grand National ride in 1987 but the Irishman returned the following year for a storming success on Rhyme ‘N’ Reason. Powell hung up his boots in 2000 after 648 wins and has since gone on to enjoy further notable success as a trainer, with more than 400 winners to his name over jumps and on the Flat.
Little Polveir provided Jimmy Frost with his finest hour in the saddle as the pair beat West Tip by seven lengths in 1989. The son of a trainer, Frost became the youngest-ever winner of a point-to-point aged just 13 and the “PeterPan of the weighing room” was still riding competitively 30 years later. He took over hisfather’s yard in 2002, while his son Hadden has established himself as a leading jockey.
Marcus Armytage (pictured below) became the latest of 41 amateur jockeys to win the Grand National when scoring in record time on Mr Frisk in 1990. The son of trainer Roddy and brother to trailblazing female rider Gee, Armytage rode 100 winners and the old Etonian is a racing journalist with The Daily Telegraph.
Carl Llewellyn joined the elite club of jockeys who have ridden two Grand National winners when he partnered Earth Summit to victory in1998, adding to success on Party Politics six years earlier. After a career that included just shy of 1,000 winners, Llewellyn spent three years as salaried trainer to Malcolm Denmark before joining up as business partner with trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, to whom he was stable jockey for many seasons.
Tony Dobbin gave Lord Gyllene a superb ride when making all of the running to triumph in the 1997 Grand National and the Ulsterman became one of racing’s most successful jockeys with nearly 1,200 winners to his name. Since retiring from the saddle in 2008, Dobbin has assisted his trainer wife Rose, who herself rode 100 winners as an amateur.
Jim Culloty picked up the winning ride on Bindaree in the 2002 Grand National after the chaser’s intended jockey Jamie Goldstein broke his leg four days before the race. The son of an accountant from Killarney, Culloty is best remembered as a jockey for his three Cheltenham Gold Cup victories on the brilliant Best Mate. He retired in July, 2005, and took out a licence to train in Ireland shortly afterwards.
Despite gaining the champion jockeys’ title on eight occasions, Peter Scudamore’s best effort in the Grand National came in 1985, when he finished third on the 1983 winner Corbiere. The son of 1959 Grand National-winning jockey Michael, Scudamore broke numerous records in a glittering career, including 1,678 winners as well as 221 successes in a single season. He helped present the BBC’s coverage of the Grand National for several years and now assists his partner, Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell.Scudamore’s son Tom is a top-class jockey,while another son Michael is now training.
A great Irish jump jockey of recent times,Charlie Swan also endured a wretched record in the John Smith’s Grand National, with fifth place on Lastofthebrownies in 1990 being the highlight. Swan monopolised the Irish jockeys’championship between 1988 and 1998,and is particularly remembered in Britain for his partnership with the outstanding hurdler Istabraq. The County Tipperary trainer will be bidding for a unique double, having won a legends’ race at Doncaster’s St Leger Meeting in September.
Bob Champion will be heavily involved on the day alongside last year’s John Smith’s GrandNational-winning trainer Jonjo O’Neill as official ambassadors of the Aintree Legends Race. Leading former jockeys Mick Fitzgerald and Richard Dunwoody, involved with the BBC coverage of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, will also play a part.
Mark Given, Brands Director at Heineken UK,brand owner of John Smith’s, said: “We are very pleased to support the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and I’m sure the Aintree Legends Race will make an excellent contribution to the JohnSmith’s Grand National day card. The race has already attracted a fascinating line-up of jockeys and the spirit of the event ties in well with the John Smith’s Grand National Legends campaign launched last year. ”
Thanks to the excellent Racenews for the original copy