In the spring of 1967, I was 13-years-old. Walking through the local park with my father, we met a friend of his who’d just come out after watching the Grand National. I’d never seen an adult so excited as he talked of the shock result of the 100/1 chance who’d won the race. His graphic description of the mayhem at the 23rd fence, the remounting of the favourite, the pursuit of the no-hoper who’d been too slow to get caught up in the fracas which had brought the remainder of the field to a standstill, fired my imagination. I decided to learn more about the Grand National and about horse racing.
I’ve been captivated ever since. Much of my racing ‘education’ came from reading Dick Francis’s great racing mysteries. In the early ’90s I published my own racing mystery, Warned Off, co-written with an early hero of mine who became a great friend, Richard Pitman, whose own Grand National memory on Crisp was much more affecting than mine. In the mid 90s I got a job at Aintree.
That seed sown by the tale of Foinavon, the 100/1 no-hoper, grew to make a huge impact on my life and I was delighted to get a message from David Owen today telling me about a book he’d written, Foinavon, The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset
Here’s a taster from David who is a former sports editor of The Financial Times
It was the upset to end all upsets. On 8 April 1967 at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, a 100-1 outsider in peculiar blinkers sidestepped chaos extraordinary even by the Grand National’s standards and won the world’s toughest steeplechase.
The jumps-racing establishment – and Gregory Peck, the Hollywood actor whose much-fancied horse was reduced to the status of an also-ran – took a dim view. But Foinavon, the dogged victor, and Susie, the white nanny goat who accompanied him everywhere, became instant celebrities. Within days, the traffic was being stopped for them in front of Buckingham Palace en route to an audience with the Duchess of Kent. Fan mail arrived addressed to ‘Foinavon, England’. According to John Kempton, Foinavon’s trainer, the 1967 race ‘reminded everyone that the National was part of our heritage’.
Foinavon’s Grand National victory has become as much a part of British sporting folklore as the England football team’s one and only World Cup win the previous year. The race has even spawned its own mythology, with the winner portrayed as a horse so useless that not even its owner or trainer could be bothered to come to Liverpool to see him run. Yet remarkably the real story of how Foinavon emerged from an obscure yard near the ancient Ridgeway to pull off one of the most talked-about victories in horseracing history has never been told.
Based on original interviews with scores of people who were at Aintree on that rainswept day, or whose lives were in some way touched by the shock result, this book will use the story of this extraordinary race to explore why the Grand National holds tens of millions of people spellbound, year after year, for ten minutes on a Saturday afternoon in early spring.
I wish David luck with the book.
If you want to read Warned Off, it’s available as an eBook and paperback. The eBook is £2.50 and you can read the reviews and find out more by clicking the image below.