As we approach this year’s Grand National, you’ll likely come across numerous articles featuring lists of the “best” or “greatest” races in the event’s history. We, too, have created our own versions of such lists, and we’re excited for you to read them.

But we’re also taking a moment to reflect on the Nationals that didn’t quite go according to plan. Despite their flaws, these races are an essential part of the National’s unique history.

Topping our list of such races is the 1993 Grand National. This particular race stands out for various reasons, and we’ll explain why.

False Start

The 1993 Grand National was memorable for all the wrong reasons. The race was marred by a series of unfortunate events that would result in one of the most chaotic scenes witnessed at a racecourse.

The start of the race was delayed due to protesters getting onto the course near the first fence. The starter instructed the jockeys to “Take a turn” in order to facilitate the removal of the demonstrators. This was when things started to go wrong.

Horses began to get agitated with the delay, and a couple of the horses were struggling to line up in good order. Many of the runners got too close to the start tape, and several riders became entangled, resulting in a first false start.

everything that could have gone wrong that day did

The starter, Keith Brown, signaled a recall with his red flag, and another official, Ken Evans, signaled for the leading runners to turn around.

However, during the second attempted start, the tape became tangled again, this time around jockey Richard Dunwoody’s neck, causing Brown to call for another false start. Unfortunately, his recall flag did not unfurl, and as a result, 30 out of the 39 riders began their run around the track, unaware of the recall.

According to some jockeys, they mistook the officials who were trying to intervene as protesters. John White, the jockey of Esha Ness, recalled that during the final stages of the race, he noticed only a handful of horses around and assumed that the others had fallen.

Theoretically, the nine horses that followed the starter’s instructions and did not jump the first fence could have been considered for a rerun of the race. Nonetheless, the Jockey Club opted to declare the race void. This marked the first and sole instance in which the Grand National was declared as a void race.

Blame Game

The Jockey Club later ruled out any re-running and launched an inquiry. High Court judge Sir Michael Connell, who had been the deputy senior steward of the Jockey Club since 1988, was appointed to lead the inquiry.

The report he produced attributed some of the responsibility to Keith Brown for allowing the horses to get too close to the starting tape, but placed the majority of the blame on Ken Evans, the official stationed further down the track, for not noticing the second false start. Brown retired at the end of the year and expressed his sadness, stating that “everything that could have gone wrong that day did.”

Bookmakers Lose Out

It ended up being a bad day for the bookies, too, as the Jockey Club declared the race void due to obvious reasons. The race wasn’t re-run, so the bookies had to repay around £75 million of cash placed on the race.

Since that faithful race on the third day of April in 1993, that year’s Grand National has been known as “the race that never was.

It is not the Grand National’s proudest moment, but it is part of its history, and it is its history that makes it such a special day on the racing calendar.

Who Unofficially Won?

It was the outsider Esha Ness, ridden by John White, trained by Jenny Pitman, and owned by Patrick Bancroft, who emerged victorious in the 1993 race. Esha Ness clocked the second-fastest time in Grand National history as it crossed the finish line first. Unfortunately, it would all count for nothing.

Grand National Non-Runners

The Grand National has not been run on several occasions throughout its history. Here are the years when the race was not held and the reasons why:

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  • 1916-1918 and 1941-1945: The race was not held during these years due to World War I and World War II.
  • 1993: The race was declared void after a false start controversy that led to 30 out of 39 horses running the race despite the recall flag being raised.
  • 1997: The Grand National was abandoned in 1997 due to a bomb threat. However, it was rescheduled and went ahead two days later.
  • 2020: The race was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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