The Grand National is one of the most prestigious and challenging horse races in the world, attracting attention and excitement from racing enthusiasts around the globe.
In its long history, there have been many remarkable moments, but perhaps none as unexpected and captivating as Foinavon’s historic victory in the race.
Foinavon: The Unlikely Contender
Foinavon, a nine-year-old chestnut gelding, was far from being a household name in the racing world. Trained by John Kempton and owned by Cyril Watkins, Foinavon was a modest performer with limited success leading up to the 1967 Grand National. With odds of 100/1, the highest in the field, Foinavon was considered a true long shot.
The 1967 Grand National
The 1967 Grand National took place on April 8th, with a competitive field of forty-seven horses and jockeys vying for the coveted title. The race started like any other, with horses tackling the gruelling course and fences one by one.
The Fateful 23rd Fence
As the leading pack of horses approached the 23rd fence, chaos ensued. A loose horse unseated its rider and cut across the field, causing a pile-up that brought several contenders to a standstill.
Foinavon, who was trailing the leaders by a significant margin, suddenly found himself in an advantageous position due to the unexpected mayhem.
Incredible Stroke of Luck
In a stroke of luck, Foinavon managed to navigate through the chaos and emerge unscathed. While other horses were hindered or unable to continue, Foinavon found himself with a clear path ahead. Seizing the opportunity, jockey John Buckingham urged Foinavon forward, taking advantage of the fortunate turn of events.
Foinavon’s Lead and Eventual Victory
As Foinavon continued his relentless charge towards the finish line, his competitors struggled to regain their momentum after the pile-up.
Foinavon’s lead grew larger with each passing stride, leaving no doubt that a monumental upset was in the making.
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In the end, Foinavon crossed the finish line a full 15 lengths in front of the second-place finisher. His incredible feat was met with roaring cheers from the crowd and disbelief amongst racing pundits.
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Foinavon had shocked the world by becoming the fourth 100-1 shot to win the Grand National. His success paid out a record 444/1 on the Tote.
After the conclusion of the historic race, renowned commentator Michael O’Hehir made an insightful prediction. He suggested that it might one day be named in honour of the underdog horse.
In 1984, Aintree Racecourse officially recognized the significance of that particular fence. They formally named it the ‘Foinavon fence’, paying homage to the horse’s incredible feat. This fence, measuring a modest 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 meters) in height, now stands as a lasting testament to Foinavon’s unexpected triumph and the enduring legacy he left on the Grand National course.
Read More About Foinavon
Author David Owen beautifully captured the essence of that remarkable day and the story of Foinavon’s life in his book, “Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset.” This insightful piece of sports writing, published by Wisden, incorporates original interviews with eyewitnesses and individuals whose lives were touched or transformed by that unforgettable victory.
More Unexpected Grand National Winners
Here is a list of other unexpected or surprising Grand National winners:
- Tipperary Tim (1928): Tipperary Tim holds the distinction of being the longest-priced winner in Grand National history, triumphing at odds of 100/1. He secured victory after most of the field fell.
- Gregalach (1929): Gregalach, another long shot at 100/1 odds, claimed victory the year after Tipperary Tim’s surprising win.
- Battleship’s Historic Triumph (1938): Battleship, a legendary American horse, etched his name in Grand National history with a historic triumph in 1938. Trained by Sidney Banks and ridden by jockey Bruce Hobbs, Battleship became the first American-bred horse to win the prestigious race.
- Foinavon (1967): As discussed above, Foinavon’s victory at odds of 100/1 was one of the most unexpected and legendary moments in Grand National history.
- Red Rum defeating Crisp (1973): The 1973 Grand National witnessed an exhilarating battle between two remarkable horses. Crisp, a talented Australian horse, set a blistering pace and established a significant lead throughout the race. However, Red Rum, known for his stamina and determination, gradually closed the gap in the final stretch. In a thrilling display of perseverance, Red Rum managed to overtake Crisp in the last few strides, winning by a narrow margin.
- Mon Mome (2009): Mon Mome stunned the racing world by winning at odds of 100/1, becoming the first 100/1 winner since Foinavon. He delivered a remarkable performance, showcasing the unpredictable nature of the Grand National.
- Auroras Encore (2013): Auroras Encore secured victory at odds of 66/1, surprising both fans and bookmakers. His win demonstrated that even horses with longer odds can overcome the challenges of the race and emerge victorious.
- Tiger Roll (2018, 2019): Tiger Roll achieved back-to-back victories in the Grand National, an exceptional feat. He won at odds of 10/1 in 2018 and repeated his triumph at 4/1 odds the following year, solidifying his place in Grand National history.
- Rachael Blackmore’s Historic Win (2021): Rachael Blackmore made history in the 2021 Grand National as the first female jockey to claim victory in the race’s 182-year history. Riding the horse Minella Times, Blackmore delivered a masterful performance, showcasing her skill, composure, and tactical expertise.
These surprising victories remind us that the Grand National is a race where underdogs can defy the odds and create lasting legacies, captivating fans with their unexpected triumphs.