The Most Unexpected Winners of the Grand National

The Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes might get everyone excited in the US, but in the UK it is the Grand National that captures the imagination of the public like no other race. Millions of horse bets are placed every year on a race that has transcended the sport.

The most recent surprise winner was Noble Yeats, ridden by amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen in his last ever race. Those are the kind of stories that the Grand National produces. There have been plenty more over the years – including these five horses that all surprised everyone in winning the race and became instantly famous.

Tipperary Tim, 1928

The Grand National had already been running for almost 100 years when Tipperary Tim became the first real underdog winner of the race. Apparently the jockey heard a friend shout out that he could win if all the other horses fell over the grueling course – and that’s exactly what happened.

Forty-two horses began the 1928 Grand National, with 41 falling at some point over the 4-miles and 514 yards. One of the fallers was able to recover but couldn’t end up catching Tipperary Tim who stayed the course and became one of the biggest underdogs ever to win the Grand National.

Gregalach, 1929

With the dramatic conclusion to the previous year’s Grand National fresh in the mind of the public, there were not many that looked at a horse such as Gregalach - a previously unsuccessful runner - to claim the prize in 1929. But this race almost exactly repeated the story from the year before.

Gregalach faced a seemingly even harder task to finish first, with a record 66 horses starting. But, as with the year before, many failed to finish the course and in the end, only nine runners made it to the end with their jockeys still in the saddle. None of them beat unlikely champion Gregalach though.

Caughoo, 1947

After two years of shock winners the Grand National settled down a little. It took another 20 years before there was another real surprise on the winner’s podium. There was no luck in Caughoo’s victory though. This horse completely dominated the 1947 Grand National from the start and ended up coming home a good 20 lengths clear.Racing fans were left wondering why Caughoo was not initially expected to do well as it decimated the opposition on its way to the finish line. The second placed horse, Lough Conn, was also fairly unfancied and would have been a worthy and memorable champion if it wasn’t for the performance of Caughoo.

Foinavon, 1967

Foinavon was not a popular horse to ride and three jockeys had already passed up the opportunity before John Buckingham agreed for the 1967 Grand National. It was a decision that would change both their lives forever. But it didn’t look that way after 22 fences of the race.

It all changed at the 23rd though. A loose horse careered across the field taking out the leaders, causing many to finish their race early. Foinavon was a good 100 yards behind the leading pack and was able to come through unscathed on its way to first place. The 23rd fence was officially unveiled as Foinavon’s Fence in 1984.

Mon Mome, 2009

After all the excitement of the earlier part of the 20th century, it took another 42 years before the next big surprise winner in the Grand National. It was another incredible performance by a runner and rider, rather than the result of a pile up or group collision though.

Mon Mome made Venetia Williams the first female trainer to win the Grand National since 1995 when it held off two of the favorites, Comply or Die and My Will, to finish by a clear 12 lengths. All of these horses have entered into Grand National folklore as the biggest underdogs to ever win the prestigious race. How long will we have to wait until there is another one?

Trending Discussions