The greatest race, the Randox Health Grand National, is just two days away. Winning it was always a dream, and it came true many years ago for me. The 1990 Grand National feels like yesterday. As each year passes, I realise how incredibly lucky and privileged I am to have won this great race.
In my teens, I worked in a restaurant in Sydney. I would talk about the wonders of British racing and my dream of winning the Grand National to my Aussie friend Max Whitby. I then left the restaurant life, and came home to start my career in racing.
In my first year as a trainer, I had a fancied National runner called Shifting Gold, but sadly he and his jockey, Bob Champion, made it no further than the 10th. But the will to win the race was certainly born.
After several attempts with other horses, I headed to the 1990 race with the American-owned Mr Frisk. It had been a difficult journey as his owner, Lois Duffey, was far from keen on running her beloved chestnut. She was not keen on coming over from the States, but was persuaded to make the journey — just in case, by some miracle, he was to win.
Saturday, 7 April, arrived and we walked the course along with Mr Frisk’s amateur jockey, now H&H’s racing correspondent, Marcus Armytage. The ground was lightning fast and it was the first year that the famous fences had been modified.
It was a case of staying relaxed before the big race, which thankfully was not run at 5pm as it is now. I watched at the top of the stands with Mrs Duffey beside me.
Mr Frisk jumped for fun and was enjoying the fast ground and the famous fences. Uncle Merlin was giving us a great lead until he fell at Becher’s Brook, leaving Mr Frisk in front. From there to the winning line was probably the longest few minutes of my life, as they must have been for Marcus, whose last words from his trainer-father Roddy were, “Don’t hit him, as you might fall off.”
Bursting with pride
Mr Frisk won by ¾ of a length from Durham Edition and all I wanted was to see my horse and hug the jockey. I got down to the course to join Mr Frisk, Marcus and stable lass Rachel, only to be pushed away by the two mounted policemen — thankfully Marcus persuaded them that I was the winning trainer before we headed into the old winner’s enclosure. We had added our names to the great race and in record time. The aftermath was exhausting — you suddenly realise you have done something very special.
The journey home was not easy with a full bladder following the celebrations. We stopped at an M6 service station only to find a huge queue of football fans also needing the toilet. I was desperate, so I asked the man in front if I could go before him. I sheepishly told him what I had just won and he shouted that this idiot had just trained the Grand National winner — it was like the parting of the Red Sea and they all let me go to the front.
The next day we paraded Mr Frisk in Lambourn and 10 days later a letter arrived from Australia — addressed to “Kim Bailey, the trainer of the Grand National winner, England.” Inside was a note saying: “Dear Kim, I have only known one Kim Bailey, so it must be you. Your dream has come true. Well done, Max Whitby.”
So who will be this year’s fortunate trainer? There’s always a story behind the winner; for me it will be Tiger Roll. Let’s pray for a drama-free race and one that, as a sport, we can be hugely proud of.
Ref Horse & Hound; 4 April 2019