Amberleigh House produced a spectacular victory in the £600,000 Martell Cognac Grand National at Aintree this afternoon.
Graham Lee rode the 12-year-old, who was third here last year, in a brave finish, recording a historic fourth win for trainer Ginger McCain, the man responsible for Red Rum’s three victories in the race.
McCain, 73, praised his son Donald for all the work he had done with Amberleigh House, and told BBC Sport after the race: “I never thought I was going to win another National. He was foot-perfect. He’s a professional. He’s the best thing that has happened to me for a long, long time.”
Clan Royal, co-favourite at the off, stole second place. Jockey Liam Cooper had lost his whip and appeared to be riding the wrong course to the finish, but suddenly veered into the running and fought on, coming in behind Amberleigh House.
Mark Bradburne gave Martin Pipe-trained Lord Atterbury a fantastic ride, defying the odds and surviving the horse’s numerous jumping mistakes. He overcame his recent form, running prominently throughout the race, and after a fierce battle in the home straight eventually settled for third place.
Last year’s winner Monty’s Pass ran a valiant race under 11st10lb, managing a well-deserved fourth place.
There were 11 finishers in a field of 39, with Becher’s Brook taking it’s toll on the first circuit. It accounted for nine horses, including co-favourite and 2002 winner Bindaree, who was brought down by another faller. Blowing Wind refused, and outsider Akarus was blinded by a loose horse. The notorious fence also claimed Bounce Back, who stayed true to his name and ran on without a rider, falling and getting to his feet a further two times in the race.
Hotly-backed Irish contender Hedgehunter ran a blinder of a race, before a crashing fall at the last. Jockey David Casey explained that it was sheer exhaustion rather than a mistake.
He told BBC Sport: “He almost travelled too well and did too much in front. It’s unfortunate. I’m disappointed, but more so for the horse – he didn’t deserve it.”
Some of the leading market hopes suffered ignominious fates in the race:
- Martin Pipe-trained Jurancon II fell at the fourth, nearly bringing down the eventual winner with him and yet again denying Tony McCoy this much coveted victory
- Joss Naylor was struggling by the time they were over Valentine’s, and was eventually pulled up at the 19th
- Bear on Board produced a solid performance after depositing his jockey on his way down to the start, finishing in eighth place and consolidating a season of massive improvement
1, Amberleigh House; 2, Clan Royal; 3, Lord Atterbury; 4, Monty’s Pass; 5, Spot thedifference; 6, Smarty; 7, Ardent Scout; 8, Bear on Board; 9, Kingsmark; 10, The Bunny Boiler; 11, David’s Lad.