It took Silver Birch just 9 minutes 13.60 seconds to complete and win the four and a half mile Aintree Grand National in 2007.
The 10-year-old, Gordon Elliott trained horse had been a leading fancy for the 2005 National but a leg injury sustained a month before that year’s Aintree showpiece ruled him out of contention and precipitated a downward spiral that saw him fail to complete in three of his four starts the following season, including when falling at the Chair in the 2006 John Smith’s Grand National which was won by Numbersixvalverde.
Persistent injuries appeared to have put a halt to a once promising career and he was dispatched to Doncaster Sales after his Aintree tumble, where he caught the eye of Irishman Brian Walsh who purchased the gelding for 20,000 guineas and sent him to trainer Gordon Elliott’s small yard in Trim, County Meath.
Walsh and Elliott, who at 26 and 29 respectively were the youngest owner and trainer to send out a runner in the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National, patched up and nurtured Silver Birch.
Yet he was still perceived to be a shadow of former days and was sent off as one of nine horses deemed the joint 15th choice in the betting for the John Smith’s Grand National on his next start.
The 2000’s were great for Irish trainers with five of the previous eight renewals National having gone their way, including the 2005 and 2006 winners, Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde, both of whom were bidding to add a rare second success.
The race began with Point Barrow as 8/1 co-favourite alongside Monkerhostin and Joes Edge but he made it no further than the first fence. Monkerhostin fared little better but refused at the seventh (Foinavon), while Joes Edge was pulled up before the 20th.
Robbie Power took the ride on Silver Birch and soon had his mount jumping rhythmically on the inside. Silver Birch, who was handily weighted on his best form with 10st 6lb, moved through to take a prominent position by the 12th fence and stalked the front rank round the second circuit.
Silver Birch had stiff competition for the lead while approaching the third last with Barry Geraghty aboard fellow Irish raider Slim Pickings striking for home first with Silver Birch poised to challenge.
But a mistake by Geraghty’s mount at the last gave Power and Silver Birch the impetus to the charge to the line. Slim Pickings tried in vain to get back on terms but a new challenge emerged after the famous ‘elbow’ as Tom O’Brien drove Welsh-trained McKelvey in hot pursuit.
The well-supported 12/1 chance had the crowd roaring as he surged wide of Silver Birch but the line came in time for Power’s mount who took the most valuable prize in jump racing by three quarters of a length.
Slim Pickings was third at 33/1, the Nick Williams-trained mud-lover Philson Run stayed on to take fourth at 100/1 under John Smith’s Grand National debutant Daryl Jacob, while another first-timer, amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, enjoyed a dream ride to finish fifth aboard his father’s mare Liberthine at 40/1.
Perfect conditions at Aintree contributed to the fact that 30 of the 40-strong field were still standing with a circuit to race, with 12 crossing the finish line, including the past two winners, Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde, who finished ninth and sixth respectively.