Aldaniti – 1981 Grand National Winner

Aldaniti won the Grand National in 1981, and in doing so provided the fairytale ending that Bob Champion desired to his career. Bred by Thomas Barron at Harrogate Stud Farm, in Co. Durham, by Derek H, out of Renardeau. Whilst Renardeau was an unknown, Derek H was known to be a tough handicapper on the Flat, so Aldaniti managed to get 4,100 guineas when he was bought by trainer Josh Gifford at the Ascot Bloodstock Sales when he was a four year old.

Though unraced at this time, Gifford had him win the Ascot novices’ hurdle at 33-1 with Champion as jockey just eight months later. Gifford immediately sold him on to Nick and Valda Embirocos, but disappointingly for them the he had no more wins over hurdles, and finished a race lame at the beginning of 1976 – ending up out of racing for more than a year.

On his return he made a promising start over fences, with three wins and a third in the 1977 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, and Champion made the claim that one day Aldaniti would win the Grand National. Sadly however he was found to be lame again, and was out of action for a further seven months.

Again Aldaniti started his return on good form, finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and second in the Scottish Grand National. In the meantime Champion learnt that he had cancer and his great motivation for getting through his chemotherapy treatment was his dream of riding Aldaniti in the 1980 Grand National. Unfortunately it was not to be, Aldaniti pulled up lame yet again when being ridden by Richard Rowe in his first run of the season. Gifford believed this time that he would never race again.

By the end of December he was returned to Findon for training, and fate would have it that the same month Champion was declared restored to professional fitness, and was voted the Amoco National Hunt Jockey of the month. The pair were reunited for the Whitbread Trial Handicap Chase at Ascot for what was seen as a preparation race, and Aldaniti was outsider of the eight runners, but went on to win by four lengths.

Following this, everyone speculated that he might be capable of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but to Champions relief owner Nick Embiricos supported him, ruling against it. He was allotted ten stone thirteen pounds by the handicapper for the Grand National, which didn’t restrict Champions food intake too drastically!

By the day of the National, Aldaniti had gone from 66-1 in the betting to 10-1, second only to Spartan Missile, the 8-1 favourite. Aldaniti proved himself by winning by four lengths to rapturous applause – the champion duo had made a comeback against all odds.

Aldaniti was brought back for one further National but fell at the first fence, and was immediately retired from racing – but not from charity work: for years after he made public appearances on behalf of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and in 1987 walked from Buckingham Palace to Liverpool on the charity’s behalf, ridden by many celebrities along the way, with Champion himself riding the last mile to Aintree racecourse. They banked £820,000 for the charity.

Aldaniti died peacefully in 1997, aged twenty seven.