Where Are The Grand National Winners Now?
The Grand National has produced some of the greatest horseracing winners of all time, horses whose names live on in the minds of once-a-year punters long after the race has been run and the betting slips discarded. Few horses win this great race more than once and for many their Grand National career is a single outing. So what happens to them once the champagne is drunk and their race days are over, where do they go? What is their story after the glory?
Horses can easily live for twenty-five or thirty years. The oldest horse recorded in the Guinness Book of Records was a pony named Sugar Puff who died aged 56 in 2007. The oldest horse to win the National was Peter Simple in 1853 aged fifteen, and the average age of a National winner is ten years old. So what happens to them for the remaining years of their lives once their race days are over? We take a look at some of the greats of the last 40 years to find out what becomes of National winners once their racing days are behind them.
1973, ’74, ’77: Red Rum
It’s only right to start with triple National winner Red Rum, the greatest horse to have ever won the National. His place in the annals of Grand National history and the hearts of the racing public will last for ever. After retirement in 1978 the one and only triple winner was stabled at Ginger McCain’s yard in Cholmondeley, Cheshire.
He wasn’t out of the spotlight completely though and opened supermarkets, led the Grand National parade for many years, opened a rollercoaster, switched on Blackpool illuminations and even guested on the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.
It wasn’t until he was 30 that he gave up of his busy schedule as an equine celebrity and started enjoying a quieter life. Ginger McCain said at the time: “He may be an old gentleman, but when we turn him out into his paddock he still has a jump and a kick before getting down for a roll. I think he’s now got his sights set on becoming the oldest racehorse in the country!” Unfortunately, Red Rum died shortly after on October 18th 1995 and was buried at the winning post at Aintree.
Apart from Golden Miller, L’Escargot is the only horse to have ever to won the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After beating Red Rum and Spanish Steps in the 1975 National he was retired by his owner, American businessman Raymond Guest, who gave him to trainer Dan Moore’s wife as a present. Following a disagreement over whether the horse should race again Guest took the horse back and retired him to the family estate in Virginia. L’Escargot enjoyed a happy retirement in the country until he died suddenly in his paddock – it’s rumoured from a snake bite – in 1984 aged 21.
1976: Rag Trade
Rag Trade was the only other horse to defeat Red Rum in the National. He returned to the race in 1978, by which time he was being trained by George Fairbairn. Ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, he was running well after starting as 8-1 favourite but suddenly he pulled up lame before the second Becher’s. It was a bad injury and Rag Trade had to put down shortly afterwards.
Aldaniti and Bob Champion were the greatest of Grand National teams. After winning the National in 1981 Aldaniti was retired following a disastrous first-fence fall in the 1982 race. After his fall the horse went on to raise millions of pounds for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and when not on the road spent his time at his owner’s stables in Sussex. Aldaniti had three times suffered severe leg problems before his Liverpool victory, and three times fought back to give the National one of its greatest moments. He died of a heart attack in 1997 at the age of 27. Bob Champion his friend and fellow non-quitter for so many years said at the time: “It’s a sad day. I felt terrible when I heard the news but at least he went without pain.”
1986: West Tip
West Tip has to be one of the best National runners ever. He ran in the Grand National six times, winning under Richard Dunwoody, coming second in 1989 and fourth in both 1987 and 1988. In addition to his amazing Liverpool record, West Tip ran at the Cheltenham Festival in nine consecutive years. He was retired in 1991 and cared for by 16-year-old Becky Titterton at her parents’ farm at Hatton, Warwickshire. Becky continued to ride him in Pony Club events and they went on to win the Best Young Riders’ prize in 1993. He died peacefully in 2001 aged 24.
1992: Party Politics
At over 18 hands, Party Politics was one of the tallest horses ever to race in the National. Ridden by Carl Llewellyn, Party Politics beat Romany King by two and a half lengths in an exciting finish on his first attempt at the race. In 1995 he ran the race again this time finishing second to Royal Athlete despite having a tube fitted for breathing problems. Owned by Patricia Thompson, the horse enjoyed a long and happy retirement until passing away from old age in 2009.
2009: Mon Mome
Mon Mome won the 2009 Grand National at Aintree with odds of 100-1 making him the largest-priced winner since Foinavon in 1967. Ridden by Liam Treadwell, his victory in the 2009 race took place exactly a century after the previous victory by a French bred horse in the Grand National. After his National win he continued to race, his last appearance being at Warwick on 10 March 2013 after which he was retired. Trainer Venetia Williams said at the time: “He’s been an amazing horse to train and gave me the best day of my career when winning the Grand National.”
Ridden by Ruby Walsh, Irish born Hedgehunter won the 2005 Grand National steeplechase after falling at the final fence the previous year and just missing his chance. He finished second in 2006 to Numbersixvalverde and also managed a second in the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup losing to War of Attrition. In April 2008, aged 12, Hedgehunter was retired by his owner Lancashire millionaire Trevor Hemmings. During his racing career Hedgehunter amassed over three quarters of a million pounds in prize money for his owner.
2012: Neptune Collonges
After beating Sunnyhillboy into second-place in the closest-ever finish to the race, Neptune Collonges won the National to become the first grey to win since Nicolaus Silver in 1961. Immediately after the race his owner, John Hales, announced that Neptune Collonges was retiring, saying: “He’ll never race again, that’s it.” Following his retirement from racing, Neptune Collonges was retrained for dressage and currently competes for John Hale’s daughter. Neptune Collonges also raises money for charity, making several public appearances each year including fundraising visits to children’s hospitals.