25-1 outsider wins prestigious Grand National at Aintree course in England
Pineau De Re comes home ahead of Balthazar King in grueling 30-fence race
Caps fine comeback for winning jockey Leighton Aspell, who quit in 2007
One of the most dramatic Grand Nationals in recent years ended in victory for 25-1 shot Pineau De Re, who ran on relentlessly to capture Britain’s most iconic horse race.
Ridden by Leighton Aspell for doctor-turned-trainer Richard Newland, Saturday’s victory capped a fairytale return to racing for the jockey, following his premature retirement from the sport in 2007.
Veteran jockey Richard Johnson narrowly failed to break his 17-year Grand National duck, finishing second on Balthazar King, ahead of A.P. McCoy and Double Seven in third and Alvarado, ridden by Paul Moloney, in fourth.
The 167th edition of the most famous race in the National Hunt calendar did nothing to dispel its reputation as the ultimate test for horse and rider. Horses must jump 30 obstacles over the four-mile course, including notorious fences The Chair and Becher’s Brook.
Two false starts delayed proceedings at the Aintree course near Liverpool, the race eventually getting under way in driving rain without Battle Group, who refused to start.
An error-strewn opening circuit saw further casualties, and just 18 horses completed the race. Many of the favorites, including Teaforthree, Long Run and Triolo D’Alene, succumbed to the course’s notoriously challenging obstacles.
By the halfway stage, loose horses were scattered among the runners. One of the most significant incidents occurred when a riderless Tidal Bay, having earlier parted company with jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, loomed upside the leader, Across The Bay, and carried him across the course and effectively out of the race.
Across The Bay managed to rejoin the field and eventually finished 17th.
Pineau De Rey’s victory was memorable for both jockey and trainer.
The 37-year-old Aspell spent two years working as assistant to flat trainer John Dunlop before making a surprise comeback to race riding in 2009.
Trainer Dr. Richard Newland is a registered physician with around a dozen horses in training. He has quickly established a reputation as a trainer skilled at refreshing older horses, such as the 11-year-old Pineau De Re.
The race has been marred by deaths in past years, but this time all 40 horses and jockeys returned safe and sound.
“It has given us greater confidence in the measures taken to make Aintree safer for horses,” Mark Kennedy, head of science for animal welfare at World Society for the Protection of Animals, told CNN.
“In the UK alone, for each thousand horses that start a jump race, four will die. At this level of risk fatalities are not freak events; they are predictable.”