Twenty-seven years after Red Rum gave his trainer, Donald "Ginger" McCain, a permanent place in Aintree lore by winning the Grand National for an historic third time, the 73-year-old trainer's obsession with embellishing that record was finally justified yesterday when Amberleigh House, ridden by Graham Lee, claimed victory in the great race by three lengths.
At the age of 12, the horse, like the trainer, is at the veteran stage of his career but that barrier was dismissed as comfortably as the 30 fences as he swooped late to catch Clan Royal, one of four co-favourites for the race. The manner of the victory was reminiscent of Red Rum's first success in the race in 1973, with Clan Royal occupying the role of the exhausted Crisp. Seemingly galloping up and down on the spot, he almost veered off the course with exhaustion after the last fence and only just managed to get back on to the course before reaching the Elbow in the straight.
Two lengths back in third was Lord Atterbury, representing Martin Pipe and the owner David Johnson. Their No 1 hope, the Tony McCoy-ridden Jurancon II, had got no further than the fourth fence. Monty's Pass, the National winner last year when Amberleigh House finished third, stayed on honourably into fourth, 29 lengths back, under a much greater weight.
Although only 11 of the 39 starters - Tyneandthyneagain was a late withdrawal - completed the course, there were no fatalities or serious injuries reported. Hedgehunter, who led the field for most of the race, lay ominously still after coming down at the final fence but the gelding was simply exhausted by his exertions.
"I never thought I was going to win another National," a tearful McCain said. "Amberleigh House was foot-perfect. He's a professional - the best thing that's happened to me for a long, long time. The credit for this goes to my son, Donald. He lives for the horse and rides him in all his work."
Lee, taking part in only his second Grand National but prominent in the sport for riding the horses of the multi-millionaire newcomer to the turf Graham Wylie, racing's version of Roman Abramovich, said: "When he [Amberleigh House] stops going around here I'm not going to take any more rides. He was just so tough. He had to jump Becher's from a standstill first time round and he got a bit of a fright."
Clan Royal's owner, JP McManus, who like his co-shareholder in Manchester United John Magnier, had notched a victory on the Aintree undercard, said: "Clan Royal ran his heart out. He's very game. He beat the horses around him and then suddenly one comes from the pack, but that's what it's all about. Grand Nationals change from the last to the line. It's a long way from the Elbow to the finish."
BIG RACE DETAILS
1 Amberleigh House G Lee 16-1
2 Clan Royal L Cooper 10-1 co fav
3 Lord Atterbury M Bradburne 40-1
4 Monty's Pass B J Geraghty 20-1
Winning trainer: D McCain
Winning owner: Halewood International
Winning distances: 3 lengths, 2 lengths
Co-favourites: Bindaree, Clan Royal, Joss Naylor, JuranconReuse content