Second, by one and a quarter lengths, came another 11- year-old, Just So, who was stirred into a thrilling late surge by Simon Burrough, who was putting up what might have been a crucial 3lb overweight. Brought up from Taunton by Henry Cole, his owner and trainer, the big black horse revelled in the going, which had been softened to a mush by Friday's rain and hail but suffered no further deterioration on raceday. Just So had taken over the final challenge from Moorcroft Boy, the 5-1 favourite, which Adrian Maguire had kept in the picture throughout the second circuit until they faded after the last.
'I got up this morning and saw the snow,' the 30-year-old Dunwoody said, 'and I thought that was a good omen. The last time there was snow at Aintree on Grand National morning was the year West Tip won. It was very, very testing today. The loose horses were a problem all the way through.'
When Burrough launched Just So's attack at The Elbow, Dunwoody had his worst moment of the race. 'I was worried when the other horse got up to my girth. If he'd gone past quickly, he'd have won. But my horse picked up again, and that was it. He's a class horse.'
The swampy conditions left only six of the 36 starters running at the finish - attrition to match the 1980 race, when a quartet reached the line from a field of 30. It was the second slowest National since the war.
Crossing the line behind the first three came Ebony Jane, whose jockey, Liam Cusack, reported that he had been brought to a standstill by a riderless horse. Fifth was Fiddlers Pike, ridden by his owner-trainer, Rosemary Henderson, the 51- year-old grandmother from Okehampton. Only the second woman to complete the National course, she had backed herself at 8-1 to do just that. 'He's a wonderful jumper, and he went really well,' she said. 'I wasn't too puffed at the end, so I obviously hadn't kicked hard enough.' A distance behind her came Roc De Prince, also trained by Pipe.
The competitors' nerves were not the only ones fluttering. A repeat of last year's tragi- comedy would have jeopardised the sponsorship and probably the entire future of the 155- year-old steeplechase. But the new push-button starting system worked perfectly, while a reputed pounds 1m-worth of security precautions kept the animal- rights activists at bay.
The start was calm, orderly, and a first-timer. The bright line of horses and jockeys wavered and broke, and the race really was, to everyone's relief, off.
Such sentiments were short- lived for three jockeys as Fourth Of July, Henry Mann and Elfast came down at the first, by which time the Czech no-hoper, Quirinus, was already tailed-off.
Up front the leaders were spread across the course; Garrison Savannah on the rails, Double Silk arrowing down the middle and Riverside Boy on the outside. The Fellow, outstandingly the pick of the paddock, had nodded at the first unfamiliar obstacle, but recovered and behind him Dunwoody had settled Miinnehoma into a handy seventh.
While Ron Treloggan's ride on Double Silk lasted, it was magnificent. His clever mount cleared the fences by feet, led over Becher's first time and made yards when he cut across the angle at the Canal Turn. Irish luck ran out at Becher's: three of them, New Mill House, Its A Cracker and Laura's Beau, came down in a heap.
By Valentine's the field was strung out with Double Silk, Young Hustler, Riverside Boy and Garrison Savannah taking them along. The first of those to go was Young Hustler at the 11th, and then two fences later it was unlucky 13 for Treloggan.
Double Silk fell for the first time in his life while 'still cantering' according to his rider; that fence, an innocuous one, also claimed Master Oats, Mr Boston, Topsham Bay and Mighty Falcon.
At The Chair, The Fellow's prodigious leap took him up level with Miinnehoma, as Black Humour crashed behind them, aggravating Graham Bradley's recent shoulder injury. At the water there were only 13 of the 36 starters left.
By Becher's again only the toughest were going, as the heavy ground drained the energy from limbs and added inches to the fences. Ebony Jane was now in front, Moorcroft Boy threatening and Miinnehoma was going easily. The Fellow suddenly looked tired; he was on his nose at Becher's, was hampered at the 23rd, and fell at the Canal Turn, where he took a horrid blow from a following horse, a poor reward for his efforts.
Over the last two it was a duel between the old adversaries Maguire and Dunwoody, as Moorcroft Boy and Miinehoma rose at the fences together. At the last, just behind them, Into The Red unseated last year's 'winning jockey' John White.
On that endless run-in Moorcroft Boy's stamina ran out, but Just So's came into play. He got to Miinnehoma's girth, but no further. 'I thought I'd got it,' Burrough said. 'He just needed to pull out that little bit more.'
After last year's fiasco, yesterday's race was decided as it should be, by the horses. And happily, although Double Silk was badly bruised and Quirinus sprained a tendon, there were no fatalities.
Where they fell, page 2
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content