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Grand National Thoughts and Memories

Growing up in the 70’s the National was a highlight of the year for me, I had the gambling bug – brought up playing cards, pontoon, whist etc and Newmarket at Christmas when the whole family got together. I was always allowed 10p or 25p ew on a horse in this one race when Grandad paid his annual trip to the bookies. I guess today this would be frowned upon but gambling was very different back in those days. To be honest I don’t really remember a single horse I would have backed but my first real memory was when I was 17 and had my first big horse win. I think I must have just had a shift on the car parks at either Haldon (Devon and Exeter to most of you) or Newton Abbot and I was loaded with £10 in my pocket. I didn’t look 18 and was a few months shy so my mate went into William Hills to put my £5 ew on Last Suspect @ 50/1, it was 1985. I guess it got me hooked on racing when it won and netted me over £300. It was a lot of money to me back then but the payout wasn’t without a sweat, the payout queue was huge so my mate went back on the Monday and I was lucky to get paid out because the eejit had written down Last Prospect! From that day forward I have always double checked whatever I have backed. Over the years I have backed many winners of the race, Little Polveir would have been the next in 1989 again @ 50/1. A horse like Tiger Roll that was “too small” to win a National. From 1994 until a few years ago I have always spent Grand National weekend with my mates, really missed it the last few years and back in the day it was a big gathering. Most years we would all converge in a little drovers cottage in the Black Mountains, it was actually owned by Tim Berners Lee but as there was no internet (!) we would trip into Abergaveny to watch the race. I remember the chaos that ensued with the race that never was – Esha Ness, and the bomb scare postponement and my mates worrying what would happen with their betting slips – we all lived miles from Abergaveny! One year will always stick in my mind 2001 and Red Marauder in the mud, it was my stag do – it seemed a sensible weekend to hold it. There were 16 of us and we hired two yachts out of Kingswear, stupidly on the Friday night we met some bloke in the pub and eventually crawled to bed @ 5 am having drunk his gin palace dry. We were woken at 8 am and eventually headed out to sea. By race time we were at sea and heading for Brixham and I was down below trying to listen on the radio when we were hit by force 7 winds and squalls. Somehow we made it to harbour and nobody wanted to drink, the next day Andy (God rest his soul) drove me home and I have never set foot on a yacht since although a couple guys went on to get their skippers licences! Tradition returned with trips to the Black Mountains and in more recent years we visit each others houses, we’re getting on! Comply or Die was a big winner in 2008 and then I hit a dry spell but in recent years the race has been really good. I rode Pineau de Re home on a chair in a pub in Plymtree and paid the days bar tab for my mates as it had won me about £7k. Two years later everyone thought I was mad, there was no way Rule the World could win as it simply didn’t fit the stats, one thing I will always say stats evolve over time, if you fancy one that doesn’t fit go for it, the horse doesn’t bloody know and you will get a bigger price. The horse obliged @ 50/1 (popular price for me!) and I also had the 3rd Vics Canvas @ 100/1 which had no chance because it was too old. What can I say about Tiger Roll – I latched on a few years before most with the Cork National and then the National Hunt Chase @ Cheltenham. In 2018 I had been backing it for the Cross Country and the Grand National for months – it won both. I didn’t need to back it in 2019 at such a short price, the horse had won me well over £15k over the years and owed me nothing, I cheered it over the line as if it was winning me a lump. Sometimes a horse captures your soul and he had long before anyone else caught on, I love the sport and the horses and I hope he runs well tomorrow. So – this year – I backed Potters Corner months ago @ 33/1 and 40/1 but he hasn’t had the best preparation and people will say he needs a bog but he has run well enough on better ground in the past so is still no forlorn hope, he will be staying on at the end. I was going to add my other tip now but this took me less time to type than I thought and will post it now, I just want to check my other bet is actually declared at the 48 hour stage so tune in tomorrow! Apologies for boring the pants off you but sometimes it’s good to remember happy times

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