Aintree heroes return to hallowed turf

2011 Grand National winner Ballabriggs is among 13 previous winners being paraded at Aintree.
2011 Grand National winner Ballabriggs is among 13 previous winners being paraded at Aintree.

A record number of former Grand National Steeplechase winners have returned to parade before the race at this year’s festival at Aintree.

Among the 13 Crabbie’s Grand National champions, 25-year-old Lord Gyllene, famous for winning the race rescheduled to Monday in 1997 after a bomb scare brought a halt to racing on the Saturday, is the oldest on parade. He is also the second-oldest surviving Grand National winner after the 1996 winner Rough Quest, who is 28. Lord Gyllene will be led up by his long-time groom Diane Joyce, who still rides him around the estate of his owner Lady Hilda Clarke, where he lives in retirement.

Just one year younger than Lord Gyllene, the 2001 winner Red Marauder lives at the yard of his former jockey, Richard Guest, who now trains from Yorkshire, and the gelding earns his keep as a companion to the young horses.

Bindaree was the second of two winners in the race for Nigel Twiston-Davies when outgunning What’s Up Boys on the run-in back in 2002. Now 20, he still lives at his trainer’s yard in Gloucestershire and has competed in dressage classes since his retirement from racing eight years ago. His paddock mates are two other retired Aintree winners, the dual Becher Chase hero Hello Bud and the 2011 Fox Hunters’ victor Baby Run.

The McCain family is part of Aintree folklore, the most famous Grand National horse of all time being Ginger McCain’s three-time winner Red Rum. McCain senior’s final National winner Amberleigh House (2004) will be joined in the parade by Ballabriggs, who won the 2011 running for Ginger’s son Donald. Amberleigh House is a major draw for visitors to The National Stud in Newmarket, where he spends much of his time, while Ballabriggs now lives on the Isle of Man at the home of his owner Trevor Hemmings. Ballabriggs shares his retirement home with Hemmings’ other Grand National winner, Hedgehunter (2005), who also joins the parade.

As well as Hedgehunter, a trio of recent Irish-trained winners has also returned to the scene of their most famous victories, with Monty’s Pass (2003), Numbersixvalverde (2006) and Silver Birch (2007) all set to make an appearance.

The 2008 Grand National winner Comply Or Die is another to have retired to the home of his former jockey and the 15-year-old lives with Timmy Murphy and his wife Verity in Gloucesterhshire. He recently took part in the Retraining of Racehorses parade at the Cheltenham Festival.

Completing the line-up are the 100/1 winner of 2009, Mon Mome, who recently won an in-hand showing class in Newmarket with his groom Sarah McQueen; J P McManus’s winner Don’t Push It, who gave A P McCoy his first success in the world’s biggest steeplechase in 2010, and Neptune Collonges, who prevailed by a nose in 2012 to become only the third grey horse to win the Grand National. Neptune Collonges was retired immediately after his victory and is now competing in dressage competitions with Lisa Hales, daughter of his owner John.

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