Grand National: The Biggest Shocks In History

It is a staple of the national racing calendar. It's muddy. It's noisy. It's the Grand National.

Since 1839, the country's finest horses have gone hoove-to-hoove in a 4-mile battle of brawn, bridle, and balletic athleticism around a challenging Aintree course. Due to the higher-than-usual jumps and massive field size, it is often seen as the acid test of the season.

Because of the nature of the race, plenty of unfancied shocks have emerged from the field to cross the line first.

In this article, we highlight five Grand National horses that left mouths agape, betting tickets torn and thrown in the air, and champagne corks popped by those who back the underdog.

5 Biggest Grand National Shocks

1. Mon Mome

  • Year: 2009
  • Odds: 100/1
  • Trainer: Venetia Williams
  • Jockey: Liam Treadwell
  • Weight: 11st-0lbs

The only 100/1 winner of the race within the last 50 years, Mon Mome cruised into contention between the final two fences before pushing on past 2008 winner Comply Or Die to win by a mammoth 16 lengths.

It was a Grand National debut for jockey Liam Treadwell, while Mon Mome's victory was helped by the fact that he had six pounds on the closest finisher. In a race such as the Grand National, weight can make a massive difference in the run-in.

Fun Fact: At the time, trainer Williams became only the second woman after Jenny Pitman (Corbiere in 1983 and Royal Athlete in 1995) to train a National winner.

2. Noble Yeats

  • Year: 2022
  • Odds: 50/1
  • Trainer: Emmet Mullins
  • Jockey: Sam Waley-Cohen
  • Weight: 10st-10lbs

It was a memorable retirement ride for Waley-Cohen, who became the first amateur jockey to win the race since Marcus Armytage won on Mr Frisk in 1990.

He expertly coaxed Noble Yeats from the back of the field in the early stages, through mid-division at the halfway point, before producing him alongside Any Second Now when heading to the last fence.

He was one of only 15 horses to finish, speaking to the challenging nature of the race in 2022.

Fun Fact: Noble Yeats became the first horse since Bogskar in 1940 to win the race as a seven-year-old.

3. Auroras Encore

  • Year: 2013

  • Odds: 66/1

  • Trainer: Sue Smith

  • Jockey: Ryan Mania

  • Weight: 10st-3lbs

Auroras Encore looked the least likely of the three horses approaching the penultimate fence at the head of the field. At one point, it looked as if Teaforthree had beaten off the competition and was up to four lengths in front of Auroras Encore at one point. But between the second last and the last, jockey Ryan Mania put the after-burners on and made up three to four lengths to join the eventual third-placed Teaforthree.

It was a fairytale story for Mania, who had given up the sport for six months in 2011 after the trainer he was partnered with, Howard Johnson, lost his licence.

Fun Fact: For the first time in the race's history, the whole field was still in contention up to Canal Turn (the eighth fence).

4. Last Suspect

  • Year: 1985
  • Odds: 50/1
  • Trainer: Tim Forster
  • Jockey: Hywel Davies
  • Weight: 10st-3lbs

An apt horse name for this list, Last Suspect was one of the last suspects for bookies and punters alike to come out on top, but some fancied his chances. Notably, jockey Davies was one such believer - he insisted trainer Forster and the owner, the Duchess of Westminster, enter him into the race on account of his endurance and jumping ability.

The Last Suspect made a big mistake at the third-last—he landed on all fours and almost came to a halt—and was almost out of the frame at the last.

Showcasing his endurance, however, he miraculously ate up ground on the runners in front of him, including eventual second place Mr Snugfit and 1983 Grand National winner Corbiere to win by one and a half lengths in one of the most thrilling Grand National finishes of modern history.

Fun Fact: Last Suspect was bred by Eileen Wren, the Countess of Mount Charles and a descendant of the great architect Sir Christopher Wren, who rebuilt 52 churches in London after the Great Fire in 1666 - including St Paul's Cathedral.

5. Foinavon

  • Year: 1967
  • Odds: 100/1
  • Trainer: John Kempton
  • Jockey: John Buckingham
  • Weight: 10st-0lbs

In one of the most astonishing turn-ups for the bookies in Grand National betting history, Foinavon glided to the finishing line almost unopposed after the rest of the field fell, refused to run, or were badly hampered in a mêlée at the 23rd fence.

The entire field came to a crunching stop after a couple of loose horses caused carnage. Only Foinavon, who came from way back in the field, was able to pick his way through the pile-up and scoot into a 200-yard lead.

Despite a valiant effort from the favourite Honey End, who narrowed the gap of victory to a mere 20 lengths, Foinavon cantered home.

Some suggest his victory is unfairly tarnished - despite being held up at the 23rd, he managed to finish three seconds faster than the 1966 Grand National winner.

Fun Fact: The 23rd fence at the Grand National has been named after Foinavon since 1984.

Check out our dedicated Grand National betting page, for all the runners and odds in the biggest race of the year

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