The Most Dramatic Grand National Ever? Foinavon’s Epic Win
We may have just recovered from another historic Grand National with Rachael Blackmore becoming the first-ever female jockey to win the race on Minella Times, but we thought it would be good to look back on another dramatic Grand National.
Every year comes with its own drama. From the moment the entries are revealed, the weights become the talking point. Once the handicapper has worked everything out, the usual suspects complain about the unfair treatment of their horses – whether it is deserved or not.
Then, of course, we have a series of scratching stages, and unlike previous years, 2021 saw very few get withdrawn. Will it be the same for the 2022 Grand National?
Either way, this a race that rarely disappoints, so to celebrate the remarkable achievements of past winners, we look back on the 1967 race and why it was so special.
Foinavon The Outsider
We don’t often get a dramatic Grand National quite as we did in 1967. Foinavon entered the race as a 100/1 rank outsider.
Almost nobody fancied the horse, and we doubt that even the jockey John Buckingham thought it could come home first.
Buckingham wasn’t even due to take the ride. The horse’s trainer John Kempton had bought for 2,000 guineas in 1965 for owners Cyril and Iris Watkins and Mac Bennelick. Kempton was supposed to take the ride that day. However, he couldn’t make the weight, so rode a different horse at Worcester.
As the owner wasn’t prepared to pay the additional fee for a ride in the National, three other jockeys passed on Foinavon. That is how John Buckingham ended up in the race.
Things could have been so different for Buckingham had Kempton made the 10st weight, as this was the ride that defined his entire racing career.
Chaos at the 23rd
For most of the race, it looked as though Foinavon was living up to its long odds.
It was well behind the field, and if in-play betting existed in those days, you probably would have got much greater odds than the 100/1 that was quoted pre-race.
However, everything changed at the 23rd fence. Several riderless horses came to it and got startled, deciding not to jump it.
Instead, they ran the length of the fence. This startled the leading group who were arriving at the scene, thus causing some of the horses to dismount their riders. Other horses attempted to jump the fence but failed.
It was absolute chaos. Horses were falling to the ground, jockeys chasing their rides, and almost nobody knew what was going on.
Calm In The Storm
Foinavon was not startled, though. Buckingham arrived at the fence and jumped it cleanly – the only one out of the entire field to do so on their first attempt.
This gave the pair an unexpected 30-length lead, which they managed to hold onto for the final seven fences.
After the epic win, Buckingham was interviewed post-race. He said “Everything seemed to stop in front of me.
“I managed to pull onto the outside. I nearly got stopped by two loose horses. After he jumped it, we were just on our own.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was wonderful.”
And it was wonderful. It’s just a shame neither the trainer nor the owner was there to see it. Thinking Foinavon had no chance, they opted to go to Worcester instead!
The 23rd fence was then named after the horse in 1984. You have to be a special ride to have a fence named after you, and Foinavon certainly befits that honour.
Buckingham passed away in December 2016, but he will always be remembered as the man who won one of the most dramatic Grand Nationals in the history of the sport.