Plenty of horses were in with a chance two out in the 2008 Grand National. That soon changed when the 7/1 joint favourite Comply Or Die effortlessly took the lead under Timmy Murphy after the last and maintained it to beat King Johns Castle (20/1) by four lengths.
Willie Mullins’ Snowy Morning (16/1) was a length and a half further back in third leaving Slim Pickings (10/1) to pick up the not so slim (£42K) prize money for fourth.
Comply Or Die’s win had been confidently predicted by his trainer, David Pipe. He told Murphy before the race that he was a certainty to win. That confidence must have been felt elsewhere as he attracted a massive surge of support on the day, shortening from 10/1 in the Grand National betting.
The bookies had been bracing themselves for a late plunge on the ante-post favourite, Donald McCain’s Grimthorpe Chase winner, Cloudy Lane. It never arrived. He was sent off as the 7/1 joint favourite and finished out of the significant placings in sixth.
It was a first National victory for trainer, jockey and Comply Or Die’s owner, David Johnson. Murphy described it as a dream come true. He had finished a distant second in the mire of 2001 on Mark Pitman’s Smarty. Only four horses had completed and two of them had been remounted.
Comply Or Die was David Pipe’s third National runner since he had taken over the training licence from his all-conquering father Martin. Pipe senior saddled the 1994 National winner, Miinnehoma, owned by the alleged hamster-eating comedian Freddie Starr.
An exceptionally relaxed ride
Connections were delighted with the ride Comply Or Die was given by Murphy. He had partnered the nine-year-old son of Old Vic in most of his races, including last time out when he won the Eider under top weight in February. He rode him here as if he believed Pipe’s confidence was totally justified.
Throughout the race Murphy sat very quietly and treated the rest of the field as if they were carrying a contagious disease. He was never more than a few lengths behind the pace but typically chose to race wide and find as much room as humanly possible.
It was Comply Or Die’s first visit to Aintree. He was wearing blinkers but few horses had a better view of the National fences. Only at the Canal Turn did Murphy angle in amongst runners to avoid losing ground.
Many punters were probably more animated than the winning jockey in the closing stages. Murphy knew he had plenty of horse left and got a flyer at the final fence that carried him into a decent lead. He didn’t move, except to take a look behind him. He saw that the jockeys in his wake were hard at work and didn’t feel the need to emulate them.
Only after the elbow did he push for long enough to repel the late challenge of a very active Paul Carberry on Arthur Moore’s Kings Johns Castle. Murphy took another look behind him up the run in to check that it was ‘job done’ and was once again motionless when crossing the line.
A dream result for a partnership who had both had problems
Comply Or Die’s road to Aintree victory had not been a smooth one. He had started his racing career in style in 2003, winning three of his first four starts in novice hurdles. In his second season he fulfilled his promise over fences taking a Grade 2 and finishing second at the Cheltenham Festival.
But then the wheels fell off. After a string of disappointing results he pulled up in the Welsh National in December 2005. He was not seen on a racecourse again for nearly two years. The leg problems he suffered must have been serious.
He reappeared in a two and a half mile chase in October 2007, looking less than enthusiastic. He finished with only three horses behind him in the 19 runner affair. A month later he pulled up in a handicap chase over nearly three and a half miles.
By December this son of Old Vic’s mark had dropped 14lb to 134. Blinkers were tried. They seemed to help. He finished a respectable second at Kempton in a three mile handicap chase.
The headgear was retained for his Eider chase win. He became the first horse for a decade to succeed in blinkers in the National. Earth Summit wore them in 1998.
Murphy had his problems too. After a promising start to his career as a jockey he went off the rails spectacularly. He was acknowledged to be an exceptional horseman but discipline was never his strong point. His excessive drinking and poor time-keeping lost him jobs with trainers, including a plum role with champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
In 2002 his drunken behaviour on a flight from Tokyo to Heathrow resulted in a three month prison sentence. The sometimes terrifying spell ‘inside’ brought home the dangers of alcohol to Murphy. He admitted that previously he had ridden out in the morning and sometimes raced whilst still drunk. He claimed that prison was the making of him and motivated him to give up the drink.
What happened in the race?
It was a fairly clean start and all 40 horses made it over the first, led by No Full (125/1). Black Apalachi (66/1) was prominent when he fell at the second as did Backbeat (100/1) and Francois Doumen’s L’Ami (33/1).
L’Ami cantered away but his jockey, Mick Fitzgerald who won the National in 1996 on Rough Quest, was less fortunate. He sustained serious injuries to his already damaged neck. They ended his career in the saddle and prompted a change of job to TV racing pundit, so L’Ami has a lot to answer for.
At the third, the open ditch, Fundamentalist (66/1) fell whilst Tumbling Dice (100/1) and Iron Man (50/1) both blundered badly and unshipped their jockeys. Comply Or Die was up with the pace on the outside and took off a stride too early, pitching Murphy half way up his neck on landing.
Mr Pointment (25/1) took the lead at the fourth which claimed Ardaghey (100/1). Snowy Morning (16/1) was close up but Milan Deux Mille (125/1) took pole position at Bechers. No Full fell and Butler’s Cabin (10/1) made a mistake under AP McCoy but survived it. Madison Du Berlais (66/1) went at the Canal Turn and hampered Philson Run (25/1) who unseated Daryl Jacob.
At Bechers second time AP McCoy’s National hopes crumbled as Butlers Cabin fell, hampering Mon Mome (28/1). It was Chelsea Harbour (14/1) who took the lead at the Canal Turn second time. Five out Bewleys Berry (12/1) joined the first division whilst Ruby Walsh edged the 2005 National winner, Hedgehunter (10/1) closer to the pace from his midfield position. Barry Geraghty was tracking the leaders on Slim Pickings (10/1) as was Paul Carberry on King Johns Castle (20/1).
The 7/1 joint favourite, Cloudy Lane never looked dangerous and made a mistake three out. Chelsea Harbour weakened as did Hedgehunter. Bewleys Berry, Comply Or Die, Snowy Morning and Slim Pickings were in contention with Kings Johns Castle not far behind them. Comply Or Die looked to be going best two out. His exuberant leap at the last confirmed it.
Blinkers and a prison sentence helped Comply Or Die and Murphy gain a victory in the 2008 Grand National that robbed the bookies of their profits.