Anyone who had backed the 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur (14/1) had to look very hard to spot him in running but he galloped into contention when it mattered to win comfortably under Derek Fox by four and a half lengths.
Saddled by Lucinda Russell for ‘Two Golf Widows’, Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung, One For Arthur became the first horse trained in Scotland to win since Rubstic triumphed nearly 40 years ago. The colours of the ‘Widows’ are dominated by the St Andrew’s cross on the body, reminding the world that their horse’s win was also ‘one for Scotland’.
Russell, who is ably assisted by her partner Peter Scudamore, joins Sue Smith, Venetia Williams and Jenny Pitman on Aintree’s roll of honour as the fourth female handler to take its showpiece.
Cause of Causes (16/1) trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott took second under the talented amateur, J J Codd for the prolific owner JP McManus. Tom George’s Saint Are (25/1) stole third from Blaklion, the 8/1 favourite saddled by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who was beaten half a length into fourth, grabbing place money for England.
The comments in-running said that One For Arthur was ‘held up’ by his young jockey who had made a remarkably speedy recovery from injury to partner him. Fox said that One For Arthur was ‘made for the National’ after his win at Warwick in January but found him struggling with the pace on the first circuit. He was not ‘held up’ at all but going as fast as he possibly could on ground that was quicker than ideal for him.
Rather than push One For Arthur beyond his optimum fencing rate Fox wisely let him do his own thing in his own time. His patience paid off and One For Arthur picked off tiring horses and won as easily as any horse can win a marathon with 30 extra large fences en route. Russell said afterwards that her charge did not have a hard race.
One For Arthur’s victory was a great one for racing. Plenty of small punters who knew someone called Arthur backed him and he came from a relatively low profile yard owned by normal rather than super-rich people. This eight-year-old son of Milan was bought by Tom Malone for Russell for a (these days) modest £60K as a four-year-old after he had won a point-to-point in Ireland. Deborah Thomson had reportedly exceeded her intended budget after having had a few drinks and joined forces with McClung when they met up at an owners’ day at the yard.
Another positive for racing is that there were no serious casualties, equine or human, but there were inevitably some hard luck stories. The strongly fancied Definitly Red (10/1) got very badly hampered at Bechers and his saddle slipped giving his jockey Danny Cook no choice but to pull him up a couple of fences later.
Thunder And Roses (33/1), one of Gigginstown’s aka Ryanair’s belligerent boss Michael O’Leary, battalion of runners was cannoned into by a loose horse, unseating Mark Enright. Raz De Maree (33/1) jinked left to avoid a fallen horse and unseated Ger Fox at Bechers first time.
The false start did for the chances of some of the mentally fragile runners. Kim Bailey, trainer of last year’s gallant runner-up, The Last Samuri (16/1), thought it was the reason that he ran disappointingly. Shouldering topweight, The Last Samuri looked unlikely to go one better this year but finished way back in 16th.
As usual, some jockeys with a choice of horses picked the wrong one. JP McManus’ top jockey Barry Geraghty preferred More Of That (16/1) whom he pulled up before the last to the runner-up Cause Of Causes. Geraghty said he believed Cause Of Causes had plenty of weight for a small horse but probably thought that he would struggle to perform well so soon after his Cheltenham Festival Cross Country Chase win. Cause Of Causes flopped in his subsequent start last year but Elliott had obviously worked his magic this time.
The all-conquering Robbie Power took the ride on McManus’ third string, Regal Encore (33/1) who had not made it to the finishing line in his recent starts over more than three miles. Power coaxed him round to finish eighth, a miraculous result as he had pulled-up in three of his four previous runs this season.
Power has double vision in one eye making finding a safe course in a field of this size a monumental achievement. He beat the more strongly fancied Pleasant Company (11/1), who had blundered badly under Ruby Walsh for Willie Mullins, by a head.
Trevor Hemmings, owner of the National winners Hedgehunter and the ill-fated Many Clouds had recently paid plenty for the stamina-laden Vicente (16/1), the Scottish National winner trained by Paul Nicholls. Hemmings wanted a competitive runner to carry his colours in this renewal but his hopes of a third victory did not last long, Vicente fell at the first under Brian Hughes.
Paul Nicholls really needed a good result in this race to give him any chance of retaining his trainers’ title but his other runners also failed to fire. The Stewart family’s grey, Saphir Du Rheu (16/1), has never been the most reliable of jumpers and made a big hole in the fence when he fell at the 11th under Sam Twiston-Davies. Katie Walsh managed to get Wonderful Charm (28/1) round, finishing last. Le Mercurey (50/1) finished out of the money in 12th with his stablemate Just A Par (33/1) over 100 lengths behind him in 14th.
2017 was not to be the year that trainer Nicky Henderson broke his National duck. His talented stable jockey, Nico De Boinville, continued his woeful National record too. His mount, Cocktails At Dawn (33/1) tipped up at the first. De Boinville unseated at the same fence on Hadrian’s Wall last year. Fortunately Henderson was already way ahead of Nicholls in the trainers’ title.
2017 Grand National Betting
The 2017 Grand National betting suggested that it was a very open renewal. Only on the day did single figure joint favourites temporarily emerge to head the bookies’ market. They were Blaklion and the extremely well-treated Definitly Red but Definitly Red drifted shortly before the off to 10/1 leaving Blaklion to start as the clear favourite. Blaklion was partnered by Noel Fehily for the first time as both Willie Twiston-Davies and his regular partner Ryan Hatch were sidelined with injuries.
David Pipe’s Becher Chase and Haydock National Trial winner, Vieux Lion Rouge, had topped the Grand National ante-post betting market at one point but was sent off at 12/1. He finished sixth, beaten nearly 30 lengths, appearing to struggle with the distance.
The longest priced horse to pay out each-way was the fifth placed Gas Line Boy (50/1). Previously owned by a Mick Fitzgerald-led syndicate, he picked up a useful £26,500 to cover most of his training costs for the year.
The 2017 National also demonstrated the benefits of not waiting until the day to put your money on. The favourite Blaklion was available at almost double his starting price 48 hours before the race.