The "National" is not just the Nations favourite, with over 600 million viewers worldwide it is a "world favourite" . It has to be. The Australians stop in their tracks to see the Melbourne Cup which is watched by 2 million people worldwide but they still cannot compete with our "Grand National". As a scouser I was bought up in the shadows of the race, dads betting shop was not far from the racecourse, and I remember going there as a kid to see the great fences.
Every year the race produces more than just an incredible spectacle, it brings fairytales to life and lumps to the throat. For those directly involved it brings tears too, as well as relief, joy, shock and a huge surge of gratitude, yesterday we saw that in bucketloads. Winning trainer "Mouse Morris", son of Lord Killanin, former International Olympic chief and pupil at Yorkshire's famous "Ampleforth college" is no stranger to adversity and terrible sadness. His much loved son Christoper (30) died last year of carbon monoxide poisoning in Argentina on the last leg of his inernational travels before setting up his own restaurant. Useless at school, Mouse was no slouch in the saddle and in the 70's he won the Queen Mother Champion chase twice on Skymas.
Two weeks ago he trained the winner of the Irish National with Roque Angel, also owned by the O'Leary family and running in the famous Gigginstown silks. But could he do it again in the Grand National? When asked by a journalist on Friday if he might do the Irish-English National double, he looked to the skies and said: "He's answered the question once, he might not answer a second time."
Thankfully someone did answer and Rule the World put his stamp firmly in the record books. Mouse and all the horses connections were left entirely stunned and struggling for words in a very emotional aftermath. But thats not all the story, Rule the World was a maiden over fences, this was his fourteenth attempt at winning over jumps, he had also broken his pelvis badly twice. His jockey, 19-year-old David Mullins was having his very first ride over the National fences. The last teenager to win the race was Pat Buckley in 1963 winning on board "Ayala" for trainer Keith Piggott, Lester’s father.
Not only was the race a huge success but, more importantly all the horses and jockeys came home in one piece. The improvements to the track over the last few years have been impressive. Since the new fences were introduced, there has not been one single fatality in the last four runnings of the Grand National. In fact, the ten year average for fatalities in the Grand National from 2006 to 2016 is only 1.8% -a drease of 45% between the years 1989 and 1999.
This week looks set to be busy for team Duffield. One runner tomorrow at Redcar where I hope the rain contiunes to fall and keep the ground soft and heavy, but not tacky. Tuesday is Southwell where our first winner this year "Toboggans Gift" runs again. Wednesday's entries are at Kempton and Beverly but no firm plans have been made yet for these potential runners. On Thursday Ninetta will hopefully head to Newmarket for the Tattersalls Millions and we are desperately hoping the diminuative three time juvenile winner "Rosina" has 'trained on' and is good enough to be linning up in the fillies Listed race at Bath on Friday.