The Greatest Grand National Gambles
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 29th, 2009
Triumph and disaster walk hand in hand over Aintree’s hallowed turf, affecting horses, riders, trainers and, perhaps most of all, punters. For there have been many big gambles on the National that have ended up buried in that well-tended turf. But some have been landed – in style.
In the early days of the great race, bets were largely confined to private wagers between wealthy rival owners. One of the first public gambles was when the white-bearded Irishman Joseph Osborne took on the ring with spectacular success in 1850.
Osborne owned and trained Abd-El-Kader and backed his horse to complete the National-Lincolnshire Steeplechase double, wagering £150 for a potential win dividend of £10,000, a staggering sum in those far off days. The gamble was foiled when Osborne’s pride and joy swerved and ran outside a boundary marker in the Lincolnshire Steeplechase. But Osborne won a cool £4,000 when his runner landed the second leg of the double.
The following year, Abd-El-Kader started second favourite at 7-1 to retain his National crown, but Osborne reportedly managed to strike a bet of £10,000-£500. It was a desperate finish, but Abd-El-Kader was the winner by ‘half a neck’. In 1952 twenty-two-stone owner Harry Lane landed a coup almost as big as his waistline when he pulled off a six-figure success as Teal – a horse he bought for a mere £2,000 – won the big race.
But perhaps the biggest gamble of all, certainly in modern times, came when bingo hall operator Mike Futter landed a financial ‘full house’ when Monty’s Pass took the 2003 race. Futter started off by backing Monty’s Pass in small each-way bets at 66-1, 50-1 and 40-1 then later got a bit more serious with one reported wager of £9,000 each-way with Ladbrokes 16-1 His total return was thought to be in the region of £800,000, but like all good gambling stories we’ll probably never know the truth.
Not surprisingly, Futter was renamed Mr Flutter. He had certainly earned his new nickname.
Of course the bookmakers have taken hit after hit too over the years. The third and unequalled win by the most favourite Aintree horse of all time, Red Rum, in 1977, had many a bookie crying and hurting even though that year Red Rum was only second favourite behind the well backed Andy Pandy who fell at Becher’s Brook second time round. Red Rum is immortalised at the Liverpool course by being buried beside the famous finishing post and a large statue erected in his honour.
So those are just a few National triumphs and disasters. What will this year’s race add to racing’s history books?
You don’t have long to wait to find out… the big race is on Saturday April 4. I can’t wait.