Rule The World Although the horses still travelled the same distance as the previous year, the 2016 Grand National was the first to be run over an advertised distance of 4 miles, 2 furlongs and 74 yards, after every National Hunt racecourse in the country was professionally surveyed and re-measured. The race also featured an etraordinary winner, in the form of Rule The World, who was a maiden after 13 starts over fences, dating back to November, 2014 and, hence still a novice. The aptly-named nine-year-old thus became the first maiden to win the National since Voluptuary in 1884 and the first novice since Mr. What in 1958.

Rule The World was the first Grand National winner for Gigginstown House Stud, but his victory was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he twice recovered from a cracked pelvis earlier in his career. Winning trainer Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris hailed him as ‘a horse of iron’, while winning owner Michael O’Leary was no less generous in his praise, saying that he ‘could have been Gold Cup standard’ but for his previous injuries.

Ridden by 19-year-old David Mullins, having his first ride in the National, Rule The World was sent off at 33/1, but travelled well, just behind the leaders, before making a shuddering error at the final open ditch. Nevertheless, he made headway into a close third at the final fence and, switched to the outside, challenged passing the famous ‘Elbow’, halfway up the run-in. In a thrilling finish, he came home strongest of all, to win by 6 lengths from The Last Samurai, with Vics Canvas 8 lengths further behind in third place. Rule The World ran just once more, finishing a respectable sixth in the Grade One Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown just over a fortnight later, but his retirement was confirmed the following month.

Amberleigh House The name of Donald “Ginger” McCain will, of course, always be synonymous with that of the legendary Red Rum, whom he trained to win the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977. However, it should not be forgotten that, in 2004, 27 years after Red Rum galloped imperiously into the record books, McCain trained his fourth National winner, Amberleigh House, and became just the third trainer, after George Dockeray and Fred Rimmell, to do so.

 

 

McCain bought Amberleigh House, specifically as a National horse, for £75,000 in November, 2000, after watching him win the Emo Oil Handicap Chase, over 2 miles 4 furlongs, at Punchestown for Co. Limerick trainer Michael Hourigan the previous May. Amberleigh House made his debut in the Grand National, at 150/1, in April, 2001, and officially “chased leaders until badly hampered and brought down 8th (Canal Turn)”. However, McCain recalled the incident rather more vividly, saying, “The first time he went to Aintree he was hit sideways on by Paddy’s Return at the Canal Turn so he was at the bottom of the pile-up.”

 

 

Amberleigh House was balloted out of the Grand National in 2002, but returned in 2003 to finish a highly creditable third, beaten 14 lengths, behind Monty’s Pass. Afterwards McCain reportedly told his son, Donald Jnr., “All you’ve got to do is improve him 7lb”. Officially, Amberleigh House had only improved by 3lb by the time the Grand National rolled around again, but met his old rival Monty’s Pass on 11lb better terms than the previous year.

 

 

In any event, having been patiently ridden by Graham Lee, Amberleigh was left with plenty to do with three fences to jump, but made relentless progress in the last half a mile, eventually overhauling the wandering leader, and favourite, Clan Royal a hundred yards from the winning post and staying on to win by 3 lengths.

 

 

Amberleigh House ran in the National again in 2005, and 2006, with distinction, but Graham Lee later paid tribute to the little horse, saying, “I rode him in four Grand Nationals and he was brilliant. Although he only measured very, very small, when you showed him an Aintree fence he grew a hand. He thrived on those fences and that was before they got modified. He was a very special and brave little horse.”

 

 

The last word, though, is reserved for Ginger McCain, who told live radio listeners, “It was f****** magic, cock.”

 

 

Corbiere Corbiere, apparently named after a Jersey lighthouse, had the distinction of being the first Grand National winner trained by a woman. Owned by Bryan Burrough and trained by the inimitable Jenny Pitman, Corbiere may have won the world famous steeplechase on his first attempt, as a eight-year-old, in 1983, but also finished third in 1984 and 1985, behind Hallo Dandy and Last Suspect, respectively, before falling at the fourth fence in 1986 and finishing twelfth, as a twelve-year-old, behind Maori Venture in 1987.

Ridden by Ben de Haan, as he was at Aintree, Corbiere had carried 10st 10lb to victory in the Welsh Grand National , run over 3 miles 5½ furlongs on bottomless going, at Chepstow the December before his first attempt in the National proper. He had subsequently won at Doncaster and finished second in the Ritz Club Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival so, even under 11st 4lb, appeared to have a live chance at Aintree.

On his favoured soft going, Corbiere jumped enthusiastically and raced prominently throughout. He disputed the lead with Hallo Dandy for much of the second circuit, but took a clear lead approaching the twenty-eighth of the thirty fences, at which point his nearest pursuers were the Irish challengers Yer Man, ridden by Val O’Connell, and Greasepaint, ridden by amateur Colin Magnier.

Corbiere led by 3 lengths jumping the final fence, but in the final hundred yards had to withstand a renewed effort from Greasepaint, who’d been under pressure for some way; Corbiere had just enough in reserve to hold on and win by three-quarters of a length. Yer Man finished third, a further two lengths away. Winning jockey Ben de Haan, aged just 23 at the time, later said of Mrs. Pitman, “She likes the job done properly and if it isn’t she doesn’t mind telling you.”