The horses and jockeys may well be the stars of the Grand National in the eyes of the public, but behind the scenes are the owners and trainers who make the event possible.
Grand National owners include members of the Royal Family and celebrities from the world of film and sport, and throughout history certain trainers have also become legends in their own right.
Take a look at some of the most famous trainers and owners who have made an impact at the Grand National over the years.
Horse racing is a noble sport and has long been a passion of the British Royals. From James I who brought the sport under royal patronage to the current Queen, the Royal Family has almost always owned and trained horses.
Ambush II, the horse that won the National in 1900, was owned by the then Prince of Wales, who would later be crowned King Edward VII. The Queen Mother famously witnessed her entrant Devon Loch, who looked like a sure thing for victory in 1956, leap a phantom jump in the home stretch and fall. She famously shrugged the incident off with the comment “that’s racing”.
Various celebrities have owned racehorses over the years that have run in the Grand National and some have even produced winners. Comedian Freddie Starr was over the moon when his horse Miinnehoma romped home first in 1994.
Actor Gregory Peck owned Different Class, the starting favourite in 1964, while celebrity hairdresser Raymond Bessone part-owned two winners – Ayala in 1963 and Rag Trade in 1976.
Famous horse trainers
There are to date three trainers sharing the record for most Grand National winners at four apiece – George Dockeray, Fred Rimell and Ginger McCain.
Of these, Ginger McCain is undoubtedly the most legendary for his training of Red Rum, who famously and record-breaking won the race three times between 1973 and 1977, coming a close second in the two intervening years. McCain also trained Amberleigh House, who won in 2004.
Jenny Pitman made history as the first female trainer to enter a winning horse in the Grand National with Corbiere in 1983. Pitman went on to train another National winner, Royal Athlete, who took the prize in 1995.
Vincent O’Brien was voted in the Racing Post’s 2003 worldwide poll as the Greatest Influence in Horse Racing History. He trained three horses who won the Grand National in three consecutive years from 1953-1955 – Early Mist, Royal Tan and Quare Times. He also trained Cottage Rake, who may not have won the National but who took home the Cheltenham Gold Cup for three successive years.
In recent years, bettors on the Grand National have begun watching out for those horses owned by businessman Trevor Hemmings. Hemmings has had three Grand National winners since 2005 with Hedgehunter, Ballabrigs and 2015’s winner Many Clouds.
In addition to the horses and their jockeys, the owners and trainers of Grand National runners play a huge part is securing a victory at this famous race. From Royals to hairdressers, the people behind the scenes are a huge influence in one of horse racing’s most thrilling events.