It’s the greatest test of horse and rider in existence: 40 runners, four-and-a-quarter miles, 30 fences, and two laps, with average speeds of roughly 30 miles per hour. A true feat of jumping ability and endurance, only the bravest and boldest number among its winners.
It is the Grand National, its 170th edition won by the fabulous One for Arthur. Ranked 14/1, he held off not only favourite Blaklion, but other phenomenal talents, including Cause of Causes and Saint Are, to triumph.
One for the record books, he was only the second Scottish-trained winner of the National in its long history, and only the fourth saddled by a woman – the inimitable Lucinda Russell. Ridden by Derek Fox, a first-time national jockey recently recovered from a broken wrist and collarbone, he seemed the unlikeliest of winners, and yet One for Arthur returned victorious.
Here’s what the on-track action taught us…
1. The Old-Fashioned Way Of Running Brings Home The Winners
There is an age-old formula for winning the Grand National: hunt around the first circuit, pick up speed on the second lap and only fully arrive on the scene once you’re turning for home. One for Arthur’s was just such a textbook victory. Carefully managed by Derek Fox, the impressive gelding only loomed into contention when it really mattered, demonstrating that he still had plenty left in the tank when those around him began to struggle. Unlike other pairings, horse and jockey avoided an overly strong pace to conserve their energy until the opportune moment, perfectly combining talent with tactics.
2. Blaklion’s Race Is Not Yet Run
Although many have complained about how Noel Fehily handled the heavily-backed favourite Blaklion, suggesting that he kicked him on too far out, the eight-year-old still showed some impressive form. Fading into fourth, he not only finished well, but jumped clean and demonstrated real class, making him well worth a second shot at the National come 2018.
3. The Northern Powerhouse Is Still Going Strong
One for Arthur’s Grand National triumph marked Scotland’s first success since 1979, and once again demonstrated the brilliance of Lucinda Russell, whose stalwart old warriors Silver By Nature and Lie Forrit both earned great deals of acclaim in their own right, but will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the newest champion. This victory means that three out of the last seven winners of the race have now hailed from the northern jumping scene; an impressive accolade considering that the region lamentably lacks investment from owners.
4. Derek Fox Is One To Watch
Just a month ago, Derek Fox was recovering from serious injury. After breaking both wrist and collarbone in a crushing fall at Carlisle, he nonetheless found himself punching the air in triumph as he crossed the line on Saturday, after running in his first ever Grand National. Demonstrating in perfect detail the determination and bravery that jockeys are so famed for, he followed in the footsteps of David Mullins on Rule the World, Ryan Mania on Aurora’s Encore, Liam Treadwell on Mon Mome, and Niall Madden on Numbersixvalverde, in grasping victory on his race debut. What’s more, he made it unfailingly clear that he’s most certainly one to watch.
5. Safety Measures Are Working
Love it or hate it, no one can deny that the Grand National is the most divisive race in the calendar, with its detractors naming it cruel, and its supporters viewing it as the finest testament to Thoroughbred stamina, pluck, and endurance in existence. Regardless, it’s always nice to see everyone come safely home, and all of the horses and jockeys returning unscathed is undoubtedly a testament to those who have gone to such lengths to improve safety standards in recent runnings. The fifth year in a row without fatalities, 2017 allowed all who follow the race to enjoy the ultimate equine athletes in all of their exquisite glory, as well as providing the pleasure of seeing them still fit and well as its close.