Grand National greats are now honoured in an award scheme that was launched by Aintree racecourse and race sponsors, John Smith’s, in 2010.
The hall of fame-style initiative initially required the public to vote for five personalities to be inducted as the inaugural Grand National Legends.
The winners were announced on the day of the 2010 Grand National and inscribed on commemorative plaques at Aintree. They were:
• Ginger McCain and his record three-time winning horse Red Rum;
• John Buckingham and Foinavon, the unlikely winners in 1967;
• Manifesto, who holds the record for most runs in the race, eight including two victories;
• Jenny Pitman, the first woman to train the winner of the race in 1983; and
• Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the commentator who called home the winners of fifty Grand National’s on radio and television from 1947 to 1997.
A panel of experts also selected three additional legends:
• George Stevens, the record five-time winning rider between 1856–1870;
• Captain Martin Becher, who played a major part in bringing the Grand National to Liverpool, rode the winner of the first precursor to the National in 1836 and was the first rider to fall into the brook at the sixth fence, which forever took his name after 1839; and
• Edward Topham, who was assigned the task of framing the weights for the handicap from 1847 and whose descendants played a major role in the race for the next 125 years.
John Smith’s also added five “people’s legends” who were introduced on Liverpool Day, the first day of the 2010 Grand National meeting. The five were:
• Arthur Ferrie, who worked as a groundsman during the 1970s and 1980s;
• Edie Roche, a Melling Road resident who opened her home to jockeys, spectators and members of the media when the course was evacuated following a bomb threat in 1997;
• Ian Stewart, a fan who had travelled from Coventry every year to watch the race and was attending his fiftieth National in 2010;
• Ken Lawson, a policeman who was celebrating thirty-one years of service in the mounted section of Merseyside Police and was set to escort his third National winner in 2010; and
• Tony Roberts, whose first visit to the National had been in 1948 and had steadily spread the word to family and friends about the race, regularly bringing a party of up to thirty people to the course.
There have been further inductees each year since 2010.
In 2011, nine additional legends were added:
• Bob Champion and Aldaniti, winners of the 1981 Grand National;
• West Tip, who ran in six consecutive Nationals and won once in 1986;
• Richard Dunwoody, the jockey who rode West Tip and Miinnehoma to victory and who competed in 14 Grand Nationals, being placed in eight;
• Brian Fletcher, a jockey who won the race three times (including Red Rum’s first victory in 1973), and finished second once and third three times;
• Vincent O’Brien, who trained three consecutive winners of the race in the 1950s;
• Tom Olliver, who rode in nineteen Nationals, including seventeen consecutively, and won three times, as well as finishing second three times and third once;
• Count Karel Kinsky, the first international winner of the race, and at his first attempt, on board the mare Zoedone in 1883;
• Jack Anthony, three-time winning jockey in 1911, 1915 and 1920; and
• Peter Bromley, the radio commentator who covered 42 Grand National’s until his retirement.
After a public vote, the following were added to the roll of honour in 2012:
• Fred Winter – the only man to have both ridden and trained two Grand National winners;
• Fred Rimell – who rained four different horses to win the Grand National between 1956-76;
• Tommy Carberry – who rode L’Escargot to win in 1975 and trained Bobbyjo (ridden by son Paul) to victory in 1999;
• Carl Llewellyn – who managed two wins, on Party Politics and Earth Summit, out of 15 rides, including 12 consecutive attempts; and
• Michael Scudamore – who had 16 consecutive rides in the race from 1951-66, winning once (Oxo 1959) and also finishing second and third.
In addition, a selection panel decided to add:
• George Dockeray – who trained Lottery to win first Grand National in 1839 and won three more in the next 13 years;
• Battleship and Bruce Hobbs – who together won the 1938 Grand National. They were the smallest horse youngest jockey ever to win the race; and
• Tommy Pickernell – who secured 3 wins from 17 rides between 1859 and 1877.
Also in 2012, Aintree welcomed two new “People’s Legends”. John Burges, a racecourse vet at the National for 38 years and Maureen Eyers, a devoted local fan.
The nominees for induction in 2013 were:
• The Duke of Albuquerque – a Spanish nobleman who harboured childhood dreams of winning the Grand National after seeing a cinema newsreel film of the race. He perfectly epitomises the undaunting spirit of the National for he rode in the great race seven times as an amateur and more often than not ending up in Walton hospital with serious injuries following falls.
• Neville Crump – who trained three winners of the Grand National and had another five horses placed in the race.
• Tim Forster – who became the first owner-trainer to win the Grand National since the Second World War when Well To Do triumphed at Aintree in 1972. Forster also went on to train two more National winners – Ben Nevis in 1980 and Last Suspect in 1985. These victories make him one of only seven trainers to have won the Grand National three times.
• Dick Francis – who was famously leading the Grand National on the Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, when the horse inexplicably fell on the flat with the 1956 race in safe keeping. On retirement from race riding, he was the racing correspondent for the Sunday Express for 16 years and wrote over 40 best-selling thrillers – starting with Dead Cert in 1962.
• Trevor Hemmings – who is one of the leading owners in the sport and who at the time had won the great race twice with Hedgehunter (2005) and Ballabriggs (2011) and, in total, has had 28 runners, with at least one every year since 2000. Since then Hemmings has, of course, won the National again with Many Clouds.
• Golden Miller – who is the only horse to ever win both the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year (1934). He was trained by Basil Briscoe in Cambridgeshire and owned by the eccentric Dorothy Paget. Having fallen at the canal turn as favourite for the 1933 race, he won the Grand National in a then record time in 1934. He retired in 1939 with a record of 29 wins from 52 races and is buried at Elsenham Stud.
• Ernie Piggott – who on the Grand National on three occasions. His first National win was on Jerry M, a horse who had finished 2nd in 1910. In 1918, he won the War National Steeplechase on Poethlyn, the last of the 3 races run at Gatwick before the race returned to Liverpool the next year following the end of the First World War. The duo were successful again at Aintree a year later, after being sent off as 11-4 favourites.
• Richard Pitman – who has been involved in the Grand National for 45 years – first riding in the race in 1967 and was involved in one of the most famous races of all time when Crisp was cruelly denied victory by Red Rum in 1973. Crisp, giving 23lbs to Red Rum, led by 15 lengths at the final fence but tired and was passed only metres from the line in a then record time. Richard went on to work for the BBC from 1976 onwards, remaining closely involved with the Grand National through many famous events including the bomb scare and the void race.
• Reynoldstown – who won two consecutive Grand Nationals at Aintree. In his first win of 1935, Reynoldstown – ridden by Frank Furlong, – beat the great Golden Miller. In the 1936 race, Reynoldstown, ridden this time by Fulke Walwyn, carried top weight at 12st. 2lbs and became the first horse to win two Nationals in a row since Poethlyn in 1918.
• Ruby Walsh – who is one of the leading jockeys riding today and who has an extraordinary record in the Grand National. At that time he had only once failed to complete the course (he pulled up before the 22nd fence on Shotgun Willy in 2003) and had had ten rides for two wins, a second and two fourth places. He won the Grand National in his first ride in the race in 2000 on Papillon, trained by his father Ted.
Of the above, the five chosen to be inducted were Richard Pitman, Ruby Walsh, Trevor Hemmings, Dick Francis CBE and Golden Miller.