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2001 Grand National

The 2001 Grand National (known as the Martell Cognac Grand National Chase Showcase Handicap (Class A) Grade 3 for sponsorship reasons) was the 154th official renewal of a horse race that took place at the Aintree Racecourse on 7 April 2001 and was won by a distance by 33/1 shot Red Marauder, ridden by Richard Guest in a time of over eleven minutes. The winner was owned and trained by Norman Mason [1] at his base in Crook, County Durham [2] and ran in the trainer's colours of red with a blue hoop, three blue hoops on the sleeves and a red and blue hooped cap. The field was limited for safety reasons to a maximum of forty competitors of which only two completed the course without mishap and was run in heavy going. The race was notable for an unusually high number of falls, including eight horses being stopped by a loose horse at the Canal Turn and came in for criticism in some quarters, believing that the conditions were too wet and muddy for the race to take place. However supporters of the race were quick to point out that the slow pace and bottomless ground benefitted the race as there were no injuries sustained to any horse or rider.



The 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease had led to the Cheltenham Festival and many other fixtures being abandoned before the Grand National meeting. However, the meeting got the go-ahead from racing officials. On the day, the race went ahead despite atrocious weather, with high winds and an extremely heavy going.

The unluckiest person on race day was jockey Paul Flynn who was the subject of a frantic search when Mick Fitzgerald was forced to stand down as rider of Esprit De Cotte less than two hours before the race. When Flynn did not respond to calls and texts to his mobile, two tannoy announcements were sent out around the course for him to report to the weighing room. When he still did not respond an urgent message was sent out over the BBC via its live coverage of the buildup of the race. Flynn, who had never before ridden in a National, widely regarded as every steeplechase rider's dream, could not be found and the ride instead went to Tom Doyle. Flynn never got another chance to ride in the race.[3]

Leading contenders

Edmond was the winner of the 1999 Welsh Grand National and was made 10/1 co favourite on the horse's preference for soft ground. He ran prominently at the head of the field for most of the first circuit and was still leading when he fell into the ditch at the Chair fence, catapulting rider, Richard Johnson over the fence.

Moral Support was also supported to co favouritism on the back of a preference for soft ground and a good showing in the Welsh National four months prior to Aintree. Partnered by Noel Fehily, He was towards the rear of the field when caught in a pile up at the Canal Turn on the first circuit and brought to a standstill.

Inis Cara was the third co favourite but was backed purely on the basis of being a mudlark. His form lacked that of the other two co favourites however as he had failed to make a serious impression in any of his six previous races. His partner, Robert Widger was hoping to emulate his great uncle who won the race over a century before but the partnership was severed by a heavy fall at the fourth fence.

Beau was the 12/1 mount of two time winning jockey Carl Llewellyn and had won the Whitbred Gold Cup, a respected Aintree trial, by a distance in 1999. his form in 2000 had been less impressive and his heavy weight handicap was also considered a tough ask but the horse was coping well with it during the race and was leading the only four runners left in the race when an awkward jump at the nineteenth fence put his reins over his head. Jockey Llewellyn fought to try and save the situation but, without steering, was unsurpisingly unseated at the next fence. The rider desperately chased his mount to the next fence in a bid to remount and possible claim third place but was unable to do so.

Mely Moss was sent off at 14/1, having finished second in the race the previous year, despite it being his only run of the season. He was again kept off the race course until Aintree and partnered by Norman Williamson but they were unable to avoid the pile up at the Canal Turn and were stopped.

Papillon beat Mely Moss to win the National the previous year and this, coupled with his trainer risking a foot and mouth quarantine to bring him to Aintree saw him well supported at 14/1. His partner in victory, Ruby Walsh again took the ride and they avoided the carnage on the first circuit to be among the only seven still continuing when a loose horse took them out at the nineteenth fence. Walsh remounted and hacked around the remainder of the course with the remounted Blowing Wind before being left behind at the final flight to be the last of four to complete.

The eventual winner, Red Marauder, was freely available as an each way chance at 33/1 after disappointingly falling at Becher's Brook on the first circuit the previous year. Another fall at Haydock before the National had punters feeling that the horse was not a safe enough jumper.

The race

The heavy conditions contributed greatly to the horses that fell during the race; eight had already fallen by the third fence. One of the horses that fell in the opening stages, Paddy's Return, carried on as a loose horse and caused great pandemonium at the Canal Turn corner where he brought down several nearby runners. Nine horses were lost at the turn overall, including Moral Support, one of the favourites, and future winner Amberleigh House.[4]

The were only thirteen horses left standing, going onto the race course proper for the first time. At the thirteenth, Noble Lord fell, leaving only twelve to tackle the The Chair, the large standside jump. This year it claimed three horses including joint-favourite Edmond [5], each-way shot Supreme Charm and largely unfancied Moondigua. Listen Timmy made a terrible mistake, but made a remarkable recovery and pulled up immediately after the fence. As the field left for the second circuit, only seven horses remained: the eventual winner Red Marauder, the 2000 winner Papillon, Beau, Blowing Wind, Brave Highlander, Unsinkable Boxer and Smarty.

Approaching the nineteenth, a couple of loose horses veered across the ditch, similar to what happened at the Canal Turn and hampered Papillon, Blowing Wind and Brave Highlander, resulting in their refusals. Unsinkable Boxer also refused at the big ditch. This left only three. The leader of the trio and top weight, Beau, unseated jockey Carl Llewellyn at the twentieth fence after his reigns broke. Carl Llewellyn chased his mount calling to officials to stop his horse running on. This left only two horses, Red Marauder and Smarty. Two fences back, Tony McCoy remounted Blowing Wind and Ruby Walsh remounted 2000's winner Papillon. McCoy later said, "I looked up at the big screen and saw there were only two horses still racing. I shouted to Ruby (Walsh), 'Come on, let's get back up'". Blowing Wind and Papillon both continued the course to take third and fourth place respectively.

Going into the last few fences Smarty had a lead over Red Marauder. However by the second last, Guest on Red Marauder had drawn level with Smarty, and by the end won by a distance. A mud-covered Guest celebrated crossing the finish line in the slowest Grand National winning time for over 100 years. It was the first time since Ben Nevis won in 1980 that just four horses finished the race [6], and the first time since 1951 that there were only two unhampered finishers (in that year, three horses finished, one of them having been remounted).


There were numerous reports in the press that the race should never have been run due to the horrendous conditions. Respected Racing Post journalist and lead presenter of Channel 4 Racing Alastair Down wrote "You can wash the mud off the jockeys' silks, but not the stain off the race", under the front page Racing Post headline 'Gutless, Witless and Utterly Reckless'.[7], while John Maxse, the spokesman of the Jockey Club, said "It was fairly shocking, uncomfortable viewing".[8]

However, the majority of racing leapt to its defence, as it was loose horses that caused most of the trouble. Despite more than 30 of the 40 horses either falling or being brought down, all of the horses and jockeys were fine afterwards and no major injuries were sustained.[6]

Finishing order

Position Number Name Rider Age Weight Starting price Distance or fate
Winner 9 Red Marauder Richard Guest 11 10-11 33/1 A distance
Second 26 Smarty Timmy Murphy 8 10-0 16/1 A distance
Third 13 Blowing Wind Tony McCoy 8 10-9 16/1 Remounted after being stopped at fence 19
Fourth 2 Papillon Ruby Walsh 10 11-4 14/1 Remounted after being stopped at fence 19


Fence Number Name Rider Age Weight Starting price Distance or fate
Plain fence (20) 1 Beau Carl Llewellyn 8 11-10 12/1 Unseated rider after losing reins
Westhead open ditch (19) 12 Unsinkable Boxer Dean Gallagher 12 10-10 66/1 Refused
Westhead open ditch (19) 36 Brave Highlander Philip Hide 13 10-0 33/1 Baulked and Refused
Westhead open ditch (19) 32 Lance Armstrong Andrew Thornton 11 9-11 50/1 Refused having earlier refused fence 8
Water Jump (16) 25 No Retreat Jason Maguire 8 10-1 100/1 Pulled up before fence
Water jump (16) 21 Listen Timmy Tony Dobbin 12 10-3 100/1 Pulled up lame before fence
The Chair (15) 23 Edmond Richard Johnson 9 10-1 10/1 Fell while in 3rd place
The Chair (15) 39 Supreme Charm Robert Thornton 9 9-8 33/1 Fell
The Chair (15) 28 Moondigua Shay Barry 9 9-12 100/1 Fell
Plain fence (13) 16 Noble Lord Jimmy McCarthy 8 10-5 25/1 Fell
Plain fence (11) 31 Esprit De Cotte Tom Doyle 9 9-11 33/1 unseated
Valentine's Brook (9) 38 Mister One Leslie Jefford 10 9-8 50/1 Unseated
Canal Turn (8) 17 Amberleigh House Warren Marston 9 10-5 150/1 Brought Down
Canal Turn (8) 20 Dark Stranger Kieran Kelly 10 10-3 25/1 Baulked and refused
Canal Turn (8) 5 General Wolfe Brian Crowley 12 11-0 50/1 Brought down
Canal Turn (8) 29 Village King Jim Culloty 8 9-12 25/1 Brought down
Canal Turn (8) 19 Mely Moss Norman Williamson 10 10-5 14/1 Brought down
Canal Turn (8) 24 You're Agoodun Rupert Wakley 9 10-1 28/1 Brought down
Canal Turn (8) 34 Feels Like Gold Brian Harding 13 9-10 50/1 Baulked and refused
Canal Turn (8) 14 Moral Support Noel Fehily 9 10-9 10/1 Baulked and refused
Canal Turn (8) 10 Djeddah Thierry Doumen 13 10-11 33/1 Fell
Foinavon (7) 40 Merry People John Queally 13 9-8 66/1 Fell when lying 3rd
Becher's Brook (6) 18 Exit Swinger Chris Maude 6 10-5 50/1 Fell
Becher's Brook (6) 15 Northern Starlight Tom Scudamore 10 10-7 50/1 Unseated
Becher's Brook (6) 11 Strong Tel David Casey 11 10-11 33/1 Fell
Plain fence (5) 6 The Last Fling Seamus Durack 11 10-12 20/1 Unseated
Plain fence (4) 3 Earthmover Joe Tizzard 10 11-2 22/1 Unseated
Plain fence (4) 22 Inis Cara Robert Widger 9 10-3 10/1 Co fav Fell
Westhead (3) 27 Hollybank Buck Fran Flood 11 9-13 20/1 Fell
Westhead (3) 33 Kaki Crazy Rodney Farrant 6 9-11 66/1 Fell
Westhead (3) 35 Paddy's Return Adrian Maguire 9 9-9 16/1 Unseated
Plain fence (2) 8 Addington Boy John P. McNamara 13 10-11 33/1 Fell
Plain fence (2) 4 Tresor De Mai Rodi Greene 7 11-2 66/1 Fell
Plain fence (2) 7 Hanakham Barry Geraghty 12 10-11 100/1 Fell
Plain fence (1) 37 Art Prince Jim Crowley 11 9-8 150/1 Fell
Plain fence (1) 30 Spanish Main Jamie Goldstein 7 9-11 25/1 Fell

Media coverage

The BBC retained the rights to broadcast the race live on television in the United Kingdom as they had done every year since 1960, this being their forty-second live broadcast. BBC1's Saturday afternoon sports show Grandstand covered the race as a Grand National special, which began at 12:45 pm BST and was presented by Sue Barker and Clare Balding. The boradcast contained a mix of big race build up with previews of the main contenders, interviews with the connections of the runners and celebrity spectators as well as nostalgic segments from the history of the race while Angus Loughran provided regular updates on the betting market. In addition to the big race itself the programme also broadcast live coverage of three other races on the Aintree card. The Cordon Bleu Handicap Hurdle, The Martell Maghull Novices Steeplechase and The Martell Aintree Hurdle, none of which were run over the Grand National course. The commentator for the these races was Jim McGrath who also called home the winner of the National where he was joined by a commentary team of John Hanmer and Tony O'Hehir however O'Hehir played no part in the commentary of the race as the torrential rain caused a power failure at his commentary position at Becher's Brook. John Hanmer, whose role was to commentate on the runners over the first four fences on the way to Becher's Brook and the last three along the Canal side of the course took over and continued commentary of both circuits from fences 1–12 and 17–28. Jim McGrath continued his normal commentary of the race as on the racecourse proper.[9] McGrath called the horses home "As they've got one fence left to jump in the Martell Grand National. And out in front Red Marauder come towards it now, got over it. Red Marauder, well clear as they race up now towards the elbow now it's Red Marauder who's out in front. Battling on in second is Smarty. looking well back down the track to try and find Papillon who's been remounted. But as they race towards the elbow this is a famous victory for Red Marauder and Richard Guest. As he races now past the elbow. Up on the run in now. The cheers of the crowd. And they are applauding a very brave horse and a great rider. It's a great ride by Richard Guest to go on and win the 2001 Martell Grand National on Red Marauder. Red Marauder comes home alone. Red Marauder the winner of the Grand National."

48 cameras were used to film the action from as many angles as possible including inside two jockeys caps and inside fences. The majority of these shots were used in a post race fence by fence rerun with Richard Pitman and Peter Scudamore. BBC's coverage was also syndicated across the World for live coverage in China, United States, Canada, large parts of Europe and Asia for an estimated global viewing audience of 650 million people during the eleven minutes of the race itself.

BBC Radio covered the race for the fifty-ninth time since its first broadcast in 1927 and was part of its Five Live Sports broadcast hosted by Mark Pougatch. The radio commentary team was headed by Peter Bromley who had announced that this would be his last commentary of the National, his first having been in 1960. He was joined by Lee McKenzie, Cornelius Lysaght and Dave Smith.

The race was also streamed live on the internet using BBC pictures to an undisclosed audience.[10][11]

All of the UK and Ireland's leading national daily newspapers supplied pull out segments of their Saturday editions dedicated to the race with many providing full colour race cards.


  1. Red Marauder victory race report BBC Sport
  2. Red Marauder profile BBC Sport
  3. Red Letter day For Chinese BBC Sport, 8 April 2001
  4. "Grand National 2001 Result". Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. http://www.webcitation.org/5glwnmYxu. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  5. "Grand National - starting prices". BBC News. 4 April 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/in_depth/2001/grand_national/1260364.stm. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Aintree's big-race drama". BBC News. 7 April 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/in_depth/2001/grand_national/1265906.stm. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  7. "`You can wash the mud off the jockeys' silks, but not the stain off the race'". Racing Post. 9 April 2001. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-72945176.html. 
  8. "`Red conquers the Aintree survival course'". Guardian Online. 8 April 2001. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2001/apr/08/grandnational2005.grandnational. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  9. Grand National television race coverage 2001 YouTube
  10. BBC coverage information BBC Sport
  11. BBC additional coverage information BBC Sport


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