The Grand National is famed for throwing up feel-good stories and this year’s race was no different as the Luncinda Russell-trained One For Arthur produced a superb hybrid of neat jumping and stamina-laden qualities to claim victory in the extended four and a quarter-mile £1-million contest.
Trained by Russell, in Scotland, she became just the fourth female trainer (Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams and Sue Smith) to train the winner of the world’s most famous chase, whilst the eight-year-old son of Milan also became just the second Scottish-trained winner in the race’s history.
The eight-year-old was held up early in the contest by Derek Fox but made stealthy headway through the field after crossing the Melling Road. Turning for home, the Irish-bred gelding came to challenge for the lead and after jumping the last, responded willingly to Fox’s urgings to come clear up the elbow by four and a half-lengths to Gordon Elliott’s Cause Of Causes in second. Saint Are, ridden by Davy Russell, stayed on past beaten horses to take third, whilst Blaklion, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and heavily backed into 8/1 favouritism before the off, flew into the lead in the back straight under Noel Fehily but could only finish fourth.
This was a great result for jockey Derek Fox as well. He feared he would miss the Grand National after breaking his left wrist and right collarbone in a fall in March. However, despite being the Sligo-born jockey’s sixth ride back, he made no mistake in the iconic race.
A delighted Lucinda Russell said: “It’s just amazing. Everyone kept saying beforehand that the worst question a journalist can ask you is “how would it feel to win the National?” and you think “Oh for goodness sake, what would it mean?” – it means everything, of course it does. “I am so proud of the horse. He jumped fantastically and I thought Derek gave him a great ride. He has done us proud, he has done Scotland proud and he has done everyone at the yard proud.
“Before the Melling Road, I was up with the owners and we just shouted: “We’re going to win the National!” With a horse like that and a jockey like that, what could be better? Derek is great at getting these horses to finish strongly and I knew that he would stay, so maybe it was a bit bold but it was right.”
Winning jockey Fox said: “It’s unbelievable! He’s won it so easily. The only concern I had was that he’d be too slow and get too far back – it’s tricky to win a National if that happens as you need more things to go your way but he jumped so well.
“After we gone one circuit, I was thinking ‘I can’t be going as well as I am’ as we were so near the leaders. He jumped all the way down the back – he was going so well that I thought I might take him a bit wider as he was making two or three lengths with every jump.
“As we crossed Valentine’s, I was closing and closing and thought I might be there too soon. For a brief moment, I took a small pull on him. He’s the gamest horse I’ve ever ridden and he galloped all the way to the line.”