Home » Grand National punters lose millions after last year’s winner unseats jockey

Grand National punters lose millions after last year’s winner unseats jockey

Punters lost millions at the Grand National as the defending champion unseated its jockey at the first fence.

Changes to the Aintree track brought the opening obstacle forward by 60 yards to improve safety measures failed to prevent jockey Derek Fox, 31, from falling from Corach Rambler, within seconds of the grueling steeplechase’s start.

The Irish thoroughbred trained by Lucinda Russell was the joint-favourite at 7/1 going into the world’s most famous horse race but fell long before I Am Maximus won this year’s race ahead of Delta Work.

Kitty’s Light, the horse which has helped lift the spirits of six-year-old Betsy Williams and her family after she was diagnosed with Leukaemia, placed fifth.

Christian Williams, her father, has said that the horse’s successes over the last year “brought joy back into our lives” as Betsy danced and clapped in delight watching it on the TV.

Defending champion

On Saturday, the eight-year-old gelding fared better than the defending champion which within 20 seconds of the race’s 32 horses setting off prompted sighs from the grandstands as Fox hit the ground.

The horse became the first defending champion since Hello Dandy in 1985 to unseat its rider at the first fence to the delight of bookmakers.

“Around 20 seconds and Corach Rambler had an unfortunate fall at the first saved us £5 million,” Paul Binfield from the bookmaker Paddypower said. “The winner was spotted by many punters but despite that, the bookies have had a result”.

It means punters betting on the horse lost an estimated £20 million within moments of the race starting.

The shock departure of Corach Rambler from the race came as organisers breathed a sigh of relief as yesterday’s race went ahead without disruption after animal rights protestors delayed the event last year.

Safety changes to the Grand National saw the highest number of horses cross the finish line since 1992 after four miles and two and a half furlongs.

The aintree racecourse said no horses fell and 21 out of 32 finished the race, with I Am Maximus ridden by Paul Townend coming in first.

Several changes, including a reduction in the maximum number of competitors, were put in place by organisers after last year’s race was delayed when protesters made their way onto the track.

Mac Tottie

Seven horses were pulled up and four unseated their riders but none of them fell in the race on Saturday, a spokesman for the racecourse said. One horse, Mac Tottie, was attended by veterinary professionals and taken for further assessment.

This year’s race was held at the earlier time of 4pm, which organisers hoped would “ensure optimal conditions” on the track.

Other changes included a reduced field of horses, a standing start, a reduction in height to one of the fences and added foam and rubber toe boards on every fence.

Kitty’s Light may have missed out on Grand National glory but has inspired the racing community. Betsy was in attendance at Aintree yesterday with her father and mother Charlotte, after the young girl’s regular appointment at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales in Cardiff was put back a week so she could cheer on her horse and for her to join as a style judge on Ladies Day.

‘Huge performance’

Speaking after winning the National at the 13th attempt, jockey Paul Townend, 33, described the victory as “surreal”. “It’s a bit surreal, to be honest,” he said. “It was unbelievable. It’s what you grow up watching and wanting to do It was a huge performance.’

“It was an unbelievable race and he’s an unbelievable horse. We didn’t get the clearest run from the second last to the last, but it kind of helped me and I felt that when I got him out he was going to start motoring when he got into clear air, which he did.

“The ones in front of me, I’m sure they weren’t looking for me, but I had them well in my sights and I was hoping he’d respond as I thought he would.”

Among the celebrities in attendance yesterday was Sir Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool football legend, who spoke for many of the 80,000 revellers at Aintree.

“I don’t have a clue about any of the horses! For me, it’s all about coming along and being part and parcel of it.”