Grand National: Seven Biggest Shocks of the 21st Century

Horse Race Eyes on Finish LineFrom the brilliant double of Tiger Roll, to Rachel Blackmore becoming the first female jockey to win the race aboard Minella Times in 2021, the current century has already produced an array of memorable Grand National moments. It has also thrown up a fair share of shock results, and here we look back at the most surprising winners since the year 2000.

7. 2001: Red Marauder – 33/1

  • Trainer – Norman Mason
  • Jockey – Richard Guest

A tough challenge at the best of times, heavy rain in the lead-up to the 2001 edition turned Aintree into something resembling a quagmire, with many surprised that the meeting even went ahead. Total carnage at Canal Turn on the first circuit saw 10 of the field taken out of the race, with many of the remainder simply unable to cope with the conditions. In the end, only four of the 40 starters finished the race (two of whom had to be remounted), headed by the resolute plodder Red Marauder and a mud-caked Richard Guest.

6. 2007: Silver Birch – 33/1

  • Trainer – Gordon Elliott
  • Jockey – Robbie Power

Gordon Elliott will forever be associated with the Aintree showpiece thanks to the remarkable back-to-back successes of Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019. However, those wins for the legendary Gigginstown House Stud runner weren’t the Irish trainers first visits to the Grand National winner’s enclosure.

11 years before the first of Tiger Roll’s triumphs, the then relatively unknown Elliott had saddled Silver Birch to a shock victory. The 10-year-old perhaps shouldn’t have been so unconsidered heading into the race, having previously shown his suitability for this type of test when landing the 2004 Welsh Grand National, and he turned the clock back in style to just hang on from McKelvey in a thriller.

5. 2012: Neptune Collonges – 33/1

  • Trainer – Paul Nicholls
  • Jockey – Daryl Jacob

With 13 Champion Trainer titles and over 3,000 wins to his name, there aren’t too many major prizes that Paul Nicholls hasn’t plundered over the years. He was however made to wait until 2012 for a first Grand National success, which came courtesy of the talented Neptune Collonges.

Having finished third and fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cups of 2008 and 2009, the ability of Neptune Collonges was not in doubt. However, that classy back form went largely ignored by the market. A win still looked unlikely as they rounded the elbow, but as leader Sunnyhillboy began to tie up in the final 150 yards, Neptune Collonges came with a withering run on the outside to get up and prevail by a just a flared nostril at the end of four and a half miles.

4. 2016: Rule The World – 33/1

  • Trainer – Mouse Morris
  • Jockey – David Mullins

When picking out your Grand National selections, it’s likely that a horse who has 13 starts over fences without managing a single win won’t feature too prominently on your shortlist. However, if you are going to break your duck, then you might as well do it on the biggest stage of all…

In truth, Rule The World’s failure to win didn’t quite tell the full story about a horse who had twice finished second in Grade 1 company over hurdles, and filled the runners-up spot in the previous year’s Irish Grand National. Those willing to look past the bare stats were richly rewarded as, driven home by Danny Mullins, having his first ever ride in the race, Rule The World stormed to a six-length success.

3. 2022: Noble Yeats – 50/1

  • Trainer – Emmet Mullins
  • Jockey – San Waley-Cohen

Continuing the theme of a novice chaser coming home in front, Noble Yeats caused an even bigger surprise when landing the prize in 2021. In his first season as a chaser, the Emmet Mullins-trained seven-year-old had just a low-key win over 2m2½f to his name as he arrived at Aintree.

That inexperience proved to be no issue, as the mount of Sam Waley Cohen jumped with aplomb and positively relished the step up in trip to see off the favourite Any Second Now in an enthralling duel on the run-in. Waley-Cohen had announced in the lead-up to the race that this would be the final ride of his career, and could scarcely have wished for a more spectacular finale.

2. 2013: Auroras Encore – 66/1

  • Trainer – Sue Smith
  • Jockey – Ryan Mania

Having fallen, and been beaten by a combined 123 lengths in his four runs leading up to the 2013 edition, the Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore certainly didn’t leap off the page as a likely winner. That said, the horse had previously shown a liking for marathon contests when beaten just a head in the Scottish version of the race in 2012.

Even accounting for that effort at Ayr, and the fact he had dropped in the handicap, it was still a surprise just how easily the 11-year-old won. Given a well-judged ride by Ryan Mania, Auroras Encore launched his challenge at the last before showing admirable reserves of stamina to forge nine lengths clear of the field.

1. 2009: Mon Mome -100/1

  • Trainer – Venetia Williams
  • Jockey – Liam Treadwell

It was in 2009 that the race produced the biggest shock of the modern era, and the joint longest-priced winner in the history of the race, as the Venetia Williams trained Mon Mome joined Tipperary Tim (1928), Gregalach (1929), Caughoo (1947), and Foinavon (1967) in the 100/1 club.

7lbs higher than when only 10th in 2008, this result was hard to fathom for form book aficionados, but there was certainly no fluke about it. Given a patient ride by big race debutante Liam Treadwell, the nine-year-old made a mockery of his odds to sprint 12 lengths clear on the run-in and post the most bookmaker-friendly result in recent memory.