Thursday 10 December 2020

Sir Peter O'Sullevan's Top Grand National Moments

The Voice of Racing. 

Sir Peter O'Sullevan, was knighted in 1997, after his 50th and last Grand National commentary, when 14/1 shot Lord Gyllene won by an impressive 25 lengths for trainer Steve Brookshaw, ridden by Tony Dobbin in the ownership of Stan Clarke. 

O'Sullevan worked for the BBC from 1948 to 1997. Those early races being broadcast on radio with the first televised Grand National in 1960.

Over the years he commentated on the highs and lows of the Grand National using his trusty, old binoculars which came from a German submarine. 

Historic victories include: 

The 1967 triumph of Foinavon who one at odds of 100/1, after avoiding a mass pile-up at the 23rd fence, which in 1984 was official named after John Kempton's nine-year-old gelding. 

Who will ever forget the victories in 1973, 1974 & 1977 of Red Rum, vintage years of the Grand National for trainer Ginger McCain. 

“They’re willing him home now! The 12-year-old Red Rum, being preceded only by loose horses, being chased by Churchtown Boy… They’re coming to the Elbow, just a furlong now between Red Rum and his third Grand National triumph! He gets a tremendous reception, you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool… and Red Rum wins the National!”

The success of Red Rum helped bring the National to a global audience and made this astonishing horse a household name. 

What makes the Grand National a race to savour are the stories told. Ask anyone and they will have their favourite horse, trainer, jockey... 

For me personally, Aldaniti, West Tip and the lesser known Classified touch my heart for different reasons - not all because of winning but exceptional thoroughbreds who headed to Aintree with a battling spirit which made their names live eternally in my heart and mind.  

One of the most memorable came back in 1981 with two warriors in the form of man and horse: Bob Champion and Aldaniti, both as strong as steel. 

Their story captured the reality of hope over adversity.  

Bob Champion battling cancer, while his trusty steed almost crippled with leg problems. But it was destined for this heroic duo to win one of the most emotional stories in Grand National history. 

In 1984, the film Champions played by John Hurt was well received and especially the  music score by Carl Davis that's now synonymous with the Greatest Steeplechase in the World. 

Pure Magic  

However, it was the Grand National that was dubbed ''the race that never was'' when 30 of the 39 runner failed to realise it was a false start, which many will remember. 

O'Sullevan declared: ''It's the greatest disaster in the history of the Grand National.'' 

Sir Peter O'Sullevan was ''The Voice of Racing'' who raised the quality of commentating on horse racing. He passed away at the age of 97 from cancer at his London home. 

The Grand National 2021 takes place at Aintree, Liverpool, Saturday 10th April. 

This year's race will have much to do with Tiger Roll who won the last two Nationals before Coronavirus put pay to 2020. After disappointing on his return to racing, George Elliott's charge will need to be back to his best to achieve the unprecedented Red Rum. 
Good luck to all who take part.