by ANNIE DALE It’s quite a well-known fact that Ireland tends to dominate at the Grand National – whether that’s through Irish-bred horses (who have won 15 of the last 28 races), or Irish-trained horses (six wins from the last 13 years). However, in the history of the Grand National, five winners have been bred in France and they are certainly well represented this year too. Here we take a look at those five previous winners and how this year’s entries will fare.
The first French-bred winners were pre-20th century, with the earliest recorded winner in the 1865 Grand National. Alcibiade was priced at 100/7 before the race, having never raced over fences before but he came good, becoming the first ever horse to win on his debut; pipping Hall Court by a head. At five-years-old, he remains one of the youngest horses to have won the National – a record he holds with four other horses.
Jockey John Richardson made it back-to-back wins in the 1870s – his second victory was whilst riding the French-bred Reugny at the 1874 Grand National. At odds of 5/1, he was the favourite and he took the lead at the penultimate fence, powering on to an unassailable lead. Despite knocking the final fence, he held on and won it by six lengths with Chimney Sweep coming in second place.
There was just one French-bred winner of the Grand National in the 1900s, and it came courtesy of Lutteur III in 1909. It was a clean sweep for France, with French jockey Georges Parfrement riding the 100/9 priced horse, who was owned by Frenchman James Hennessy. Interestingly, at five-years-old, Lutteur III was the youngest horse and to this day remains one of the youngest horses to have won the National.
More recently in 2009, Mon Mome caused a shock when at 100/1, he won the National ahead of favourite Butler’s Cabin and other well-priced horses including Comply or Die and My Will. The previous year, the French-bred outsider only managed a finish of tenth after struggling at Becher’s Brook. However, he steadily came into contention on the second circuit of the 2009 race and took the lead at the final fence, running clear of runner-up Comply or Die. The National win was undoubtedly his greatest success and in subsequent years he fell and pulled up in the race.
The most recent French-bred winner of the Grand National was Neptune Collonges in 2012. Paul Nicholls is one of the finest national hunt trainers of all time, but prior to the win didn’t have the best of records in the National (he’d entered 52 runners and only ever came second once). Neptune Collonges broke two records with his win: becoming the first grey winner of the National for 62 years and also winning by a nose (over Sunnyhillboy), the closest margin in the history of the National, at that time. Understandably, he was immediately retired.
Grand National 2019
This year sees the 172nd running of the National and there are nine French-bred entries. The favourite has to be Anibale Fly (11/1), who came fourth in last year’s race. The nine-year-old was recently beaten by Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham but certainly has experience on his side, and is more than familiar with the Aintree track.
On Grand National horse racing Betfair, we have three French-bred horses priced at 33/1: Dounikos, Ramses de Teillee and Valtor. Ramses de Teillee has had a pretty good season, after coming second in the Grand National Trial at Haydock while also coming runner-up in the Welsh Grand National, after winning the trial in early December. He certainly has the stamina but at seven-years-old, may be at a disadvantage. Dounikos hails from Gordon Elliott’s yard and as the winning trainer last year, may well surprise again this time around. He recently won the Irish Grand National trial at Punchestown, but has never raced at Aintree.
Other French-bred horses and odds
Alpha des Obeaux – 40/1
Baie des Iles – 50/1
Warriors Tale – 50/1
Vieux Lion Rouge – 50/1
Ultragold – 66/1