The dawn of a new decade of Grand Nationals was put on hold last year, but with our first event of the 2020s just around the corner, we've taken a trip in the Tote time machine to look back on some brilliant renewals of the past. The 80s was an era famous for many things and these five classic Nationals have certainly cemented themselves in Aintree folklore.
1981 Grand National - ALDANITI
Aldaniti was a horse who suffered chronic leg problems and it was a minor miracle to get him fighting fit and ready to take on a race like the Grand National in 1981. His jockey Bob Champion was also on the comeback trail having recovered from cancer. The pair produced a memorable round of jumping to see off the attention of Royal Mail - who made a costly error two out - and Spartan Missile, who played his part in a cracking contest. The combined determination of Champion and Aldaniti from the elbow to the finish line saw the pair fend off the chasers and record a famous win. Not just a win for racing, but a win for the power of resolve in overcoming all adversity.
1983 Grand National - CORBIERE
Corbiere wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing galloper, but with his big white face and sheer grit and determination, he captured the imagination of Grand National viewers with a memorable victory. Greasepaint finished second for Ireland and was a constant thorn in the side of Corbiere, but Jenny Pitman’s strong stayer had enough in reserve. Having won the Welsh National that season, Pitman became the first woman to train a Grand National winner, so it was a historic occasion for racing and a famous double for Corbiere. Jockey Ben de Haan contributed to the horse’s 11st 4lb weight, but the class of his mount shone through in the end.
1984 Grand National - HALLO DANDY
Having finished 4th in Corbiere’s National at a big price the previous year, Hallo Dandy secured his day in the sun a year later. This was the year that 23 horses finished the race, a record which still stands. The 1983 runner-up, Greasepaint, went off as the favourite and once again, he proved to be the chief threat to the winner. Hallo Dandy negotiated a wide path throughout the race and looked up against it, but the Gordon Richards-trained ten-year-old only had 10st 2lb on his back and found enough in reserve to land a fantastic victory under Welsh jockey Neale Doughty. The record books rarely celebrate the runner-up, but the admirable Greasepaint played a key part in making the 83’ and 84’ Grand Nationals ones to remember.
1986 Grand National - WEST TIP
Ridden by top rider Richard Dunwoody and going off as the second-favourite, West Tip was a popular winner of the 1986 Grand National for trainer Michael Oliver. The previous year, West Tip was going very well when coming down at Becher’s Brook and many felt this was his chance to shine - and so it proved. There were a range of dangers on paper, in what looked a really open renewal, but it was Young Driver under Chris Grant who produced a brilliant run at a big price to stir up a superb finish. You get the feeling that Dunwoody was always confident he had enough horse under him to beat off Young Driver, but it was another finish to remember in the 1980s.
1988 Grand National - RHYME N’ REASON
David Elsworth’s Rhyme N’ Reason very nearly fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit of the 1988 Grand National. By some divine intervention, jockey Brendan Powell managed to maintain their relationship. He was out the back of the field though and left with a lot of work to get back into contention. Come the second visit to the famous fence, Rhyme N’ Reason was back in the hunt, tracking the leaders. At four fences out he was actually left in front, with a few chasing hard in behind. Come over the last, Durham Edition travelled well into the lead and looked to have made a race-ending move. However, Powell and Rhyme N’Reason had other ideas. When all seemed lost, the nine-year-old found another gear - something deep in reserve and quickened again to regain control of the race in the final 100 yards. It was a spell-binding finish and, for the eventual winner, a remarkably eventful trip around the course leading to it.