It may have gone off later than planned, but protestors could not prevent the Randox Grand National delivering another feel-good story as Corach Rambler provided Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox with their second victory in the Aintree showpiece.
Organisers were warned to expect some disturbance, with climate and animal rights group Animal Rising announcing their intention to disrupt the running of the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Unfortunately, it became clear in the minutes leading up to the race that several were intent on getting on to the track, which inevitably led to the race delayed.
But with the offenders swiftly removed, around 15 minutes later than scheduled the Grand National did get under way and produced a popular result as Corach Rambler justified 8-1 favouritism in brilliant style – six years after One For Arthur won the race for the same trainer-jockey combination.
“We kind of knew it (protest) was going to happen and I think the racecourse did a great job to prevent them from doing too much damage,” Russell said.
“I just say to all the protestors, come and see how the horses are kept. I came from a non-racing background and I can assure you that welfare in other horse sports is not as high as it is in racing.
“Racing is a fantastic sport and is very highly regulated. The racing surface out there is the best surface these horses can go on.
“One For Arthur was a lovely horse. He retired and had a great time in retirement and died due to colic. He didn’t die due to racing or being in horse sport, he died due to colic.
“I understand they (protestors) get very excited about it, but for the welfare of horses they should be looking at a wider picture.”
The race itself could hardly have gone smoother for Corach Rambler as he cruised into contention rounding the home turn and took aim at long-time leader Mister Coffey – bidding to provide multiple champion trainer Nicky Henderson with an elusive first National success.
Corach Rambler never looked in real danger of being caught after hitting the front, with Vanillier coming from a long way back to finish closest, beaten just over two lengths passing the famous winning post.
Russell added: “It’s amazing, isn’t it (to win a second Grand National)? And truth be known, we’ve actually just spread some of One For Arthur’s ashes at the finishing line. Isn’t it lovely that he’s now passed on the baton to Corach?
“Arthur was a fantastic horse who changed my life and he gave me the confidence with Corach really.
“Corach is a life-changer as well. I think he’ll change a lot of the owners’ lives. He’s fantastic.”
After a long build-up, which included her stable jockey suffering a fall at Wetherby last week which threatened his participation, Russell admitted the emotions did get the better of her come the off.
“I feel a bit sorry for Anthony Bromley (bloodstock agent), who was sitting next to me watching the race, because as the tapes went up I started crying, which is pathetic, but this race does that to you – it’s just the release of emotion after producing the horse for the day,” she said.
“Derek was injured and the horse actually had a problem with a shoe on a press day last week. It was a bit awkward as the horse was slightly lame, but no one noticed so it was fine!
“It was pretty close for Derek. We had a good conversation on Monday about whether he should ride Ahoy Senor on Thursday and it killed him not to, but it was the right decision.”
Russell also revealed she had a had a heart-to-heart with Corach Rambler himself during the latter stages of his preparations, adding: “He is amazing and will pick up on emotions.
“I was really scared beforehand, not scared about the test that we’re setting him, but you just worry about luck and worry that things will go wrong like a horse falling in front of him – you’re just scared of the unknown really.
“After Derek had his fall, and I know this sounds sad, but I went up to Corach’s box and said to him ‘Derek’s had a fall’. Can you believe it? I’m supposed to be a professional person!
“Corach looked really worried actually! He said ‘I know Brian Hughes is champion jockey, but I just like Derek’!”
Fox, who certainly did not look like a man who had not ridden since being dumped on the West Yorkshire turf nine days earlier in delivering Corach Rambler with such poise, was keen to praise his trainer.
Fox said: “I’ve been so lucky. The decision to move over the water from Ireland to work for Lucinda Russell is definitely the best decision I ever made.
“I owe it all to Lucinda really, for giving me the opportunities and she’s very understanding of everything. Even after I got the fall last week, she was perfectly happy for me not to ride until Corach and save myself for today – all that support means everything.”
Of his brilliant partner Corach Rambler, the jockey added: “He has his own way of doing things and his own running style and you really have to just go with what he is feeling like on the day.
“He wanted to be a bit handier today, so I was happy to go with it. I always felt like he was enjoying himself up there, so I wasn’t worried about being a bit closer than usual.
“He’s a remarkable horse with a great attitude and he’s so clever. He shortens up, he goes long – he’s everything really that you want in a National horse.”