Pineau de Re, trained by Doctor Richard Newland, sprang a 25/1 shock in the world’s greatest steeplechase the Grand National at Aintree racecourse on Saturday.
Given a brilliant ride by 37-year-old Leighton Aspell, who gave up riding over jumps in 2007 before returning to the code, he came home clear of the gallant 14/1 shot Balthazar King, which saw his rider Richard Johnson finish second for the second time and yet to win in 18 rides.
“I’ve been watching the National since I was a young boy,” said Aspell, whose predecessor as winning jockey Ryan Mania also won the National on his return from self-imposed retirement.
“You secretly crave a bit of success. To get a ride in the National is a great thing and to get one with a live chance is even better.”
Newland, who gave up his surgery last year, was in dreamland as he delivered victory to his old friend owner John Provan, a former amateur jockey and who has a packaging business.
“John is my oldest racing friend, he taught me a lot about the sport especially when we rode as amateur jockeys,” said Newland.
“This is unthinkable, my heart rate was not healthy throughout the race!” he added.
The 10/1 joint favourite Double Seven under Tony McCoy came in third while the other joint favourite Teaforthree fell at the 15th fence, The Chair, on the first circuit.
Other favoured horses also failed to make it past the first circuit.
The 13-year-old Tidal Bay’s hopes of becoming the oldest winner since Sergeant Murphy in 1923 ended when he unseated his rider after colliding with Golan Way at the Canal Turn.
His stablemate Long Run, bidding to become only the third horse to achieve the Cheltenham Gold Cup and National double and the first since L’Escargot in 1975, came down at the next.
Pineau de Re, named after a wine and bought out of Ireland last year after he won the Ulster National, was prominent for much of the race although Aspell, second on Supreme Glory in 2003, had to make a remarkable recovery at the 13th fence as his horse’s nose went down with his nose touching the ground.
Rocky Creek was handed the lead along with Mr Moonshine — ridden by Mania teaming up again with last year’s winning trainer Sue Smith — after long-time leader Across
The Bay suffered the grave misfortune to be carried over to the rails on the far side of the course by a loose horse when well clear going out onto the second circuit.
Jockey Henry Brooke carried on but his chances were shot and he eventually finished 14th of the 18 runners.
Rocky Creek’s resistance faded as they came to the turn into the straight and the final two fences, leaving Pineau de Re, Double Seven, Balthazar King and Alvarado battling for the honours.
Aspell forced Pineau de Re to a significant lead at the last while Johnson got another significant effort out of Balthazar King who had looked to be flagging.
However, Pineau de Re pinged the last and although Balthazar King rallied Aspell had five lengths to spare at the finishing line.
“I am immensely proud of Balthazar King, he is a superstar, he tries so hard,” said trainer Philip Hobbs.
His rider Richard Johnson was finishing second for the second time and is yet to win in 18 rides.
Double Seven was third, 1 1/4 lengths in arrears while there was 10 lengths back to Alvarado who ran on brilliantly on the second circuit giving jockey Paul Moloney his fourth successive top four finish.
The highly-fancied Monbeg Dude, co-owned by England’s 2003 World Cup winning centre Mike Tindall, came with a run but then faded and finished seventh while Katie Walsh had an eventful ride on Irish outsider Vesper Bell.
Having picked up the mount in the morning she came in 13th despite Vesper Bell making two appalling mistakes.
Despite only 18 finishers all the 40-runner field returned safe and sound.
The start had been disrupted when the notoriously petulant Battle Group refused to start and was given a second chance which prompted a false start — even at the third time of asking he dug his heels in and watched the other 39 runners disappear into the distance.