It is a well known fact that not every horse that starts the Grand National will finish it. Many horses fall and the worst for fallers was in 1929 when a record number of 66 runners saw only 10 complete the course. Some of these were pulled up, but at least 40 of them were fallers. In 1927 only 2 of the 42 starters finished the race, but at least half of these were pulled out, so cannot be classified as fallers.
In 1951 the event was nicknamed the ‘Grand Crashional’ when 33 of the 36 horses fell or were brought down. Other bad years were 1921 when 31 of 35 runners fell, 1922 when 27 of 33 came down, 1911 with 21 out of 26, 1913 with 16 out of 22, and 2001 when 31 out of 40 fell.
In 2001, one bookmaking company offered odds of 6-1 against all 40 runners getting over the first fence due to the horrendously bad marshy conditions. Two fell at the first fence, three at the second, another three at the third, and two at the fourth. Only four horses completed the course.
Cloncarrig has the undesired record of falling in the Grand National – the brown gelding raced for six successive years (1948 – 1953) and fell every single time. This is worse when you realise that in the 1950 race he led the field, until he fell at the penultimate fence, and in 1951 he was 10-1 second joint favourite but fell due to the stampede caused by the failure to call a false start. In his last appearance he was 13 years old and a rank outsider at 66-1.
One of the myths of the Grand National is that a previous fall during the race is a likely to prevent success in the Grand National in future years. In fact there have been a number of comeback wins – Manifesto in 1897, Early Mist in 1953, Sundew in 1957, Team Spirit in 1964, West Tip in 1986 and Red Marauder in 2001, to name but a few. However this does not indicate that a horse who falls in a race prior to the event will have success, but for one exception – Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, the winner in 1988 who had slipped on landing over the fourth last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In the 1990s out of the nine winners only one had fallen in the season of his Grand National win.
The highest number of finishers in a Grand National race was in 1984 when 23 out of the 40 runners completed the race, with Hello Dandy coming up front. 22 finished in 1963 when there were 47 runners and also in 1987 and 1992 when there were 40 runners. The percentages of finishers increased when they sloped the fences in 1961, but there will always be fallers in the Grand National as it is such a tough race. Even since further modifications in 1990 there have been races where only a few have completed – in 1998 there were but 6 finishers and in 2001 there were only 4!