Friday 27 July 2018

Grand National 1987: Maori Venture

Maori Venture had the distinction of winning the Grand National on his one and only attempt, as an eleven-year-old, in 1987. Trained by Andy Turnell and ridden by Steve Knight, Maori Venture carried the familiar colours – black, scarlet cap – of the late Harry “Jim” Joel. In so doing, he realised a lifelong ambition for Joel, who, at 92, was the doyen of owner/breeders in the country and had been trying to win the Grand National since his first runner in the race, Glorious Twelfth, finished fourth in 1957. Indeed, Joel had never done better than third place in 13 previous Nationals and his previous runner, Door Latch, had fallen at the very first fence in 1986. 

Unfortunately, the nonagenarian wasn’t at Aintree to witness his victory. He was, in fact, flying back from one his regular holidays to South Africa, but was informed by the captain of the aircraft that Maori Venture had won and joined the celebrations at the stable the following day. 

In a wide open race – made even more so by the departure of the heavily backed favourite, Dark Ivy, at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit – Maori Venture was one of half a dozen horses still in with a chance of winning as Lean Ar Aghaidh led the field into the home straight. Maori Venture made ground into second place approaching the second last fence and The Tsarevich moved into third, albeit under pressure, shortly afterwards as the trio broke clear of their nearest pursuers.

Guy Landau, jockey of Lean Ar Aghaidh, “called a cab” at the final fence, but his horse landed running, only to be challenged by Maori Venture on the stands’ side and The Tsarevich on the far side as they reached the “Elbow”. Maori Venture took a narrow lead in the final hundred yards, but finished by far the stronger to win, going away, by 5 lengths from The Tsarevich. Long-time leader Lean Ar Aghaidh finished a gallant third, a further 4 lengths away. 

Maori Venture was retired from racing immediately afterwards and bequeathed to Steve Knight. When he eventually died in 2000, at the age of 24, Knight paid homage to his former partner, saying, “Winning the National was the highlight of my riding career by a long way and it was a great honour to have been given the horse. I am glad he was able to enjoy such a happy life in retirement.”

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