Aldaniti It’s often said that there’s always a story to be told about the Grand National winner, but, perhaps, none quite so compelling as that of Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion. The form book records that, in 1981, Aldaniti, who was sent off at 10/1 second favourite, won the Grand National by 4 lengths from 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile, but the race result was merely the final chapter of a fairy tale that had begun two years earlier.

 

Owned by the late Nick Embiricos and trained by the late Josh Gifford in Findon, West Sussex, Aldaniti was talented, if injury-prone, steeplechaser. In 1979, he had been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr before fracturing a hock-bone at Sandown Park in November, which led to another lengthy layoff.

 

Stable jockey Champion, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in July, 1979, and had undergone a punishing course of chemotherapy. However, both horse and jockey recovered sufficiently to be reunited in the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot in February, 1981. Despite starting the outsider of eight, at 14/1, Aldaniti won with something in hand and, two months later, took his chance in the Grand National.

 

The rest, as they say, is history. Carrying 10st 13lb, Aldaniti landed steeply at the first fence and was untidy at the last, but jumped impeccably in the main to record what had appeared, just months earlier, a hugely unlikely victory. Aldaniti and Champion returned to Aintree again in 1982, but parted company at the first fence. Nevertheless, their almost miraculous win in 1981 remains one of the greatest moments in the illustrious history of the celebrated steeplechase and is commemorated by the 1984 film, ‘Champions’, which starred Aldaniti as himself and the late John Hurt as Bob Champion.

Secretariat Secretariat is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – American race horses of all-time. In 21 career starts, Secretariat finished with a record of 16-3-1. The American thoroughbred was trained by Lucien Laurin and debuted in 1972.

Secretariat’s debut race occurred on 4 July 1972 with jockey Paul Feliciano riding in the saddle. Despite a strong start, Secretariat could only manage a fourth-place finish after being bumped by a fellow runner. Eleven days later, Secretariat recovered from his first race to win in his second start. Secretariat would later collect wins at the Sanford Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, Futurity Stakes, Laurel Futurity and the Golden State Futurity to finish out his rookie year.

The stallion’s incredible collection of wins set him up for a tremendous three-year-old season. The year started out with Secretariat becoming syndicate owned. He became the most expensive syndicated horse in the world at $6.08 million as fears of his owner Penny Chenery being forced to sell the horse increased.

On the track, Secretariat ran his first race on March 17 in the Bay Shore Stakes. The race ended in a win for Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte, who had taken over the saddle in the middle of the 1972 season. The Gotham Stakes was won by the duo, but just as easily as Secretariat had won twice already, the stallion lost at the Wood Memorial in his final preparation race for the Kentucky Derby. The horse’s stamina was questioned due to his loss. However, weeks later, Secretariat put those questions to bed as he won the Kentucky Derby in a record time of 1:59 2/5.

The Kentucky Derby was the first jewel in the Triple Crown and it wasn’t long until the other two were attained by Secretariat. His Triple Crown win made him the first horse in a quarter century to accomplish the feat. Following his tremendous feats of 1973, Secretariat was retired and began life as a stud.

In October 1989, Secretariat was put down after acquiring a hoof condition known as laminitis. Despite dying as a result of the affliction at the age of 19, memories of Secretariat’s incredible career persist. Secretariat’s image was even put on a US postage stamp to commemorate his incredible Triple Crown win in 1999.

Sea-Bird Sea-Bird only ran in eight career races. However, the French stallion won seven of those contests while finishing second in the other. Although Sea-Bird left a mark on the horse racing sport, not much was thought of the horse early on in his life. In fact, he was just another colt at Haras de Victot in Calvados. However, there was one aspect that did strike those who saw Sea-Bird, especially later on, and it was his long, thick legs.

Trained by Etienne Pollet, Sea-Bird featured in three races in his debut season. The two-year-old stormed to victory in the first two contests, the Prix de Blaison at Chantilly and the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. In his final race of 1964, Sea-Bird tasted defeat for the first and only time of his career. He came in second at the Grand Criterium behind his stablemate Grey Dawn. Pollet and jockey Pat Glennon weren’t worried about Sea-Bird’s loss, however. In fact, the two weren’t sure if the stallion was good enough to enter the race beforehand.

Despite the loss at Grand Criterium, Sea-Bird was highly thought of by horse racing aficionados going into 1965. Now three-years old, Sea-Bird won all five of his starts. He won his first two races of the season on French soil before heading to England. There, he won the Epsom Derby in fine fashion after being described as “plain” before the race.

A return to France saw Sea-Bird win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. His win back on French soil changed the views of many nonbelievers, who had written Sea-Bird off as a flash in the pan. The colt that hadn’t been special on Pollet’s farm, was now bigger, stronger and more cocksure than the rest of the racing field; and the stallion continued to prove his racing strengths. Sea-Bird’s presence alone may have won him the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

After the 1965 season, Sea-Bird was retired. Even before his final race at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Sea-Bird’s future was set. American John W. Galbreath leased the stallion for $1.35m and Sea-Bird took up residence in Kentucky at the Darby Dan Farm.