In a horse race dating back to the 1800s, you won’t be surprised to learn that the identity of the winning owners each year has a rather diverse feel to it.
From lords, ladies and viscounts to celebrity hairdressers, TV comedians and holiday camp entrepreneurs, all manner of people from various walks of life have cheered home a winner in the Aintree showpiece.
A number of owners have won the Grand National on more than one occasion too, with the likes of James Octavius Machell and Sir Charles Assheton-Smith achieving the feat with three different horses in the early years, while Noel Le Mare enjoyed a hat-trick of victories courtesy of the incomparable Red Rum.
In the modern era, the Grand National has seen many of the leading owners of the age duke it out in the April extravaganza, but three have stood out above all others.
Trevor Hemmings (3 winners)
It was with great sadness that the death of Trevor Hemmings was announced in 2021.
A businessman, football club chairman and racehorse owner, Hemmings jointly holds the best record in the Grand National in the modern era – winning the race three times in a decade with a trio of different horses.
Hedgehunter broke Hemmings’ duck back in 2005. He had looked a possible winner the year before but fell at the last when poised to strike, but made no mistake 12 months later with Ruby Walsh in the saddle. The Willie Mullins trained horse took the lead over the final flight, and ran on impressively to secure a fine victory – in 2006, he was back at the Grand National and finished an impressive second.
Although he only won two notable races, having the Grand National on his CV will ensure Ballabriggs’ place in racing history. He travelled well throughout his 2011 victory and looked every inch the 14/1 fancy – upon retirement in 2013, he went to live with Hemmings on the Isle of Man.
The tragic end for Many Clouds, who died after winning a second Cotswold Chase, should not take away from the magnificence of this powerhouse. As well as dual success in that Cheltenham renewal, the Oliver Sherwood trained horse would also win the 2015 Grand National – carrying the highest weight since Red Rum in 1974. What an extraordinary champion.
Gigginstown House Stud (3 winners)
Michael O’Leary combines his day job as the CEO of Ryanair with his passion for owning racehorses – and a great number of high quality runners have passed through his Gigginstown House Stud operation.
Of them, Tiger Roll has been one of the most prominent horses in the modern era of the Grand National. The race’s winner in 2018 and 2019, the stayer was denied a chance to match Red Rum’s trio of National wins first by the race’s cancellation in 2020 and then by a harsh judgement by the handicapper in 2021 and 2022.
But the other Gigginstown winner of the Grand National deserves a major mention. In 2016, Rule the World became the first novice to win the race in more than 50 years, and did so as a 33/1 outsider with teenage jockey David Mullins on board. Not bad for a horse that twice suffered a broken pelvis in the years leading up to his National triumph….
J.P. McManus (2 winners)
Last, but by no means least, is J.P. McManus, who deserves an honourable mention with a pair of Grand National victories to his name.
Both are of major significance. The first, in 2010, saw Tony McCoy finally win the Grand National in his fifteenth attempt – a victory celebrated as much by punters as the man himself.
And then, in 2021, Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey in history to win the Grand National aboard McManus’ Minella Times.
Famous Grand National Winning Owners
While this is a race typically contested by the major trainers in horse racing, occasionally a celebrity or famous face gets to celebrate in the winner’s enclosure at Aintree.
Pierre Raymond, also known as Raymond Bessone and ‘Mr Teasy-Weasy’, was a hairdresser to the stars who trained none other than Vidal Sassoon. Once flown on a private jet to America just to tame the loose ends of Doris Day, Raymond also holds the distinction of being a two-time Grand National winning owner – first outright with Ayala in 1963, and then as a joint-owner of Rag Trade in 1976 (sandwiched by the victories of Red Rum and L’Escargot).
Sir Frederick Pontin, who owned the Pontins brand of holiday camps, also co-owned the 1971 Grand National champion Specify, former Scottish rugby union international John Douglas owned 1979 winner Rubstick and Freddie Starr, the comedian and entertainer famed for the ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ headline, incredibly owned a stake in the 1994 Grand National winner Miinnehoma.
Horse racing has long had a royal connection, and two prominent members of nobility have owned Grand National winning horses. Edward VII, who served as king for nine years, had a stake in Ambush II, who won the 1900 edition of the race.
Anne Grosvenor, otherwise known as the Duchess of Winchester, also enjoyed a day to remember at Aintree. She part-owned the three-time Gold Cup champion Arkle, and also had a stake in Last Suspect – winner of the 1985 Grand National.
By royal appointment indeed!