Grand National 2024 winner I Am Maximus triumphs at Aintree

I Am Maximus, horse ridden by Paul Townend, wins the 2024 Grand National by seven lengths for Willie Mullins as Corach Rambler falls at the first. Delta Work, Minella Indo and Galvin make up top four

Brough Scott

Saturday April 13 2024, 7.50pm, The Times

What a way to renew the vows. The marriage between the Grand National and public opinion defines the status of the racing game. It has had its strains. There has been rethinking and, as Paul Townend drove the joint favourite I Am Maximus clear on the run-in, there should have been confetti with the cheers.

For this was full of drama but not of dread. Not a single horse fell, although Mac Tottie needed treatment after being pulled up lame. No jockey was injured, although four were unseated including Derek Fox, who departed the saddle as last year’s winner Corach Rambler buckled on landing at the very first.

Limerick Lace, the other joint favourite, couldn’t handle even these now much modified fences and eventually struggled to finish tenth, while the 2022 winner, Noble Yeats, was always making heavy weather of things before finishing 19th of the 21 completers.

But even if those big names were out, the thrill of this National was that so many others were in with a chance until the closing stages. I rode in the 1965 National and have watched or reported on every one since but I have never seen so splendid a spectacle as a full 20-strong pack coming across the Melling Road for the final time with only two fences between one of them and immortality.

At this stage you could still make a case for at least half of them. Gina Andrews and the family horse Latenightpass were still major players, jumping the last in the lead alongside Rachael Blackmore on the 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo. Delta Work, the 2022 Grand National third-place horse was also among them, so too the Scottish Grand National winner Kitty’s Light, the gleaming beacon of light for the family of the trainer Christian Williams, whose daughter Betsy is being treated for leukaemia.

That’s four of them at the last but, incredibly there was another, Meetingofthewaters to make it five in a line, and six if you included the loose horse Mahler Mission.

And yet the winner was behind them. Paul Townend had already won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup for trainer Willie Mullins and his nerve only got icier. Throughout the race you could see his distinguishing white cap stalking up the inside in the green and gold silks donned by four other Mullins runners. Only at the second last had he experienced traffic problems and afterwards he even said that they had probably helped him to save his horse’s breath for what was to be a devastating final effort.

Minello Indo duelled with Delta Work on the run to the elbow with Kitty’s light at first threatening also. But turning into those final 150 yards, Townend pulled wide and I Am Maximus hit such a stride that the speedometer even reached 30mph as he powered seven lengths clear at the line.

Delta Work battled past a weakening Minella Indo to claim second by half a length, Galvin and young Sam Ewing was another half a length away in fourth with Kitty’s Light fifth and 45-year-old amateur David Maxwell sixth on Ain’t That A Shame.

“It’s a bit surreal to be honest,” said Townend, the rider whose talent has only been sharpened by success. “I ended up being first to the first fence, but when he started backing off it wasn’t a great start. He got a little careful on the second circuit so I was trying to conserve as much energy as I could, but I didn’t get a clear run.

“When I got him out, he was motoring. I’m sure the ones in front weren’t looking for me, but he’s responded like I thought he would. Gold Cups are Gold Cups and grade ones are hard to win, but Grand Nationals are a bit different. I can’t believe it.”

Mullins won the Grand National with Hedgehunter in 2005. He was a very good trainer then. He has now become a great one and this £500,000 Grand National prize puts him at the head of the British as well as the Irish trainers list, a feat only ever achieved by the legendary Aidan O’Brien.

“Paul was super on him because the horse wasn’t going to give him a lot of help on the way round,” Mullins said of his jockey. “We saw when he won the Irish Grand National last year that he has that bit in the tank. You could see him coming and he delivered. I’m buzzing.”

He was not the only one. JP McManus may have more horses than some schools have pupils, and may have only bought I Am Maximus when his former owner went insolvent last season, but it is touching how much all this means to him and the rest of his family.

A whole host of happy grandchildren accompanied him on to the victory rostrum, a place he has also visited in 2010 after Don’t Push It and in 2021 after Minella Times.

“I love everything about the race,” he said, a small, modest man with very little to be modest about. “The excitement of coming here, the build-up, the craic. It’s a very special place with very special people.”

The last few years have been rocky for the Grand National. But you had to be stony of heart not to be uplifted as this great sweep of horses and riders thundered towards the last two fences. May the marriage last forever.

Result 

1. I Am Maximus (P Townend) 7-1 jt-fav
2. Delta Work (J W Kennedy) 28-1
3. Minella Indo (Rachael Blackmore) 28-1
4. Galvin (Sam Ewing) 40-1
5. Kitty’s Light (Jack Tudor) 12-1
6. Ain’t That A Shame (David Maxwell) 40-1
32 ran
Non-runners 19, 33

  1.  

More Posts

2,000 GUINEAS 2024

SUNDAY TIMES 5TH May 2024 Pegasus lost his wings. Dreams of City Of Troy soaring to the ultimate racing heights didn’t last a minute. 50

JUMP SEASON FINALE 2024

Sunday Times 5th May 2023 Utterly unprecedented. Not only did Willie Mullins become the first Irish trainer in 70 years to land the UK trainer’s

AINTREE SECOND DAY 2024

THE TIMES SPORT BROUGH SCOTT Friday 12th April 2024 Agony and ecstasy in the final strides, the 494 yard Aintree run-in took its prisoners again.

AINTREE FIRST DAY 2024

THE TIMES SPORT Brough Scott 11th April 2024 The photo finish is a harsh way to end a horse race. At the end of two