Liverpool, England (AP) — Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson bought One For Arthur in 2013 because they wanted an activity to enjoy while their partners were out playing golf.
Little did the “Two Golf Widows,” as they are now labeled, know that they were purchasing a future Grand National winner.
Ridden by a jockey competing in the world’s toughest steeplechase for the first time, One for Arthur took the lead in the 4 1/2-mile (6,400-meter) race after jumping the 30th and last fence before holding off Cause of Causes in the famous long run to the post at Aintree.
Trained by Lucinda Russell — the partner of former eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore — One for Arthur became only the second Scottish winner of the race. The other was Rubstic in 1979. He won at odds of 14-1 on a sun-kissed day in northern England.
“We just wanted a horse to have some fun,” a giddy Thomson told The Associated Press, with a glass of champagne in her hand. “The dream for most racehorse owners would be to win the Grand National and we are lucky we found a horse to do it. I can’t quite believe it.”
McClung and Thomson are old friends from Scotland who grew apart after leaving school but become close again in recent years. With their partners spending most weekends on the golf course, they decided to get into the horse-racing business.
“We were at Kelso races and we’d had a lot of gin,” McClung recalled about the day 3 1/2 years ago, when they chose to buy a horse.
Before Saturday, the eight-year-old One For Arthur had won six races for its co-owners over the past three years. None of those victories compare to the 1 million pound Grand National.
It was an unexpected win for jockey Derek Fox, too.
Fox thought he’d blown his chance of a debut ride in the race when he broke his left wrist and right collarbone in a fall at Carlisle on March 9.
“The doctor said the only way I would be able to race is with a splint on,” Fox said.
Fox returned to action only on Wednesday, three days before the National. After a pre-race pep talk from Scudamore, Fox kept One For Arthur at the back of the 40-horse field for much of a typically chaotic race that had just 19 finishers.
“After we’d gone one circuit, I was thinking, ‘I can’t be going as well as I am,'” Fox said. “He’s the gamest horse I’ve ever ridden and he galloped all the way to the line.”
Cause of Causes (16-1) never gave up the chase at the finish, but One For Arthur won by 4 1/2 lengths. Saint Are (25-1) was third, a further 3 3/4 lengths back.
“This is the best feeling I have ever had, or ever will have,” Fox said.
The victory partially makes up for years of failure in the race for Scudamore, who never finished better than third in 12 attempts at the National despite being his country’s top jockey in the 1980s and early ’90s. He acts as an assistant to Russell, who had a successful career in showjumping and has been a trainer since 1995.
Russell is only the fourth woman to train a National winner, after Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams, and Sue Smith.
All 40 horses came home safely. The 170th edition of the race got underway in front of a sell-out crowd of 70,000 at the second attempt after an initial false start, when horses burst the tape too early.