Neptune Collonges – first grey to win National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 – pipped Sunnyhillboy

There are few sporting events with a more dramatic history than the world’s most famous steeplechase, the Grand National – and today’s epic finish was one of the greatest ever when Neptune Collonges, ridden by Daryl Jacob, came from behind to win a photo-finish with Sunnyhillboy

It was a pulsating climax to the Aintree marathon over four-and-a-half grueling miles. But the sweet taste of victory for trainer Paul Nicholls and his team was contrasted by terrible tragedy as Tony McCoy limped away from the track after Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised was put down.

When the favourite fell at Becher’s Brook, a black tent was put around the stricken horse as it’s life was ended. It was a black day for the sport with a second horse, According To Pete, also a fatality making it the second time in two years that two horses had died during the race.

The double tragedy immediately led to widespread criticism from animal charities who labeled the National a ‘shameful spectacle’. Without doubt the future of the race will be called into question as animal rights campaigners question its safety.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said: ‘We all knew before we came here the risks. The horses get looked after brilliantly but unfortunately these things do happen.’

Be that as it may, it is hard to defend a sport that kills its heroes and the new safety measures introduced this year have clearly not worked. The organisers must find a way to make the National safer without turning it into a non-event. Many great horses and jockeys have made the National special down the ages and no true sports lover would want to see it disappear. The race must go on – but let’s make sure this is not a death trap for the horses who make it so special.


Four weeks ago Tony McKoy was looking back on Synchronised’s Cheltenham Cup win