A look at every grey horse to win the Grand National

As we approach this year’s Grand National Festival, horse racing enthusiasts and punters alike will be eagerly anticipating one of the most prestigious races on the sporting calendar. A staple of British sporting history, the National, culminating in front of a packed-out grandstand at Aintree, has over 150 years of tradition, yet interestingly only three grey horses have managed to win the race. 

We’re not quite sure where to pinpoint this infamous piece of National trivia, but for some reason, the grey shade is one that seems rather unlucky when it comes to winning the four-mile, two-furlong race in Merseyside. Whether it be the notoriously difficult fences like The Chair and Becher’s Brooke, or simply the pressure of the big occasion, with fans back this year examining the Grand National winner odds for the second time following two absences in 2020 and 2021 respectively, grey horses rarely seem to get the rub of the green.

Plenty have come close before. The likes of Kingsman and King Johns Castle ran winners close in 2002 and 2008, while Sunny Bay, trained by Alex Hales in the late 1990s, was pipped to the post twice in succession, with two second-place finishes back-to-back. However, there have also been four occasions in which a grey horse has upset the odds and earnt a place in the history books. 

Gaillard Du Mesnil looks to be the best bet for a grey this year, coming in at 14/1 odds for Willie Mullins, who will be looking for a second National win. However, reigning champion Noble Yeats still looks to be favourite after his 50/1 win for the Waley-Cohens last year. But how do they compare to grey champions of the past? Let’s take a look at every grey horse to win the Grand National. 

The Lamb – 1868 and 1871

We have to go back to the mid-1800s for our first grey winner of the National, as The Lamb is the only horse on this list with multiple victories to his name. Trained by Ben Land, his win goes back that long that statisticians are unable to even record what time he finished! However, we know he had short-priced odds of 9/1 and certainly lived up to the billing, with George Ede aboard as jockey, a man that doubled up as Hampshire’s County Cricket captain — simply a different time. 

Nicolaus Silver – 1961 

After a 90-year wait, we finally had a second grey winner of the National, and it was Nicolaus Silver who moved like a silver fox to win the 1961 edition of the race. Charles Vaughan’s horse beat the likes of Merryman II and O’Malley Point to win the race by five lengths at Aintree, finishing with an impressive time of under 10 minutes when you consider his 28/1 odds. 

Neptune Collonges – 2012

Over half a century later, we had a hat-trick of grey champions in the National. This time it was Paul Nicholls-trained Neptune Collonges who was victorious in 2012. The 33/1 French-bred outsider shocked the world with his victory, with the trainer heaping on the praise for his champion after the race, which served as his first Grand National win. 

“He got there at the right time and that’s what counts,” Nicholls said. “This has been a race we haven’t had the best of luck in, but it’s great to win. What a fantastic horse he has been and he will retire now.”

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
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