In winning the 2014 Grand National at Aintree racecourse, Pineau De Re belied the theory that victors of the prestigious race should normally have proven jumping experience with no history of falling on the challenging track. The horse clearly did not read the script as he atoned for his eighth fence calamity in the Becher Chase at this course in December by emerging as a fairly comfortable winner of the 40 horse field on Saturday.
Jockey Leighton Aspell had returned the sport five years previously after ‘retiring’ for eighteen months, but he rode a perfect race on Pineau De Re as he tracked the leaders for much of the 4 miles 4 furlongs distance before assuming control at the finish. The horse did survive one or two blunders but always appeared to be travelling comfortably as one by one the favourites disappeared from the contest.
Leading contenders Teaforthree, Long Run and Tidal Bay all succumbed to the famous fences, yet for much of the race, the Paul Nicholls trained Rocky Creek was striding ominously well at the front of the pack. As the runners approached the final two fences, Rocky Creek began to labour and it may have been the case that rider Noel Fehily was just too bold with his enterprising tactics as the horse lacked vital reserves of energy at the finish.
As for Pineau De Re, there was no such problem as the late challenges of Balthazar King and Double Seven were easily thwarted, with the victory completing an outstanding training performance by the under-rated Dr Richard Newland.
The 11 year old horse has only been residing in the Newland stable for a year but in that time he has won a three mile chase at Exeter in December before earning a creditable third place in the three mile Pertemps Network Hurdle final at the Cheltenham festival.
For much of his early career, Pineau De Re was campaigned on the Irish racing tracks with varying degrees of success and suspect jumping ability. When failing to negotiate the Aintree fences on his first visit to the course in December, it was thought that he may not be a true contender for honours in April.
Yet Dr Newland never lost faith in the horse and he knew that with some luck in running, there was always the chance of completing a famous victory as his stamina had been proven last year when winning the 3 miles 4 Furlongs Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick.
There were the usual tales of bad fortune in the 2014 Grand National but Pineau De Re was a deserved winner and while his rating may increase for future events, there may still be more races within the capabilities of a horse for whom extreme distances hold no fear.