Royal Athlete was the Jenny Pitman trained, 40-1 outsider who romped home to win the 148th Grand National in 1995. Despite his smooth progress on the second circuit of the Aintree course the 1995 race proved, once again, that the race is as much about speed and fluency as of power and endurance.
Royal Athlete, a 12-year-old chestnut gelding, turned out to be a more unlikely winner than he looked as his jockey eased him past the finishing post. His owner Gary Johnson said “I bought him with a leg problem, I’m not saying how much he cost, but it was peanuts’.
On the day the race conditions were just about perfect and Jason Titley, Royal Athlete’s jockey kept him back under the radar in the early stages, while most eyes were watching the progress of Master Oats, bidding to become the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win the Gold Cup and the National in the same season.
On the second circuit Royal Athlete had moved up the field so that he jumped neck-and-neck with Master Oats but it was Royal Athlete who looked cool and comfortable as they galloped easily up to the Canal Turn, holding formation despite the distraction of loose horses.
At Valentine’s, Royal Athlete and Master Oats were four lengths clear but while Master Oats began to labour Royal Athlete was willing to cruise the last five fences.
Royal Athlete died in May 2003 at the age of 20.