In 2005, Hedgehunter’s decisive victory ensured a fourth Irish-trained success in the great chase since 1999. He was a very popular winner and had been well backed ante-post and then again on the day of the race, opening at 9/1 and going off the 7/1 favourite.
He ran five times over hurdles before switching back to fences for his final start before the Grand National after the weights for the National had been published.
Ruby Walsh was the jockey of choice as he was the appointed stable jockey for Willie Mullins yard.
As the race progressed, things got very trickey at Becher’s on the second time round and he was lucky to avoid being caught up in it. However, the incident caused the exit of one of his main rivals in Clan Royal, who was six lengths ahead of the field at the time.
Hedgehunter was left in front but he maintained his momentum and Walsh continued to sit motionless, appearing not to have a trouble in the world. After the pair had jumped the 30th and final fence, the jockey showed his mount the reins and got the required response with Hedgehunter staying on strongly on the long run-in to readily beat 40/1 chance Royal Auclair by 14 lengths.
Another outsider, the 66/1 chance Simply Gifted, trained like Clan Royal by Jonjo O’Neill, came third, with the Martin pipe trained It Takes Time coming in fourth place.
The race started with the maximum 40 runners but ended with only 21 finishers which was the highest amount since 1992 when 22 completed the circuit. The race was one of the most competitive Grand National fields ever assembled, with the all the horses being in the handicap proper.
Hedgehunter’s performance under 11st 1lb was therefore even more meritorious. The previous winner to carry over 11st was Corbiere in 1983. He returned for the John Smith’s Grand National in 2006 where he finished second after Numbersixvalverde, again in 2007 when he finished in ninth place and finally in 2008 but could only manage 13th place.