On the surface the 1981 race seemed unremarkable until you understand the heroic personal efforts of jockey Bob Champion and his horse Aldaniti. In 1979 Bob had been told he only had months to live after being diagnosed with cancer but what kept Bob going was his dream of winning the The Grand National. Bob had to under go many months of chemotherapy but eventually won his battle with cancer and was passed fit to ride in the 1981 race. He was paired with the horse ‘Aldaniti’, who had also just recovered after suffering a career threatening injury.
Bob Champion summed it up well when after the race he said “I must admit I thought if I won the Grand National it would be one of the seven wonders of the world. It proves miracles do happen. Some people wrote us off as two old crocks together but I think we proved in the race we are not quite past it yet.”
The two survivors melded on the Racecourse that April day in 1981. Their victory is one of the most memorable and emotional moments ever to be recorded in horse racing. Coming in four-and-a-half lengths ahead of the competition, Champion and Aldaniti beat the odds and made history.
Although Aldaniti died in 1997 and Bob Champion retired from training horses in 1999, they are both legends of the horse racing world. Their legacy is a sense of hope for all those who follow in their paths. They taught us that, even when things look desperate, success is just over the next fence for those who choose to make the jump.