The 1993 Grand National ended amidst chaos after a series of incidents reduced the world famous race to a complete shambles. With an estimated worldwide audience of 300 million people watching, 30 of the 39 competitors did not realise a false start had been called and started to race. The chaotic sequence of events began seconds before the race, when a group of about 15 animal rights protestors, managed to get onto the track near the first fence.
This resulted in a delayed start and the riders needed to line up again, the first false start was caused by several jockeys becoming entangled in the starting tape. The Starter Keith Brown, who was conducting his last Grand National before retiring, waved the red flag. 100 yards down the track, second official Ken Evans, signaled to the leading runners to turn around for a restart. On the second attempt, the starting tape becoming tangled around the neck of jockey Richard Dunwoody, Brown again raised the recall flag but did not unfurl it and all but nine horses raced away.
Desperate attempts to stop the race were made by track side officials, trainers and the Aintree crowd but the majority of the field continued to race. Eleven riders completed the first circuit before pulling up and seven continued to the finish line without knowing anything was wrong. It was not until the water jump, the final fence of the first circuit, that most horses were pulled up, including the previous years winning partnership of Party Politics ridden by Carl Llewellyn who had started the race as the favourite at 7/1.
Commentator Peter O’Sullivan describing the finish said, “So as they race up to the line, in the National that surely isn’t, Esha Ness is the winner, second is Cahervillahow, third is Romany King, four The Committee, five is Givus A Buck. Then comes On The Other Hand and Laura’s Beau and they are the only ones to have completed in the race that surely never was”.
Esha Ness ridden by John White was a 50/1 outsider trained by Jenny Pitman, who had been the first women to train a Grand National winner, Corbiere in 1983. Jenny was devastated saying “This is no Grand National, even though I have won it”. Esha Ness had won in the second fastest time in the race’s history.
The Jockey Club ruled out a re-run of the race and for the first and only time to date, declared the Grand National void, forcing Bookmakers to refund an estimated £75 million in bets. An inquiry was held and the Starter Keith Brown was criticised for allowing the horses to get too close to the tape but most blame fell on Ken Evans, the second official, for failing to notice the second false start.
As a result of the inquiry the starting tape was improved, the width of the start was reduced, a third official was introduced and fluorescent yellow flags were brought into use. Two years later in 1995, Jenny Pitman would taste victory with 40/1 Royal Athlete, who would win The Grand National for ‘real’.