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Foinaven: The Story of the Grand National's Biggest Upset By David Owen

Release date: 05th April, 2013
Publisher: Wisden

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £14.43
You Save: £4.56 (24%)
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Given the furore the unexpected victory caused at the time, it's a wonder no-one has written a book about Foinaven, winner of the 1967 Grand National, although following the publication of David Owen's engaging account, the wait has proved worthwhile.

The National has always managed to produce unique sporting theatre, but few races in the modern era, including Red Rum's famous third success, were quite as remarkable as Foinaven's.

Live sports broadcasts were extremely rare half a century ago and the country regularly ground to a halt in order to watch the race. Everyone wagered at least a shilling each-way and betting shops opened early to accommodate huge punter demand; Grand National Saturday was the only day of the year when respectable women went inside a bookies' office.

Peter O'Sullevan's wonderfully calm and informed commentary contrasted perfectly with that of the excitable Irishman, Michael O'Hehir, to whom the honour of calling the incident that would make National history would fall.

Prior to the race, three jockeys rejected the opportunity to ride Foinaven before a young John Buckingham was chosen as the 100/1 outsider's mount. In truth, the blinkered Foinaven could have gone out at 500/1 and attracted little attention from backers, although those who did support him held their breath as the leading pack approached the 23rd fence.

Just before the jump, the leading horse hesitated, stopped, then wandered sideways into the oncoming throng. Some fell immediately, others took off too soon and landed on the fence, while another group ploughed straight into it without attempting to jump.

For a while, it looked as though no-one would get over the fence until a sole trailing horse at the very back, Foinaven, was able to side-step the mayhem and jump into racing history. O'Hehir's commentary went up several octaves as Buckingham pulled a few hundred yards clear, sufficient to eventually win by a distance, even though, quite legitimately, some riders re-mounted and attempted to chase Foinaven down.

David Owen has written a comprehensive account of the National's most unexpected winner, a combination of sporting and social history which could be an early contender for this year's sports book of the year.


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