Friday, 2 April 2021

The Monday National

 What became known as the 'Monday National' was originally scheduled for 4.00pm on Saturday, April 5, 1997 but, following two coded bomb threats from the Irish Republican Army (IRA), received less than a hour before the scheduled 'off' time, was hastily re-arranged for 5.00pm on Monday, April 7.


Interviewed live on BBC Television, Managing Director and Clerk of the Course Charles Bennett announced that racing had been abandoned for the day and instructed everyone to evacuate the racecourse immediately. Amid chaotic scenes, police eventually ushered all 60,000 spectators to safety and, at 4.14pm, discovered two suspect devices, which were detonated by controlled explosion. Nevertheless, approximately 7,000 vehicles were impounded overnight, leaving 20,000 people stranded; the paucity of accommodation in the vicinity left many of them reliant on the hospitality of local residents. Similarly, many of the National runners were stabled at Haydock Park, in nearby Newton-le-Willows, until Monday.


The Monday running of the National went ahead without further incident and was won by Lord Gyllene, trained by Steve Brookshaw and ridden by Toby Dobbin, at 14/1. The 8-year-old was always travelling and jumping well at the head of affairs and, although badly hampered, and nearly carried out, by a a loose horse at the water jump, barely gave his supporters an anxious moment. Indeed, when his nearest pursuer, Suny Bay, blundered badly at the final open ditch, four fences from home, he took the race by the scruff of the neck; in the last half-a-mile or so, galloped further and further clear, leaving Sir Peter O'Sullevan – commentating on his fiftieth, and final, GrandNational – to call him home in splendid isolation. Lord Gyllene eventually won by 25 lengths from Suny Bay, with 100/1 outsider Camelot Knight staying on into third place, a further 2 lengths away.

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