Which jockey rode Foinavon to victory in the 1967 Grand National?

Since 1984, the seventh (and twenty-third) fence on the Grand National Course at Aintree has borne the name of ‘Foinavon’, who, in 1967, was the only horse to avoid a mêlée at the fence and went on to win at odds of 100/1. Ironically, as the riderless Popham Down led the field over Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, commentator Michael O’Hehir mentioned the fact that the loose horse didn’t appear to be causing interference. At least, not until the next fence, which the same horse ran down, bringing everything, bar Foinavon, to a standstill.

In any event, the lucky jockey that day was the late John Buckingham, who, with a clear view of the pile-up, show-jumped the fence on the outside and continued unimpeded. Buckingham later remarked, ‘It wasn’t until the Canal Turn [the next obstacle] that I knew I was on my own’. Many of the other jockeys remounted and set off in hot pursuit, but Foinavon was not for catching and passed the post 15 lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer, 15/2 favourite Honey End, ridden by the last Josh Gifford.

Foinavon had been bought by owner Cyril Watkins two years previously expressly to run in the Grand National but, on the day, neither Watkins nor his trainer, John Kempton, were at Aintree. Indeed, Buckingham was only offered the ride on Foinavon – his first in the Grand National – three days before the race, after it was turned down by three other jockeys. Notwithstanding his extravagant starting price, Foinavon had proved unpopular with other riders because Watkins refused to pay more than the flat riding fee, which, at the time, was £5/10/-. Neverthless, Buckingham was only to keen to take the ride on the nine-year-old, later revealing, ‘I’d have ridden Dick’s donkey to be in the Grand National…’

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