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  Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
A remarkable partnership
Richard Guest could not believe his luck
Richard Guest could not believe his luck
BBC Sport Online's Frank Keogh reports from Aintree on the partnership which produced one of the most memorable Grand National wins ever.

It was always going to be a National lottery - and so who better to claim the winnings from a rain-battered Grand National than a bingo guru.

Norman Mason, the millionaire racehorse owner, made his fortune in the lucky numbers game and leisure industry.

And Maggies' Den, that's 10 in bingo parlance, was the number that counted in the remarkable 154th running of the world's most famous steeplechase.

It was the number carried by the gallant Red Marauder and his jockey Richard Guest, who won the race in which only four horses finished, including two that had to be re-mounted.


He's a miracle man, I couldn't get anyone better to manage the stable
Mason on Guest
Mason and Guest have formed a bond over the last three years after both of them were on the verge of quitting racing.

Guest handed his jockey's licence in after falling foul of the stewards who took his careful horsemanship to be a case of non-trying.

Mason, based at Brancepeth in County Durham, almost turned in the horses too when a number of his string were hit by illness and died.

But he recognised that in Guest there was an untapped resource, and he hired him not just as a jockey but also assistant trainer.

"He's a miracle man. I couldn't get anyone better to manage the stable. He's assistant trainer, but he really is the trainer," said Mason.

"Richard is responsible for all the success we've had. I go along with anything he says - I can't praise him highly enough. I love him from now until doomsday."

Bookies were delighted with the outcome
Bookies were delighted with the outcome
Mason watched the race on a big screen from a ramp near the parade ring after he heard another owner had done the same thing on Friday - and won.

It was heart stopping viewing. First there were fallers, then the scourge of loose horses, a pile-up at the Canal Turn, horses being brought down, refusing, unseating their riders - it was chaotic.

And through all the drama, and he so nearly fell himself, Guest and Red Marauder somehow stayed on their feet for a memorable victory at 33-1 over the brave Smarty.

A couple of furlongs behind, Blowing Wind and Smarty had been re-mounted to take third and fourth place respectively.

"My heart was in my mouth at every fence we came to," admitted a relieved Mason afterwards.

"I was certainly praying the horses were OK. I was just hoping the horse wouldn't have an injury."

In a racing season ravaged by the wet weather and the foot-and-mouth crisis, it is a stable from the north-east of England - where the disease has been particularly virulent - that has triumphed.


I love to ride them, and give them every chance
Richard Guest
"Anything that really helps the north-east is marvellous," said Mason, who managed to get a few pounds on his horse with bookmakers Corals at 40-1.

As each party appeared reluctant to take credit for the triumph, Guest paid tribute to the horse which Mason said former champion jockey John Francome believed did not have the class to win the National.

"He's a survivor. He's not a natural jumper, and is probably the worst jumper to have won a National, but you couldn't knock him down," said Guest of his mount.

The jockey said his riding of the horse may not have been too pretty. But like a showjumping star, he did what he had to do to get round in conditions which had some questioning whether the race should have been run.

Guest admitted it was "borderline" whether the National should have been postponed, but added: "I love horses. I love to ride them, and give them every chance."

Bookies said frustrated punters, denied the Cheltenham Festival because of foot-and-mouth, placed more bets than on any other National.

In hindsight, the signs pointed to the winner. Red is a lucky colour in China, where millions were watching the race for the first time.

And spotted near the winner's enclosure just before the off was singer Mick Hucknall and his dad Reg, the guests of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Jackpot

United's nickname? The Red Devils. Hucknall's band? Simply Red.

Red Marauder's incredible win is one of those stories which the National seems to produce at regular intervals.

Mason said: "I made my money in the leisure business and I would like to thank all those who have gone to my bingo halls and places like that.

"Forget the lottery, I've really hit the jackpot."

Two men who nearly quit the sport with a horse which had been written off as not good enough pick up the 290,000 first prize in a race that will be remembered forever. A fairytale full house.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Lee McKenzie
"This was a remarkable race"
Red Marauder's trainer Norman Foster
"I was in tears"

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