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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
McGrath's memorable Nationals
Interview by Scott Heinrich

BBC racing commentator Jim McGrath
McGrath remembers Miinnehoma's win with fondness

Jim McGrath has been the BBC's chief race commentator since Sir Peter O'Sullevan stepped down six Grand Nationals ago.

Nicknamed Aussie Jim because of his Antipodean roots, he has seen many renewals of the great Aintree steeplechase.

From his favourite call to his finest punt, McGrath recalls some memorable episodes in the great race's history.


BEST NATIONAL SPECTACLE

There's absolutely no doubt about the greatest race, the greatest finish the National has seen.

That was between Red Rum and Crisp in 1973. It was one of the epic moments and I don't think we'll see a finish like it again.

Crisp led for the entire race and was only caught in the last couple of strides. It was heart-breaking because he conceded 23lbs to the winner and they smashed the track record.


BEST NATIONAL TO CALL

The first four commentaries I did for the Beeb were from Becher's Brook and all those since have been from the senior commentary position in the grandstand.

If one stood out to me it would have to be Miinnehoma in 1994.

A real class horse, he had won the SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham earlier in the year.

He was trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Richard Dunwoody, and from memory it was a slog and I thought he was a really classy horse.

I was calling from Becher's and although it was a bit far out to be calling him the winner from there, I could see he was travelling pretty well.


BEST NATIONAL WINNER
West Tip clears a fence in the 1989 Grand National
West Tip was an Aintree specialist

I suppose the best winners in my time would have to be Red Rum and West Tip.

Red Rum's record speaks for itself, while West Tip ran in five Nationals and would have won two if he hadn't fallen at his first attempt.

He was a phenomenal jumper and could have claimed Aintree to be his home ground.


UNLUCKIEST NATIONAL LOSER

It has to be Crisp again.

Crisp was probably the bravest and most brilliant horse never to win the race. To be deprived of it in the circumstances bordered on tragedy.

It was Red Rum's first National win and Crisp's performance was only put into perspective when the winner proved himself to be the greatest National horse there had been.

His owner, Chester Manifold, who was a big man in racing politics in Melbourne, used to play the film of the race to his friends and the story goes he cried every time he showed it.


BEST HUMAN INTEREST STORY

Carl Llewellyn has been a remarkable personality connected with the Grand National.

Both of his winning rides - Party Politics in 1992 and Earth Summit in 1998 - have been picked up as spare rides.

In a time when we have a number of very high-profile jockeys like Tony McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald, to have a senior guy in the ranks who goes quietly about his business is great.

He is an expert horseman, and provided he has the right horse for the job he's proved he can do it.

He probably should have won another, in 2001 on Beau, when he rode for two or three fences without reins.

He's a fantastic National success story.


BEST PUNTING MOMENT

That's very easy. I had a decent bet on Mr Frisk when he won in 1990 at 20/1.

He was ridden by Marcus Armytage, who was later to become a colleague of mine at the Daily Telegraph.

I fancied the horse quite strongly beforehand and thought he was very good value because the key to the horse was fast ground.

Marcus rode a fantastic race, though I'd obviously say that.

It was really gripping stuff.

And what about this year, Jim?

I'm a little bit worried about the ground riding fast, but I have a soft spot for Behrajan each-way.




SEE ALSO
Aintree calls Aussie Jim
29 Mar 02  |  Grand National 2002
One man and his microphone
25 Mar 02  |  Grand National 2002

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