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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 April, 2005, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Sweet success for Hemmings team
By Sophie Brown
BBC Sport at Aintree

The two-sided coin of Grand National fortune was much in evidence in the 2005 Aintree marathon.

Ruby Walsh celebrates his success on Hedgehunter

While the connections of Hedgehunter celebrated an emotional win, those of Clan Royal were left ruing another unlucky twist which could well have cost them victory.

For the second year in succession, Hedgehunter approached the last of the 30 obstacles in the lead.

But unlike last year where he almost collapsed through the fence, tipping off jockey David Casey in the process, this year there was no mishap.

In fact, the nine-year-old, ridden by Ruby Walsh, had been travelling well throughout and in the end the 7-1 favourite won comfortably.

It marked a huge change in fortune for owner Trevor Hemmings, who has yearned to win the big race since 1971 when he used to watch horses exercising as he worked on a building site where he had a contract to build a Pontins holiday camp.

The multi-millionaire Lancashire businessman has had at least two entries in the Grand National for the past five years but has endured several hard-luck stories, including seeing two of his horses perish in the race.

But as he said after Hedgehunter's victory: "All I can say is that I am one lucky man now."

Trainer Willie Mullins must also feel his National luck has changed, having failed to see any of his previous four runners even get round.

Mullins, a former champion amateur jockey, is the son of the famous trainer Paddy Mullins, who brought down the curtain on a long and illustrious career just weeks ago.

Meanwhile, jockey Walsh saw his dream record in the National continue - he won on his first attempt on Papillon in 2000 and has also had two other placed finishes in just five rides.

But while Hedeghunter's fortunes were reversed from 2004, last year's runner-up Clan Royal was not so lucky.

Many felt the JP McManus-owned 10-year-old would have won 12 months ago but for his jockey Liam Cooper losing his whip on the run-in.

Tony McCoy on Clan Royal
McCoy watches the field pass him by after he is taken out of the race

This year, champion jockey Tony McCoy kept his mount out of trouble at the front, only to be cruelly run out of the race at the 22nd fence by a loose horse.

For McCoy, the elusive search for a Grand National success - the one big prize lacking on his CV - goes on as his 10th ride in the race resulted in another blank.

And Clan Royal's owner, JP McManus, who had a record six runners in the race, was also left contemplating another barren National.

But famously generous in defeat, McManus will have enjoyed the sight of yet another Irish victory in the Grand National - their fourth in seven years - at an Aintree Festival where they enjoyed a huge total of nine winners.

The build-up to this year's Grand National had centred around an outspoken trainer - Ginger McCain - and his comments about Carrie Ford.

But it was the quietly-spoken Willie Mullins - who had kept his own counsel about a setback to Hedgehunter just a week before the race - who had the last word.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights: Watch the 2005 Grand National


Interviews: Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Trevor Hemmings




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