Pineau de Re ridden by Leighton Aspell jumps the last fence before going on to win the $1.675 million English Grand National. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)
The 37-year-old Aspell, runner-up in the National 11 years ago on Supreme Glory, quit the saddle in the summer of 2007 and went to work in the Flat-racing yard of John Dunlop in Sussex. He returned to action in 2009 and has now been rewarded with what was already his best season by a long way. Even so, first prize of £561,000 doubles his money won since last May.
This was the second Grand National over the modified fences that have been criticised by some for being too soft. Last year, every runner cleared the first seven fences without incident but this race looked much more like older Nationals, with Twirling Magnet falling at the first and others tumbling at regular intervals, including Burton Port and Big Shu at the next two fences.
However, various media outlets reported that all horses returned without serious injury. A total of 18 completed the course.
The most notable departure in the early stages was the well-fancied Long Run, a past winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase, who fell when leading at Valentine's Brook. Shortly after, as the field tackled The Chair in front of the stands, there were despairing cries from many a punter as Teaforthree unseated Nick Scholfield.
(Tom Jenkins for the Observer)
"I was very conscious that I didn't want to be in front too soon over four and a half miles," Aspell said. "He's a small horse, so he has to try at his fences, which he kept doing.
"When I got a bit of daylight, I knew I'd be fine because that was my only worry. Once he was in daylight, from the Canal Turn, he really enjoyed that part of the race."
The winning trainer is the 50-year-old Dr Richard Newland, who took Pineau De Re into his Worcestershire stable last summer and sparked a revival in his form. The horse is Newland's first Grand National runner.