It is the dream of any trainer to one day win the Grand National, and in 2017, Lucinda Russell did just that with One For Arthur.
To win two is beyond the wildest imaginations of most trainers, but Russell repeated the feat in 2023 with Corach Rambler under Derek Fox, and while there's always a little luck required to win the Grand National, it was no fluke.
You'd be forgiven for thinking winning the world's biggest race would be cause for major celebration, but Russell and her partner, eight-time Champion Jockey and now assistant trainer Peter Scudamore, kept things more low-key, certainly in comparison to The Ramblers, Corach Rambler's owners.
"Celebrations for Scu and I were very quiet," said Russell. "We went up the M6, stopped for a baguette at a service station with a coffee and got home at about 1am, so that was our celebration!
"We were off to bed and then up at 5.30am, fed the horses, mucked out and went to the press day.
"The girls who were with the horses had a similar celebration, they were up at 7am and back at it.
"The stable staff however went down to the local pub where there was a lot of shouting on arrival and the parties went on long into the night.
"The owners… we had one who was due to get a flight back to Australia at 9.30am, unfortunately he’s still in England! The breeder who was due to go back to Ireland is still with us here in Scotland. It’s been brilliant, they’ve celebrated properly as they should.
"[The owners] were absolutely over the moon. I find it amazing that they’re so close. They talk about it being a dream come true, but at the same time it’s something they’d never even dreamt of. They’d just got into horse racing but appreciate what the Grand National means.
"And I think everyone appreciates what the Grand National means. Even if you’re not into horse racing, you get the enormity of it. They’re delighted and so thankful for their horse, and it’s not a money-making thing, it’s not an ego trip, they just adore the horse and they can’t believe he’s winning.
"The horse arrived back last night and has done a few press things and had some photos taken but he’s totally sound and he’ll have a nice summer holiday."
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The race was about as straightforward as any jockey and trainer could hope for, with Corach Rambler well-placed throughout, not that it made the watch any easier for Russell.
"I watched him over the first few fences and I could see he was using his power and his scope and he was jumping them really well but he was jumping them quite big," said Russell. "But then he went over Becher’s Brook the first time and he knew then he could flick through the top without much effort and you could see in his demeanour he loved it and that he was better than the others at it.
"It was funny – I was crying the whole way through, but I thought at that point ‘this is quite straightforward, it’s all going to plan, it’s fine, as long as he has luck, he’ll be okay’, and as we watched, we saw he had a lot of space around him; he wasn’t right up behind another horse.
"He was on the inner at one point, then pulled into the middle and had lots of space, and that’s where Derek is a fabulous jockey, he makes things happen rather than reacting to things.
"When Arthur won the National, Scu said to Derek ‘try to be as handy as you can’ and he ended up being dropped in. With Corach he actually said ‘I don’t mind if you drop him in’ and he ended up being quite handy, and I think it was partly because the horse was so keen.
"Knowing Derek, between the last and the second last, I knew he didn’t want to hit the front, but the horse had started to take a hold and before you knew it he’d jumped the last in front and once you’ve got there you’ve got to commit, there’s no holding back, you’ve got to crack on, but he did the right thing.
"As Scu’s dad [1959 Grand National win Michael] used to say, ride to the elbow but don’t lift your stick up; once you’re past the elbow, you can lift your stick up and if you watch, right on the apex of the elbow, that’s what Derek did and he was never going to get headed after that."
In a way, Corach Rambler is the product of One For Arthur's 2017 success, which led to the successes of the likes of Ahoy Senor and the 2023 Grand National winner, and Russell is optimistic for the future of the yard which also boasted the tragically late 2012 Albert Bartlett winner, Brindisi Breeze.
"Brindisi was our first Cheltenham winner and it was quite surprising," said Russell. "When Arthur won the National, it gave us a different confidence and a different view on things.
"We planned the race and the plan had come off, and we knew we could repeat that. It’s taken six years, but we’d planned it.
"We took five horses down to Aintree; we had a Grade 1 [Apple Away in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle], the Grand National, second in two other races, and Esprit Du Potier in a four-year-old bumper who ran a fantastic race, so it’s not just about 'well done us, we won a fantastic race' – which we have – but the quality lurking below there, and that’s what really excites me, and it’s because of Arthur winning six years ago that taught us that we knew what we were doing and now it’s about buying the right horses and we’re quite excited to have some lovely young horses come through."
One such horse is Apple Away, winner of the Sefton Novices' Hurdle on Friday, following in the footsteps of Ahoy Senor, who won the same race at 66/1 in 2019, though Russell believes that's where the similarities end between the two, despite the mare's bright future.
"There’s a huge difference between them," said Russell. "With Ahoy Senor, that was only his second hurdle run and he won a Grade 1, so that was phenomenal and showed you his talent and he was straight into the top end when he went chasing.
"Apple Away has taken a few runs to learn. She’s always been progressive; runs at the start of the season we weren’t sure about, then suddenly she got it, she won at Ayr, then at Doncaster and to win that Grade 1... she’s improved massively since Christmas, so she’s been a bit more of a slow burner whereas Ahoy Senor announced himself quite quickly.
"In a way, Ahoy Senor’s had quite a hard time. We bought him at the same time as Corach, but Corach’s been allowed to improve gently and come up through the handicap system whereas Ahoy Senor’s had to run at graded level the whole time.
"Then you look at Apple Away, she’s a mare who hasn’t got the physical strength of Ahoy Senor yet but that’ll come and she’s improved massively with every run.
"I don’t know if she’s got the power of Ahoy Senor but she’s definitely a horse that I’m looking forward to seeing so much over fences next season. It’ll be nice for her next season to take her time through the grades, she can run in mares races and against the boys with a mares' allowance."
In the more immediate future, there's the small matter of the Scottish National north of the border at the weekend, with Corach Rambler, Mighty Thunder and Your Own Story currently entered, though Corach Rambler is unlikely to make the final declarations.
"We’re aiming for the Scottish National with Mighty Thunder and Your Own Story," said Russell. "We were driving back up the M6 last night and suddenly realised ‘it’s Ayr next weekend!’ so we have to get ourselves going and get them both prepped for that, and that’s our immediate aim."