Aldaniti and Bob Champion: Grand National Legends

By Captain Thomsen on 27 Aug 2021

Aldaniti and jockey Bob Champion running the 1981 Grand National at Aintree racecourse.

During his early years Aldaniti never showed any sign of developing into one of the greatest Grand National legends of all time. He was rejected by his mother when he was a foal, and spent his first few months chronically underfed until he finally learnt to accept milk from an artificial source.

His owners did not think much of him either, comparing his legs to piano legs and describing him as stag kneed. True to these remarks, Aldaniti suffered leg injuries throughout his career, yet Aldaniti had something stronger than a perfect racehorse physique. He had spirit, and this was something jockey Bob Champion realised when he rode Aldaniti in Leicester for the first time, saying ‘This horse will win the Grand National one day’.

At The Races

During an unspectacular racing career, Aldaniti suffered a series of serious leg injuries including a broken hock bone and two periods of debilitating tendon trouble. At one stage his owners believed he was so weak they considered putting him down.

His moment of destiny came at the end of 1979 when he was paired up with Bob Champion, a jockey from Yorkshire battling testicular cancer. With both jockey and horse struggling to survive, the scene was set for one of the greatest moments in Grand National history.

In 1981 Bob Champion, now recovering from his cancer, entered the Grand National with Aldaniti. During the race Aldaniti put a bad start behind him and ran the race of his life, beating the much fancied Spartan Missile. The race was watched by millions on live television and Aldaniti was now a Grand National legend.

Virtually overnight both horse and jockey became celebrities. When the duo returned to their home town of Findon they were greeted by an enormous, jubilant crowd. Within two years the sensational victory had been transformed into the film ‘Champions’ starring John Hurt as Bob Champion.

Unfortunately Aldaniti’s Grand National legend form did not last and the horse, although stronger and more confident, fell at the first hurdle of the 1982 Grand National.

After the Grand National

Aldaniti together with jockey Bob Champion and owner Josh Gifford at the stables.

In the years after the Grand National Aldaniti and Bob Champion remained important public figures raising awareness of cancer at numerous public appearances. Aldaniti passed away peacefully in 1997 at the age of 27, and was buried in the paddock where he had lived out his last days.