Plain Fence, Height: 4ft 6in, Width: 3ft
One of the fascinating things about the Grand National, and specifically its routing around the Aintree course, is that even the simplest of fences can pose difficulties to the horses.
Standing 4ft 6in tall and 3ft wide, Foinavon – named for reasons that will be revealed shortly – is actually one of the smallest fences on the National circuit.
But it’s positioning as the seventh and 23rd obstacle to be taken, reveals why it takes a number of fallers and – it comes immediately after Becher’s Brook, a fence which can be so disorientating that the horses have not fully gathered momentum again prior to their next jump.
History of Foinavon
Given its dimensions, the seventh and 23rd fence of the Grand National went under the radar for more than a century.
But then an incident in 1967 would see it rechristened as a ‘named’ fence on the Aintree track, and it has enjoyed greater prominence ever since.
Foinavon, a 100/1 outsider to win the race in ’67, was absolutely nowhere as the Grand National reached its 23rd fence.
But then all hell broke loose, as a loose horse – Popham Down – inexplicably veered to his right ahead of the fence, colliding with Rutherfords, whose jockey Johnny Leech was unseated in the melee.
The incident seemed to spook a number of horses, who fell to the ground and essentially blocked off the fence – bringing the race to an almost standstill.
Foinavon’s jockey, John Buckingham, had more time to survey the scene and picked an open spot for his horse to successfully jump clear, and in the blink of an eye he went from 22nd to leading the Grand National.
They went 30 lengths clear, and as the chaos at the 23rd fence resolved itself others remounted and gave chase. Foinavon, as expected, struggled with the trip and was idling before the finishing line, but he had just enough gas in the tank to see off 15/2 favourite Honey End and complete one of the most remarkable victories in Grand National history.
Some 17 years later, Aintree chiefs renamed the seventh and 23rd fence Foinavon….and the rest, as they say, is history.
Famous Fallers at Foinavon
As mentioned, aside from the episode in 1967, Foinavon is not the most prolific fence at Aintree in terms of fallers.
In 2018, two 20/1 shots – Captain Redbeard and The Dutchman – unseated their riders, and it’s a fence that has caught out some of the best jockeys in the business too: Richard Johnson (aboard Monkerhostin’, the 2007 joint favourite), Davy Russell (two-time Grand National winner) and Jim Culloty (winner of the 2002 Grand National with Bindaree) have all fallen at Foinavon.