Still hailed as ‘First Lady of Aintree’, Jenny Pitman will always be remembered as the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National. She did so in 1983 with the eight-year-old Corbiere, owned by Bryan Burrough and ridden by Ben de Haan, who repelled the fast-finishing Greasepaint to win by three-quarters of a length. Of course more recently in 2021 another woman, Rachael Blackmore, confounded the latest Racing Odds by becoming the first female jockey ever to win the Grand National.
A bright chestnut with a big white blaze, Corbiere, or ‘Corky’ as he was known at home, was apparently name after La Corbière Lighthouse on the island of Jersey. Although still in his first season over fences, Corbiere had demonstrated his Aintree credentials when winning the Coral Welsh National, over 3 miles 6 furlongs on soft going, at Chepstow the previous December. Consequently, despite shouldering st 4lb, he was sent off 13/1 fifth favourite, behind Grittar, Bonum Omen, Spartan Missile and Peaty Sandy, for his first attempt at the Grand National.
Once underway, Corbiere raced prominently throughout, jumping impeccably, and took the lead at the twenty-third fence, or ‘Foinavon’, as it is now known. He led again at the third-last fence and turning for home was one four horses still in serious contention. He jumped the final fence with a three-length lead over his nearest pursuer, Greasepaint, but in the end was all out to hold his rallying rival. Winning jockey Ben de Haan later said, ‘I knew there was another horse closing on the run-in, but I wasn’t worried; Corky picked up in the last couple of strides.’