Justifiably described by commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan as ‘the most sensational occurrence during the long history of the world’s most famous steeplechase’, the ‘race that wasn’t’ was run, albeit not officially, at Aintree on April 3, 1993. After a second false start, starter Keith Brown raised, but did not unfurl, his red recall flag, such that it could not be seen by recall man Ken Evans, stationed further down the course, and the majority of the field set off towards the first fence, oblivious to the recall.
Before the false starts, caused by a faulty catch on the starting gate, the start of the Grand National had already been delayed by the presence of animal rights protesters on the course near the first fence. Consequently, many of the thirty jockeys who sent off steadfastly resisted attempts by officials, and by the crowd, to stop the race; some of them pulled up at the end of the first circuit, but others went out into the country for a second time and seven completed the course.
‘Victory’ went to Esha Ness, trained by Jenny Pitman and ridden by John White, who beat Cahervillahow, Romany King and The Committee in what would have been the second fastest time in Grand National history. However, even as he was calling the runners home, O’Sullevan referred to ‘the race that surely never was’. He was right because, following a lengthy enquiry, the stewards had little choice but to declare the race void and it was never re-run.