Many Clouds produced an exceptional performance to win the Grand National by one-and-three quarters of a length from the Tom George-trained Saint Are, with Monbeg Dude a further six lengths back in third while Alvarado finished fourth for the second year running.
The Cloudings gelding gave a trend-busting run to take the £561,300 first prize.
Trend followers were hiding behind their sofas as the eight-year-old put a number of trends to the sword.
Many Clouds, who won at a starting price of 35.9 with betfair, was the first eight-year-old to win since the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bindaree won the world’s most famous horse race in 2002, with What’s Up Boys, another eight-year-old, in second.
The win was the finest weight-carrying performance since the legendary Red Rum carried 12 stone to victory in 1974 as a nine-year-old, with the Tommy Carberry-ridden 11-year-old L’Escargot in second, the ten-year-old Charles Dickens in third and Spanish Steps in fourth.
Many Clouds also dispelled the trends of a horse winning the National after finishing in the first five last time out and that pattern of having a Great British or French-bred stallion. The gelding’s stallion is the Irish-bred Cloudings.
The horse has been described as a warrior with a big future following his first Grand National win.
The eight-year-old is a warrior you could take to war. The horse never leaves a stone unturned. His age gives him a big future and he has already been aimed at the race in 2016, with a run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup completely ruled out.
As the race got under way, the Brian Hughes-ridden Ely Brown, the Phillip Hobbs-trained Gas Line Boy and the Scottish Grand National winner Al Co all ended up coming to grief at the first fence.
Al Co is being lined up for a tilt at defending his Scottish Grand National crown on Saturday. Trainer Peter Bowen confirmed the ten-year-old, along with stablemate Edmund Kean, would run in the race.
The current holder of the crown was said to have taken nothing out of himself after unseating jockey Denis O’Regan and going on to jump seven or eight fences as a loose horse.
Al Co is currently a 16/1 chance, with Edmund Kean generally a 33/1 shot. The market is led by the Tony Martin-trained Galant Oscar, third to The Druids Nephew in the Grade Three Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham festival, and Broadway Buffalo, who ran a terrific race in the Listed Toby Balding National Hunt Chase over four miles.
In the Grand National, the ten-year-old Irish-trained Rubi Light blundered and unseated jockey Andrew Lynch at the third obstacle. The luckless eight-year-old Corrin Wood wasted away his chance at the same fence as the mistake brought the Donald McCain-trained gelding to a standstill.
The youngest horse in the race – seven-year-old Unioniste – fell at the fifth, while the French-trained River Choice went at the sixth.
For Unioniste, trainer Paul Nicholls wrote on his website and simply said that the gelding could be out again in the Gold Cup at Sandown, if the ground does not dry up.
The young horse was sixth of 29 in the Grade Three Hennessey Gold Cup on seasonal debut, finishing 24 lengths behind none other than Many Clouds at Newbury in November over three miles and two furlongs.
The John Hales-owned charge was next seen winning the Class Two Handicap Chase at Sandown over three miles and 110 yards on soft ground in early January, beating ten rivals and runner-up Bertie Boru by ten lengths, with former Hennessey Gold Cup winner, the Nicky Henderson-trained Triolo D’Alene a further two-and-three quarter lengths back in third.
Unioniste returned to Newbury in February in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase over three miles on soft ground, but was completely blown away, as were the rest of the field, by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree. Nicholls’ charge eventually finished ten-and-a-half lengths adrift of the winner and three-and-a-half lengths behind the Venetia Williams-trained Houblon Des Obeaux.
In the Grand National, the 17/2 chance Balthazar King fell heavily at the Canal Turn with the Ruby Walsh-ridden Ballycasey crashing in to the Phillip Hobbs-trained gelding.
The horse was still being tended to as the field were waved around the fence on the second circuit.
Balthazar King is recovering in equine hospital with broken ribs, but jockey Richard Johnson told reporters that Balthazar King has come through the first night fine.
The Rainbow Hunter, The Druids Nephew – who was travelling well – and Portrait King were the only other fallers in the race and all returned unscathed.
The Druids Nephew is another that could turn up in the Gold Cup at Sandown. The horse has been superbly handled by trainer Neil Mulholland since moving to the Wiltshire-based trainer at the beginning of the season and was an easy winner on seasonal debut in a Huntingdon handicap chase in October over three miles, beating three rivals by 12 lengths.
The eight-year-old went in to many notebooks following that win, with the horse being potentially well handicapped. A second behind the Nicholls-trained Sam Winner at Cheltenham in October confirmed the horse’s wellbeing in the Grade Three Murphy Group Handicap Chase over three miles, three-and-a-half furlongs on soft ground, with The Druids Nephew finishing 25 lengths in front of subsequent Grand National runner-up Saint Are.
The King’s Theatre gelding was next seen in the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, eventually finishing fifth of the six runners and beaten 16 lengths behind Saphir Du Rheu. This was a race that was looked on as prep for the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Confidently ridden by jockey Barry Geraghty, The Druids Nephew always looked in control in the three mile, one furlong contest, eventually seeing off the attentions of the Henry De Bromhead-trained Grand Gesture, Irish raider Gallant Oscar and the seven-year-old Indian Castle.
Next year’s Grand National already looks to have the make-up of a classic given the runs of the eight-year-olds, The Druids Nephew and Ballycasey, who was going well for jockey Walsh before being brought down by the stricken Balthazar King.
In the same age group the Warren Greatrex-trained Dolatulo, Spring Heeled and Owega Star all managed to finish at the back of the field, with outstanding performances from the Tony McCoy-ridden Shutthefrontdoor, who finished fifth, and eventual winner Many Clouds.
The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Lord Windermere, was one of eight runners who could not give any more in the race and were pulled up.
Former Blackpool Tower owner Trevor Hemmings was winning his third National.
Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, and the Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs have already claimed Grand National glory for the genial owner.
The race was completed in a time of eight minutes and 56 seconds, the fastest run national since the win of Mr Frisk in 1990.