Hedgehunter Grand National Wins
- 2005 - ridden by Ruby Walsh trained by Willie Mullins
Running in the Grand National on multiple occasions is a feat in itself, even if the horse doesn’t manage to win the race. However, when you combine a win with numerous runs, that is where you begin to move into the territory of being a Grand National hero, and Hedgehunter can undoubtedly be described as that.
Foaled on January 25, 1996, he spent his whole career based at the Willie Mullins yard. Throughout, it is fair to say that he wasn’t a huge success, with just five career wins from 40 starts, but of course, that doesn’t matter when you go and win a big race such as the Grand National.
This is precisely what he did in 2005 when coming home to win by a wide margin of 14 lengths. That was his second attempt at the race, he would go on to run another three times in it, giving him a total of five appearances. For that alone, he is special, add in the win, and he becomes one of the most popular Grand National runners we have ever had.
|2008||13||-||11-12||Ruby Walsh||Willie Mullins|
|2007||9||-||11-12||Ruby Walsh||Willie Mullins|
|2006||2||£149,730||11-12||Ruby Walsh||Willie Mullins|
|2005||1||£406,000||11-1||Ruby Walsh||Willie Mullins|
|2004||Fence 30 - Fell||-||10-12||David Casey||Willie Mullins|
Winner Of The 2005 Grand National
Anyone who tuned in to the final mile of the 2005 Grand National would think that Hedgehunter has just started the race and not run the first three miles. That is how well he was going and how well he won. It was a special day, a first Grand National for Willie Mullins, and a 14-length victory that looked all too easy for the winner.
Jockey Ruby Walsh was winning his second Grand National after winning the race in 2000, and had a simple and easy task from the final flight to the winning post and was able to celebrate as he crossed the line.
There was plenty of confidence around the horse prior to the race, and he was sent off as the 7/1 joint-favourite in the race, alongside Cloudy Lane, who had been the favourite for a long time until the money came for Hedgehunter. Twelve months prior, Hedgehunter fell towards the end of the race, and looking at his jumping this time around, he indeed learnt a lot from that run.
Rain in the days before the race was a big help to him too. He prefers a bit of cut in the ground, which is what he got, and there was a number of horses who were not guaranteed to stay the trip, which made things tougher for them and gave even more of an advantage to Hedgehunter.
Celebrations afterwards were great, but many immediately turned their attention to the race that would be ran in 2006. He won like a class individual, had course form, and the big question was could Hedgehunter win back-to-back Grand National races?
Five Grand National Attempts
In 2006, Hedgehunter was back for more. He had a lot of weight on his back, but despite that, there was a lot of confidence about his chances in the race. Sent off as the 5/1 joint-favourite, which means he was a shorter price to win in 2006 than when he did in 2005, confidence was very high.
He travelled well again, but the weight told towards the end of the race, and Hedgehunter was unable to reel in the winner, Numbersixvalverde. This was still a very strong run to finish second in the contest and a gallant showing that gave this horse much more public admiration, despite the defeat.
At this time, after the 2006 run, Hedgehunter had run three times in the race, falling on his first attempt, winning the second and then finishing second in the third. At this point, he was slowly on the decline but still managed another two attempts to win the race. He finished 9th in 2007, and his final attempt, which was also the final run of his career, saw him finish 13th in 2008.
As his career came to an end, Hedgehunter finished with five runs in the Grand National, four completions, one victory and one second-place finish. Those runs showed him to be a hugely popular horse, one that was very durable and was loved by the public. He will go down as being one of the most loved Grand National winners for this, and his exploits in the race won’t be forgotten.
Hedgehunter’s Early Years
Hedgehunter began life in the Willie Mullins yard, and to start his racing career, he ran in national hunt flat races. These are over two miles, so shorter than ideal, and after running in four of them, he was unable to get a win but did manage to finish second in them all.
When upped in trip to three miles, after running mainly over two miles, Hedgehunter recorded his first victory, winning a maiden hurdle by 20 lengths. That was the first indication he was a strong stayer, and we saw that again when he went chasing.
He failed to win over shorter trips, but when upped to over three miles, he was able to win again, this all set up for what would happen later in his career, over extreme trips. The first time we saw Hedgehunter in a big race was at the 2003 Cheltenham Festival. He ran in the four-mile National Hunt Chase but could only finish 7
Hedgehunter’s Big Race Wins
From 40 races in his career, Hedgehunter won just five times, which is a little disappointing for a horse of this quality. Of those, just two can be considered by race wins, and they both came within a couple of months.
The first was a Grade Three success in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse. This came in February 2005 and was his prep race for the Grand National. It came after the race weights were revealed, so he could run well and not have his handicap mark affected, something he did as he won.
His 2005 Grand National victory will always stand out, though, as being the very best in his career. A winning distance of 14 lengths adds even more prestige to his success and the legacy he created.