Maori Venture Grand National Wins
- 1987 - ridden by Steve Knight trained by Andy Turnell
A one-time runner in the Grand National, and one-time winner, Maori Venture ended his career in the best possible way by winning a huge race and being retired a day later so that he could enjoy life after racing. Although not overly fancied on the day, the story of Maori Venture was a nice one, especially through his owner Jim Joel, who loved the race, and had tried for 30 years to win it but failed to do so.
Foaled in 1976, the horse was trained by Andrew Turnell, and in the Grand National, he was ridden by Steve Knight. Breeder Dai Morgan was the person who gave the horse his name. He was a former rugby player, who moved to New Zealand to play the sport, which is the home of the Maori, and always referred to his time playing there as a Maori venture, hence the name of this horse.
Winner Of The 1987 Grand National
Two horses dominated the 1987 Grand National, and neither were Maori Venture, he was one of the quieter horses in the race, not expected to get involved. However, the two big guns struggled, Dark Ivy suffered a fatal fall at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit, while West Tip, who had won the race 12 months earlier, was unable to really get involved because of the additional weight he had to carry and would ultimately come fourth.
Despite going into the race with questions over his jumping, Maori Venture was pretty good on the way round, giving his rider nothing too much to worry about, and when the end of the race came, he was able to make a serious challenge.
The long-time leader Lean Ar Aghaidh was beginning to tire, and he had two horses behind him that were gaining, Maori Venture and The Tsarevich. These two flanked the leader as they went over the last fence, and both managed to get past him at the same time. Maori Venture got a lead, but The Tsarevich was seemingly going a little better than him. However, the winner dug deep, and despite travelling well for a short period, The Tsarevich simply had no answer and had to settle for second place.
The winning distance was five lengths, while the brave long-term leader Lean Ar Aghaidh was a further four lengths back in third.
While the win on the day was great, over the next couple of days, the story surrounding his owner came out and made things even more special. Unfortunately, Jim Joel owned the horse and could not watch the race as he was mid-flight between South Africa and the UK.
However, the Grand National was a race that was very close to his heart. It was the one he wanted to win and first tried to do so in 1957. Thirty years later, he finally got his victory at 92 years old, and the public was genuinely warm and very pleased about his success.
He arrived in the UK and celebrated the victory in grand style a day later. It was here where he announced that Maori Venture would be immediately retired from racing, giving Joel the pleasure of winning the race, so he allowed the horse to go and enjoy the rest of his time in the field.
When his owner passed away, Maori Venture was left to Steve Knight, the jockey who rode him to Grand National success, and he gave the horse a home for the rest of his life until he died aged 24, in the year 2000.
Of course, the race is all about the horse that won the race and the trainer and jockey involved, but sometimes the owner is also the focus, and this is certainly one of those moments.
Maori Venture’s Big Race Wins
The Grand National was the biggest day of Maori Venture’s career, and in many ways, it was always going to be that because he was bought with staying chase races in mind. His race path was clear, this was the type of race he would be running in, assuming that he could get to the top.
Over the years, that is precisely what happened, and he would go on to give Jim Joel his best ever day in racing when he landed the Aintree showpiece.
Elsewhere, big race wins didn’t really happen for Maori Venture, though there was a big staying handicap at Newbury that he won not once but twice during his career. This was the Mandarin Handicap Chase, a race over three miles and two furlongs, an ideal stepping stone to the Grand National.
He first won the race in 1984 during his younger years and would be back in 1987 to win it on his way to Grand National success, though, of course, the day at Aintree in April is the biggest of those wins.