Andy Turnell entered the racing world as a jockey before a family tragedy moved him from that sphere and into the world of training. Unfortunately, Andy’s father died in 1982, who was a trainer at the time, and Andy decided that the timing was right for him to move away from riding and go into training.
He took over the yard license and had a good level of success from the start. His biggest day came at Aintree in the Grand National, when he won the 1987 race with Maori Venture. More success came in the 1990s, a period that can be described as his best, where he won multiple good races and trained Birds Nest, a horse described by many as the best to never win a Champion Hurdle, given his record elsewhere.
His training career continued, having tried out yards in both the north and south, but he struggled to have the same kind of success. In 2013 Andy suffered a stroke but kept going until 2015, when he handed the license over to his assistant, Sally Randell.
Sadly, in the early part of 2022, aged 73, Andy Turnell passed away.
Andy Turnell Grand National Wins
- 1987 - Maori Venture ridden by Steve Knight
|1995||Country Member||Fence 1 - Fell||-||Luke Harvey|
|1992||Kittinger||Fence 24 - Refused||-||Ian Lawrence|
|1988||Tracys Special||Fence 21 - Pulled Up||-||Steve Knight|
|1987||Tracys Special||6||-||Simon McNeill|
|1987||Maori Venture||1||£64,000||Steve Knight|
|1986||Tracys Special||Fence 9 - Fell||-||Steve Knight|
|1972||Limeburner||Fence 23 - Pulled Up||-||Bill Rees|
|1972||Bullocks Horn||Fence 10 - Refused||-||Richard Smith|
Only Grand National Winner With Maori Venture
The biggest day of Andy Turnell’s training career came in the Aintree Grand National, a race that had eluded him as a jockey but one that he won quite early on in his training career. Overall, it wasn’t a hugely successful race for him, of the eight runners he saddled in the race, just two managed to complete it, and they both did so in the same year, 1987, when he also had Tracys Special finish 6th.
But that day was all about Maori Venture, a horse who showed great staying power to get up the run in better than those around him and come away to record a five-length success. A horse who went into the race with questions about his jumping did well on the day, and after proving himself in many long-distance chase events over a couple of years prior to his National tilt, there was no stopping him at the end of the race.
Lean Ar Aghaidh was leading the race almost all the way and did a great job of taking on the field. However, as we approached the final two fences, those behind were travelling better and seemingly ready to pounce. At the last fence, Maori Venture and The Tsarevich both challenged and went past the long-time leader, this was now a two-horse race as West Tip, winning in 1986, was unable to get on terms in fourth.
The Tsarevich was travelling better, it seemed, though there was no quit in Maori Venture and jockey Steve Knight, who kept going all the way to the line. The Tsarevich simply could not reel them in, and Maori Venture extended his winning margin to five lengths at the line, winning the race at a price of 28/1.
Owner Jim Joel had been trying to win the Grand National for 30 years, and this was the horse that finally gave him his first race victory at 92. In the celebrations a day later, Joel announced that he would retire his horse immediately so that he could enjoy the remainder of his life in the field.
Therefore, we never saw the horse defend his title or race again, but winning the Grand National in great style, for a man who really wanted it, was more than enough to gain a well-deserved retirement.
The Story Of Birds Nest
It is impossible to think and talk about Andy Turnell without spending time focusing on the achievements of Birds Nest. Named as the most incredible horse to never win a Champion Hurdle, he was racing at a time when the two-mile hurdling division was probably as strong as it had ever been. Night Nurse, Monksfield and Sea Pigeon were just some of the names during his era, showing how strong the Champion Hurdle fields were during that time.
The horse won an incredible 16 races, including the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Bula Hurdle three times, the Scottish Champion Hurdle twice and the Kempton Christmas Hurdle once. He ran a remarkable six times in the Champion Hurdle, placing twice, and given the strength of the races, plus the fact he was so good elsewhere, it seems pretty clear that he would have won a Champion Hurdle in another era.
Turnell guided him to some fantastic days out, with multiple wins at the top level, but the Champion Hurdle eluded them throughout his excellent racing career.
Famous Horses Trained By Andy Turnell
Here are some of the bigger names trained by Andy Turnell during his career.