The Grand National is one of the most famous races in the world and it is one which has a history of unforgettable moments and incidents.

Always near the top of the list, if not number one itself, is the story of Crisp – the Australian-bred chasing superstar who almost defied logic in the 1973 Grand National when he was agonisingly beaten by the legendary Red Rum.

Grand National

But, before we get to that memorable day itself, it is worth giving it some context when you look at the career of Crisp, who was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2013, before he was sent to tackle the four-and-a-half mile trip of the Grand National.

He had established himself as the leading chaser in Australia with victory in the Hiskens Steeplechase at Moonee Valley in 1969 and 1970, after which he was sent over to England to test his talent and exuberance.

It did not take long for Crisp to show that talent as he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1971. That race is run over just two miles, the minimum trip in National Hunt racing. With one big Festival race chalked off, the Gold Cup was next on the agenda in 1972, but he finished only fifth behind Glencaraig Lady, with the trip of three miles, two furlongs the reason for his failure to win.

Undeterred, Fred Winter trained the horse for the Grand National the following year when, despite being saddled with a top weight of 12st, the horse racing betting sent Crisp off as the 9/1 joint favourite to win. And, for about all of 10 yards, that seemed exactly what Crisp was going to do.

Allowed to set his own tempo out in front, you would be forgiven for thinking Crisp was racing as if they were only going to do one lap of the Grand National course, which even then was a couple of furlongs further than when he had won the Champion Chase.

Jockey Richard Pitman was in complete control of the race as Crisp built up a huge lead – the like of which you do not see in the Grand National these days. The only horse who seemed capable of laying down any sort of challenge was Red Rum, but even he was what seemed like miles behind with less than eight fences to jump.

However, as Crisp turned for home for the long run to the finish, you could see his stride start to shorten and, after jumping the second last, Pitman described it as a ‘balloon being pricked’ in terms of the horse’s stamina going.

Even then, Crisp still had a sizeable lead and it was the same when he jumped over the last with the same fluency and accuracy which had gone before. It was on the faltering charge to the line that Pitman admits he made a mistake in picking up his whip and letting go of the horse’s head. Crisp staggered for a few strides like a punch-drunk boxer before being straightened up past the elbow.

Red Rum was closing all the time as Crisp struggled for forward momentum. It seemed like Crisp was being tugged towards the winning post through extremely choppy waters while Red Rum was skipping through a paddling pool.

Just a few strides from the finish, Red Rum surged past to deny Crisp what would have been a deserved and thrilling victory in a course record time. Even now, watching the highlights of the race, you think Crisp is going to hold on and the winning post will come to his rescue. Maybe one day he will.