Bob Champion: Grand National Legend
Bob Champion was born into a family with deep connections to the hunt and horseracing. From an early age Champion learnt the art of riding and went hunting with his father – a huntsman – and his sister.
Champion was a precocious talent and won his first horse race at the tender age of 15, and soon became a part of the National Hunt Racing circuit in England. Bob Champion’s touch with racehorses soon translated into wins in smaller National Hunt races, and he even spent several years running flat races in the United States before returning to Britain to fulfil his ambition of winning the Grand National.
Champion’s dream of winning the Grand National was slow to come true. The jockey raced in eight Grand Nationals but was unable to achieve a winning finish, yet he refused to give up his dream. The at the age of 31 Bob Champion discovered that he had testicular cancer and was given only a 40% chance of survival and six months to live.
Bob Champion, Grand National legend, refused to give in to the disease, and made the decision to continue training and racing. His goal was to enter and win the 1980 Grand National, however his treatment took a heavy toll on him and in 1980 Bob Champion almost died from septicaemia. Despite this setback Champion refused to give up and was soon back at training.
In 1981 Bob Champion, still in recovery and with his cancer now in remission, had the opportunity to ride Aldaniti at the Grand National. Many people believed that Aldaniti was ‘crocked’, and after a series of leg injuries few believed him capable of taking the Grand National.
Champion had faith in Aldaniti, and had marked him as a potential Grand National winner after riding the horse for the first time. On April 4th at the Grand National, Bob Champion and Aldaniti achieved one of the most famous Grand National victories winning the race by 4½ lengths.
The win at the Grand National was the making of Bob Champion. The heroic jockey went on to win around 500 races. He was awarded for his performances with an MBE, and went on to use his reputation to raise funds for cancer research.
Today Bob Champion Grand National legend’s cancer is in full remission and he spends his time involved in fundraising for cancer research and motivational speaking.