Photographs: 12 colour
Publication: February 9 2023
L’Escargot was a wonder horse, one of only two to have scaled the twin peaks of steeplechasing: the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National. He won on the biggest stages in Britain and Ireland – and on one of the biggest in the USA. His victories spanned nine seasons. He triumphed on the flat, over hurdles and over fences, and at distances from two miles to the National’s gruelling four miles and 856 yards.
When he surged clear of Red Rum – the best Aintree horse ever – to claim victory in the National on that strange, anti-climactic day in 1975, it was one of the most dramatic acts of party-pooping in the history of sport. Yet, for those who had managed his destiny since 1966 from a base on the edge of The Curragh, it meant the fulfilment of a decades-old ambition.
Despite L’Escargot’s remarkable achievements, his name – wildly inappropriate as it was – has largely faded from memory. Looking back, even Ginger McCain, Red Rum’s trainer, felt L’Escargot did not receive the credit he was due. Now, at last, No Snail tells the story of this extraordinary, uncomplaining warrior and elevates him to his rightful place in horse racing’s pantheon.
About the author: David Owen is a former sports editor of the Financial Times, for which he worked for twenty years in the USA, Canada, France and Great Britain. A leading authority on the Olympic movement, he contributes regularly to the insidethegames.biz website. His previous horseracing book, Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset, won the Dr Tony Ryan Book Award. His other books include Thomi Keller: A Life in Sport, Rain Starts Play and A Short History of Cricket at Everdon Hall.