There has probably never been a horse who jumped more fences on the Grand National course than the Halewood International-owned Amberleigh House, who handed the late Ginger McCain a record-equalling fourth Grand National victory in 2004 when getting up in the closing stages under a perfectly-timed ride from Graham Lee.
Over five seasons, Amberleigh House successfully negotiated 259 fences on the Grand National course.
The 22-year-old son of Buckskin was born in Ireland and trained for the early part of his career by Irish handler Michael Hourigan. In 2000, Ginger McCain bought Amberleigh House on behalf of John Halewood, founder and driving force of the drinks firm Halewood International.
Amberleigh House made his Grand National debut in 2001, when he was unfortunately taken out of the race at the Canal Turn on the first circuit as the riderless Paddy’s Return caused a melee.
He landed a first victory for the new connections in the 2001 Becher Chase at Aintree, causing a 33/1 upset and providing Ginger with his first success over the Grand National fences since Red Rum’s recording-breaking third Grand National victory in 1977.
Over the subsequent years, Amberleigh House became a regular over the famous fences at Aintree Racecourse. Narrowly missing the cut for the 2002 Grand National, the gelding instead lined up in the Topham Chase and came home a staying-on ninth. After finishing second in the 2002 Becher Chase, Amberleigh House took part in the Grand National for a second time in 2003 and ran excellently when third to Monty’s Pass.
Amberleigh House was never better than during the 2003/04 jump season, second by a short-head in the 2003 Becher Chase and then, at the age of 12, coming from well off the pace to capture the 2004 Grand National in great style under Graham Lee by three lengths from Clan Royal.
It was a day to remember for John Halewood who said at the time: “I told everyone Amberleigh House would win, and there will be no shortage of celebrations. It’s the best day of my life.” Although he never scaled those heights again, Amberleigh House ran at Aintree four more times – truly remarkable for a horse entering his teenage years. He was fifth in the 2004 Becher Chase, 10th in the 2005 Grand National and seventh in the 2005 Becher Chase. His racing swansong came in the 2006 Grand National at the age of 14, when he was pulled up before the 21st of the 30 fences.
Amberleigh House entered a well-earned retirement and now spends his days at the National Stud in Newmarket, where he is a star attraction for all visitors and laps up the copious amounts of Polo mints he is given. Brian O’Rourke, managing director of the National Stud, explained: “Amberleigh House is a huge draw on the public tours of the National Stud.
“We have about 25,000 people come through the gates here each year and everybody can associate with a Grand National winner. Of course, we mostly have Flat horses here but everybody knows Amberleigh House.
“He is so popular on the tours that I think he must get more Polo mints than carrots every day! It’s unbelievable how popular he is.
“It is great that we have him here and we are very fortunate to look after him. Amberleigh House goes up to Aintree every year for the parade of former winners on Grand National Day and helped launch the Crabbie’s Grand National last year.”