A NERVOUS Nigel Payne has told the behind the scenes story of a Grand National like no other.
Aintree’s PR man was closest to the action as an IRA bomb scare forced the Merseyside course to evacuate after two threats.
Payne recounts the moments officials were made to make some huge calls he describes as ‘horrendous discussions’, with Princess Anne and tens of thousands of punters on course.
Another infamous National is retold by Payne who was left to drive to Jenny Pitman’s Lambourn stable and tell her she would receive nothing for Esha Ness’s ‘win’ after the void 1993 race.
Fierce Pitman would be the last person Payne would have wanted to see early on a Sunday morning!
Throw in brilliant tales on National legend Earth Summit, the making of the modern Breeders’ Cup, Sir Peter O’Sullevan and many more, it’s one for lovers of what many know as the golden generation.
'Diaries of a Racing Man' by Nigel Payne MBE is available now and sales go towards the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust.
The Bomb Scare Extract
Earlier that week there had been IRA activity in the North West, and the M6 had been closed, so the police were on full alert.
We were really looking forward to Saturday and for the Princess Royal’s visit to commemorate the 150th running. She had also agreed to unveil a bronze of Peter O’Sullevan, Peter commenting it was looking away from the paddock for fear of frightening the horses.
He also said that it resembled Arthur Askey more than him – he’s right! Nerves started to jangle as the first runners with attendants donning smart Martell jackets.
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The Royal party had reached the paddock. I saw Charles Barnett with apprehension written all over his face.
We had received two coded bomb threats, one at 2.49 and the other at 2.52. Our bleepers were going crazy – we all formed up in his office right away where some pretty horrendous discussions were to follow.
The police assume total control in such situations and a total course evacuation was underway immediately – 'Operation Aintree' had commenced.
The Princess Royal was soon away in her helicopter, so that was one less thing to worry about at least.
Charles then had his very famous conversation with Des Lynam when he declared, 'everyone must leave, which includes you the BBC'.
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Jenny Pitman Extract
Peter Darsebury rang me late and told me I had to go down to Lambourn first to appease Jenny Pitman who was naturally upset about Esha Ness “winning” a void race.
She wanted recognition, not for her but for the horse and the connections. “You cannot concede anything at all.” said, Peter. “No prize money, no trophy, no winners rug and no name on the Roll of Honour boards.”
A horrid situation for everyone but as Peter explained once you conceded anything you were accepting a “winner” and there wasn’t one.
I arrived at Weathercock House at about 8.30 and was greeted by David Stait, Jenny’s husband. He told me Jenny had been crying lots and would be down in a while.
She came down about 10ish in her dressing gown and was clearly very upset. We then a had a sad and horrible hour or so where I had to explain why nothing could come to the connections as, in effect, it had never been run.
I speak to Jenny a lot now. We get on famously but never do either of us ever mention the 1993 Martell Grand National and Monday’s aftermath.
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