AINTREE, England -- Auroras Encore, a 66-1 long shot, won the Grand National Steeplechase by nine lengths Saturday in a race shadowed by a recent history of horse deaths.
All 40 horses in the world's most famous jumping race returned unscathed after only 17 finished the 4 1/2-mile course. Four horses died in the previous two editions of the grueling event, forcing organizers to modify the course -- softening high fences and improving landing areas and course irrigation.
Auroras Encore, ridden Ryan Mania, burst clear after jumping the last of 30 fences to finish ahead of Cappa Bleu, a 12-1 shot. Teaforthree led approaching the last fence but came in third.
"There are no words to describe it. I got a dream ride round, I couldn't believe my luck," said Mania, who was riding in the National for the first time. "I couldn't fault the horse. He loved every second of it. He was just class."
Sue Smith, the husband of former Olympic show jumper Harvey Smith, became only the third woman to train a National winner, following Jenny Pitman (1983, 1995) and Venetia Williams (2009).
"It's unbelievable," Smith said. "He gave him such a good ride. I knew the ground was right for him."
Katie Walsh was bidding to become the first female jockey to win the race but her mount, the favorite Seabass, ran out of steam in the closing stages. Two other well-regarded horses, On His Own and Colberts Station, were among the 23 that did not finish.