Who trained Aldaniti?
The fairy-tale story of Aldaniti and Bob Champion proved so inspirational that it spawned the 1984 Embassy Pictures film ‘Champions’, starring John Hurt, Edward Woodward and Jan Francis. In 1979, Champion, a leading National Hunt jockey, was diagnosed with testicular cancer and given six months to live. That same year, Aldaniti finished third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and second in the Scottish Grand National, but was sidelined with recurrent leg trouble until February, 1981.
Remarkably, by that stage, following a gruelling course of chemotherapy, Champion had recovered sufficiently to ride Aldaniti to victory at Ascot. The rest, as they say, is history. At Aintree, Aldaniti was sent off 10/1 second-favourite and took the lead towards the end of the first circuit, eventually coming home 4 lengths ahead of Spartan Missile for an emotional victory.
Emotional it may have been, but victory for Champion owed much to the loyalty of trainer Josh Gifford, who insisted that his position as stable jockey would be waiting for him when he recovered. Reflecting on his unlikely triumph, Gifford said, ‘We only kept Aldaniti in training to keep Bob’s pecker up really. It was touch and go every day he went out, we were scared to look around him or feel his legs in the evening. I was just waiting for the day I would have to call his owners and tell them he was a lost cause.’ He added, ‘But we got through it, Bob got through it and it was just as if it was meant to be. A fairy tale.’