By Tivyside reporter

Although the Grand National at Aintree next Saturday (April 4) has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis racing enthusiasts in west Wales are celebrating the 35th anniversary of Cardigan-born jockey Hywel Davies winning on 50/1 outsider Last Suspect.

Saturday, March 30, 1985, is a date never to be forgotten by Hywel Davies fans in the Cardigan area after the native of the town who attended the local secondary school, established himself in the annals of National Hunt racing with victory in arguably the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet.

It was nothing short of a miracle that the 28-year-old jockey was able to compete in the big race as some months earlier he very nearly lost his life after a stomach-churning last fence fall on Solid Rock at Doncaster.

In an ambulance on the way to hospital Davies stopped breathing a number of times and was resuscitated by the racecourse medical officer.

And it was doubtful whether the 11-year-old enigmatic Last Suspect would even be in the race after owner Anne Duchess of Westminster was in favour of withdrawing him.

The horse was considered to be stubborn after pulling himself up in his previous outing at Worcester.

Trainer Tim Forster whose yard was at Letcombe Bassett in Oxfordshire – Davies was first jockey at the stable for eight years –was in full agreement with the Duchess.

But a telephone call changed events surrounding the 1985 Grand National.

The Duchess was under the dryer at her hairdresser when told by Capt Forster’s secretary that Hywel Davies was on the line and it was very urgent.

The loquacious Welshman told her he was confident Aintree would suit the horse whose jumping and stamina were unquestioned.

Eventually the Duchess was persuaded to change her mind, and the rest as they say, is history.

Two fences from home Last Suspect’s chance of winning appeared to have gone as Mr. Snugfit, ridden by Phil Tuck for Mick Easterby, took up the running and over the last looked to have the race at his mercy.

But after a few slaps down the shoulder with the persuader Last Suspect began to run, his tail swishing as he sprinted past Mr. Snugfit in the final 100 yards and as they crossed the line Davies punched the air in triumph.

Afterwards Capt Tim Forster said: “It was a brilliant ride both physically and mentally. Last Suspect is a very difficult customer and it was a classic effort from a person who really knew his horse.”

There was euphoria in Cardigan where the unthinkable happened when two pubs ran dry.

Looking back at the race 63-year-old Davies of Ashbury in Oxfordshire said: “When we jumped the last and I saw Mr Snugfit up ahead I knew we would win.”

A few weeks later Cardigan came to a standstill with schools closing for the day and thousands lining the streets as the local hero was given a civic reception.

“At the time it meant as much to me as actually winning the National,” he said.

After a glittering 17-year career when riding 761 winners, he retired in 1994.