The John Smith's Grand National has often been in the news for the wrong reasons, but today the outcome of the race was overwhelmingly positive - a fantastic win for Auroras Encore, and every horse and rider coming home safe and sound.
Auroras Encore, a rank outsider who went off at 66/1, gave a superlative performance to win the race nine lengths clear of Cappa Bleu.
The winning jockey, Ryan Mania, was riding in the race for the first time ever, while the horse's trainer, Sue Smith, became only the third lady to train the winner of the Grand National. Sue is the wife of Harvey Smith, former international showjumper.
“Coming to the second-last I was delighted because I realised I was going to be placed," said Ryan, 23, who was handy throughout then powered past the leaders Teaforthree and Oscar Time at the last.
“I heard the commentator say there was a loose horse behind me but I didn’t dare look round and just kept going," he added.
Ryan had previously given up his racing career and gone to work in a hunt kennels, but was tempted back into the sport by a job with Sue and Harvey Smith.
"Harvey has given me lots of tips about setting up for a fence and positioning in a race," Ryan said.
Sue Smith, 65, praised Ryan for his winning performance. “Ryan gave the horse such a good ride. We knew the ground was right, and we knew everything else was," she said.
"To finish in the first five would have been marvellous but this is something else."
Harvey Smith, who has won hundreds of titles during his international showjumping career, said that today's win bettered them all.
"This is the best, and I hope there’s more to come," said Harvey, 74.
After two years with two fatalities, the pressure was on for Aintree to delivery a safer race - and thankfully no horses or riders were seriously injured in the race.
A number of safety changes had been implented for the 2012 running, after the death of two horses the previous year. During the 2012 race, Synchronised broke a leg when running loose, and According To Pete was brought down by another horse.
Further improvements were made for this year, including changing the design of the fences to make them safer, with officials from the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare working alongside the British Horseracing Authority and Aintree.
"We are delighted that the changes seem to have contributed to a safe yet competitive race," said RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant. "We are grateful to Aintree and the BHA for working with us and making the improvements and we think that this constructive dialogue is the best way to improve the welfare of racehorses.
The race began at a sensible pace, jockeys were encouraged to pull up if they felt they had no chance, and only two horses fell (both were fine). With every horse and rider coming home safe and sound, it was the result Aintree and the racing industry had been hoping for.
World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: “This race was exciting and will be remembered for all the right reasons. We’re very pleased that all the horses and riders returned safely. Our number one concern with the Grand National was the numbers of fallers, so today is an excellent result."
However, Roly added that they would still like to see a further reduction of the field size to a maximum of 30.
1st Auroras Encore, Ryan Mania, Sue Smith
2nd Cappa Bleu, Paul Moloney, Evan Williams
3rd Teaforthree, Nick Scholfield, Rebecca Curtis
4th Oscar Time, Sam Waley-Cohen, M M Lynch
5th Rare Bob, Bryan Cooper, D Hughes