Dream becomes a reality for the two Borders Golf Widows

Grand National winner One For Arthur is the special guest at Kelso with, from left, co-owner Debs Thomson, jockey Derek Fox, groom Mark Ellwood and co-owner Belinda McClung (picture by Toby Williams)
Grand National winner One For Arthur is the special guest at Kelso with, from left, co-owner Debs Thomson, jockey Derek Fox, groom Mark Ellwood and co-owner Belinda McClung (picture by Toby Williams)

It’s all still a bit surreal and bizarre for the Golf Widows – but they’re currently a couple of the most famous ladies in the country.

Borders twosome Belinda McClung and Debs Thomson are joint owners of One For Arthur, the racehorse who on Saturday became the first Scottish-trained winner of the Grand National since Rubstic back in 1979.

Trained by Lucinda Russell, of Milnathort, and ridden at Aintree by Derek Fox, the eight-year-old was fourth from last at the midway point of the world’s greatest steeplechase but, smoothly and clincially, weaved his way through a packed field on the outside to take command over the last two fences.

Since then, the country has been captivated by the story of the two friends who bought the horse to help occupy themselves at weekends while their husbands were away playing golf.

The ladies – who appeared on Good Morning Britain on Monday – had no serious ambitions at first of entering One For Arthur in a race as huge as the Grand National – but the dream has come true.

“We are absolutely delighted, over the moon, and couldn’t really have expected this,” said Debs, of Cessford, near Kelso. “It was actually a dream taking him there, and it’s reality now – the dream has come true, which is just amazing.”

Belinda, of Ancrum, said she had not realised what a big deal it was to have a runner in the National, and for their horse to go on and win it was remarkable.

Even though One For Arthur seemed to be out of contention for the almost the whole race, the ladies knew he was a strong possibility for success, having watched his ratings improve and his career blossom with interest.

He gave a strong performance in the Becher Chase and won at Kelso in October – which convinced them he might be a National contender. He then won the Classic Chase at Warwick – again with a late run from well back in the field.

At Aintree, when he came over the Melling Road, his team began to sense victory would be his.

“He just travelled so well and Derek (passed fit only five days earlier after wrist and collar bone injuries) gave him a fantastic ride,” said Debs. “I could not fault him. He just took his time, didn’t worry, and rode him beautifully.”

Belinda added: “I was delighted because he did exactly the same at Warwick. I could see the horses in front of him – all the jockeys were rowing away but Derek was just sitting, still as anything.

“Derek told me on Saturday night he knew he was going to win it when he came over the water jump with a circuit to go, because he knew how much horse he had under him.”

One For Arthur and his crew were special guests on Monday at Kelso’s Buccleuch Cup and Family Day meeting.

“We were just overwhelmed by the number of people who came to see him,” said Debs. “We couldn’t not parade him there, because we’re both Borders girls and it’s our local track. I call it my home track, and it’s my favourite track – although Aintree might be now!”

One For Arthur is likely to parade at the Scottish Grand National at Ayr and the Perth Festival before “going on holiday,” said Belinda, while it was possible he may be back at Kelso in October.