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Francis Still Remembered for Extraordinary Devon Loch Loss

The passing of Dick Francis at the age of 89 this weekend brings to an end a life that saw the mild mannered Royal jockey and best-selling author achieve tremendous success in two very different fields, writes Elliot Slater.

Author of more than 30 popular novels based on the world of horse racing, some of which were later made into movies, Francis used to set himself the task of writing a book a year and saw his stories sell more than 60 million copies in many different languages across the globe.

For dedicated racing fans though, Francis will always be remembered for the extraordinary moment when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory as he stormed clear in splendid isolation in the 1956 Aintree Grand National on the Queen Mother's horse Devon Loch.

Not more than ten strides from the line and with the Aintree crowd going wild at the prospect of a royal winner, Devon Loch inexplicably jumped into the air and belly-flopped to the ground, allowing ESB to coming plodding past to land the world's greatest steeplechase.

Over the years many theories have been put forward as to why Devon Loch suddenly broke stride and sprawled to the ground. Some suggest the noise of the crowd was so great that the gelding completely lost his concentration. Others say he may have jumped a shadow and some even think he might have been zapped by a stun gun. We shall never know.

Francis, who passed away peacefully at his home in the Cayman Islands with his family by his side, was never able to come to terms with losing the Grand National in such circumstances. The incident however, drew a memorable response from the Queen Mother who, when asked about the extraordinary defeat, just smiled and answered: "Well, that's racing."

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