A 6/4 shot to live...
40 years on from his fairytale win in the 1981 Grand National, cancer’s greatest survivor Bob Champion CBE is still fighting the fight...

To date the Bob Champion Cancer Trust has raised in excess of £15 million towards cancer research. It has been a major funder in building two leading research facilities with the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey, and the Bob Champion Research and Education Building at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk. Research and clinical trials have played a significant role with the clinical and scientific breakthroughs into male cancers within the last 40 years.

Hover over each number for the facts.

Pinch and zoom the track on mobile devices.


1. The Start

In May 1979 jockey Bob Champion is diagnosed with testicular cancer which has spread to the lungs and is given three to six months to live without treatment. He has his testicle removed and starts eight months intensive chemotherapy treatment.

2. 4 Miles and 4 Furlongs

After a gruelling treatment schedule, Bob goes to Sandown in November 1979 to witness Aldaniti sustain a bad tendon injury on the racecourse. It seems likely that neither will survive.

3. Going to Post

Bob leaves hospital in January 1980 and later that year goes to the US to recuperate. Aldaniti is back in training with Josh Gifford for owners Nick and Valda Embiricos.

4. Fence 1

In 1981, Bob and Aldaniti line up for the Aintree Grand National, the world’s greatest race – against all the odds, they complete racing’s greatest fairytale. Bob says: “I rode this race for all the people suffering from cancer and for all those who care for them. My only wish is that my winning shows them there is always hope and battles can be won. I hope it will encourage others to face their illness with fresh spirit.”

5. Fence 2

1982 Bob Champion retires from jump racing. In the same year he is awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

6. Fence 3

1983 The Bob Champion Cancer Trust is founded. Its mission: To raise funds for research into testicular cancer and lymphoma and later prostate and male cancers.

7. Fence 4

1983 The film Champions, a True Story starring John Hurt is released to critical acclaim.

8. Fence 5 – The One before Bechers

1984 The first Aldaniti Ball is held at The Dorchester Hotel in London. It is held biennially until 2006 raising over £1 million.

9. Fence 6 – Bechers Brook

1984 Research supported by the Trust develops more intensive chemotherapy for very advanced testicular cancer.

10. Fence 7 – Foinavon

1986 The Bob Champion Cancer Research Unit within the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton is opened by Bob and Aldaniti.

11. Fence 8 – The Canal Turn

1986 Early studies develop carboplatin chemotherapy, which has less side effects and remains part of the standard of care today.

12. Fence 9 – Valentines

1987 The Aldaniti Aintree Sponsored Walk is held. Aldaniti walks the 250 miles from Buckingham Palace to Aintree Racecourse, with a different rider each mile and each raising over £1000 a mile. Riders include HRH The Princess Royal, John Hurt and Michael Aspel along with members of the public and cancer sufferers. £820,000 is raised.

13. Fence 10

1988 A charity Polo Match is held at Ham Polo with HRH Prince Charles riding. £60,000 is raised.

14. Fence 11

1989 – The first Bob Champion Christmas card is launched – these cards have raised around £820,000 to date. Clinical trial results confirm impact of both treatment intensification and carboplatin in testicular cancer.

15. Fence 12

1989 The Aintree Charity Race is held on Grand National Day and Bob comes second. £60,000 is raised. The Trust supports trial of psychological therapy which shows patients with testicular cancers have considerable coping abilities.

16. The Melling Road

1992 The Bob Champion Lounge at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, a special leisure area for those requiring long term in-patient care, is opened by Bob and Aldaniti. The first studies of surveillance (observation) in early stage testicular cancer seminoma and low dose radiotherapy with carboplatin in metastatic seminoma begin - both have now become standard treatment.

17. Fence 13

1992 The Irish Road Show is held in conjunction with the Irish Cancer Society, with people sponsored to ride Aldaniti for every mile. This raises over £100,000.

18. Fence 14

1993 The Trust supports studies of fertility and heart, blood vessel and nerve damage from chemotherapy which has guided international long-term follow-up practice.

19. Fence 15 – The Chair

1994 The Aldaniti Sponsored Walk Road Show is held from Aintree to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Surrey. This raises over £160,000.

20. Fence 16 – The Water Jump

1996 Ride for Life, a sponsored walk on Aldaniti is held from Edinburgh Castle to Buckingham Palace where the pair are greeted by HM The Queen. This raises over £200,000.

21. Fence 17

1997 The Trust is involved in the only trial of advanced conformal radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer which reports a reduction in side effects. Pioneering technology begins development of more advanced intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) which is now in routine use.

22. Fence 18

1997 A Race for Life series of events is launched which includes a Grand Draw to be an owner for the day of a horse entered into the 1998 Grand National and culminating in a Race for Life charity race day at Windsor.

23. Fence 19

1997 Aldaniti dies in his paddock at home at the age of 27 which makes national headlines. Bob estimates that to date, Aldaniti has helped the charity raise £6 million.

24. Fence 20

2000 The Bob Champion Research Centre for Urological Cancers at the Royal Marsden in Surrey is opened in conjunction with the Institute of Cancer Research – it is the first male dedicated cancer research facility in Europe.

25. Fence 21 - The One before Bechers

2000 The first BCCT Tennis Tournament is held in Battersea Park in London. In total, this annual event has now raised over £150,000.

26. Fence 22 - Bechers Brook

2000 Genetic studies show breast cancer predisposition genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 may account for 5% of familial prostate cancers.

27. Fence 23 - Foinavon

2001 The first Winning Post Ball is held at The Park Lane Hotel in London – this raises £80,000.

28. Fence 24 – The Canal Turn

2005 Surveillance for early prostate cancer is reported as a successful way of avoiding unnecessary surgery or radiotherapy.

29. Fence 25 – Valentines

2009 Bob Champion visits all 60 racecourses in 60 days on his 60/60 Challenge with John Hurt joining him for the launch at the Royal Marsden in London – he raises £70,000.

30. Fence 26

2011 The first Aintree Legends Charity Race takes place on Grand National Day made up of Grand National winning jockeys – the three ‘Legends’ races over three consecutive years raise over £120,000. In this year, Bob is also awarded the prestigious Helen Rollason award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

31. Fence 27

2012 An Evening with Sir Henry Cecil is held in Newmarket. The auction of Frankel’s shoe amongst other items helps the evening raise £125,000. Preliminary results show safety of high dose short course IMRT radiotherapy in prostate cancer CHHiP Trial.

32. Fence 28

2013 Measurement of genetic fingerprints in blood found to predict outcome in metastatic prostate cancer.

33. The Melling Road

2014 The first Carols & Champagne concert is held at Chelsea Old Church. To date, this biennial event has raised in excess of £250,000.

34. Fence 29

2015 The Bob Champion Research & Education Building is opened at the University of East Anglia in Norfolk by Bob Champion. In the same year, the research group show that by genetic profiling that prostate cancer is a multi-focal disease and describe the evolutionary history of lethal disease.

35. Fence 30

2016 The Bob Champion Cancer Trust becomes the benefiting charity for the Shetland Pony Grand National, with the final held at Olympia. This has raised over £160,000 to date.

36. The Elbow

2017 The first Champions Willberry Charity Race is held at Cheltenham, with the second a year later at Epsom – these have raised over £100,000 to date.

37. The Winning Post

2018 International collaborations identify new cancer genes and relate these to cancer progression and potential new drug targets. International adoption of new four week short course IMRT radiotherapy for localised prostate cancer, with greater effectiveness, less side effects and improved convenience for patients. The CHHiP trial proves safety and efficacy of short course prostate IMRT which is now adopted internationally.

38. The Winners Enclosure

2019 The first Charity race day is held at Plumpton Racecourse. This raises over £110,000.

39. The Weighing Room

2019 Development of new genetic markers in urine to diagnose and predict aggressiveness of localised prostate cancer.

40. The Road Home

In 2020 Bob Champion takes part in ITV’s the Real Full Monty to raise awareness of male cancers and is awarded the CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours.


40 Facts across 40 years - Aintree Grand national - 4 Miles and 4 Furlongs

Clinical & Scientific Acknowledgments:

ICR Institute of Cancer Research
RMH Royal Marden Hospital

CRUK Cancer Research UK
British Prostate Group

Department of Health

        ©Reg Charities Act 1960 No. 1024664       Privacy Policy