Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has landed his first ever Grand National winner in a thriller of a race, as seasoned campaigner Neptune Collonges stayed on best of all to land National Hunt racing’s greatest prize, under jockey Daryl Jacob.

16/1 shot Sunnyhillboy, under jockey Richie McLernon, set off for home in the 2012 Grand National and looked for a time to be the likely winner, but Neptune Collonges stayed on bravely to land the race by the tightest winning margin in the race’s long history – a nose.

An emotional Daryl Jacob said of winning the 2012 Grand National: “You can’t beat this. I was on a tough horse and I said to Paul [Nicholls] that one day I would ride you a National winner. That was two years ago and now I’ve done it.”

Nicholls, the newest Grand National winning trainer, said: “He’s probably the best horse we’ve run in the race. “He’s got great form, he’s been placed in Gold Cups, he stays, he’s genuine and Daryl gave him a fantastic ride when you analyse where he went… it’s absolutely brilliant.

The Grand National result effectively ends Nicky Henderson’s hopes of becoming Champion trainer, in what has been an intense battle, full of twists and turns.

In winning the 2012 Grand National, Neptune Collonges becomes only the third grey horse to land the Aintree showpiece race, after The Lamb in 1868 and 1871, and Nicolaus Silver in 1961.

Neptune Collonges was sent off a 33/1 chance, but the big story in the run up to the 2012 Grand National was the Ted Walsh trained Seabass, who was backed down from as big as 25/1 to be sent off as the 8/1 joint favorite under the talented Katie Walsh. There may have been serious stamina doubts about the horse, but Seabass and Katie Walsh put in a strong effort to finish third – the best ever performance for a female jockey.

Last year’s Grand National winner Ballabriggs put in a gallant effort to finish sixth.

Some sad news also emerged from the 2012 Grand National, as last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Synchronised fell at Becher’s Brook early in the race and did not survive the fall. The other fatality was According To Pete. Jockey Noel Fehily was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

The 2012 Grand National result in full:

1st – #4 Neptune Collonges (FR) – 33/1
2nd – #26 Sunnyhillboy (IRE) – 16/1
3rd – #13 Seabass (IRE) – 8/1 (JF)
4th – #19 Cappa Bleu (IRE) – 16/1
5th – #37 In Compliance (IRE) – 100/1