JOHN Buckingham, who steered 100-1 shot Foinavon to a sensational victory in the 1967 Grand National, has died at the age of 76.

Foinavon was the only horse to escape the melee at the 23rd fence caused by a loose horse, Popham Down.

Almost the entire field at Aintree was either brought down or badly hampered, but not Foinavon.

By the time the horse and rider reached the obstacle which now bears his name, there was a big enough gap for Mr Buckingham to steer his mount through.

Seizing the opportunity of a lifetime, the jockey and Foinavon negotiated the remaining fences without mishap and kept on to win the world's greatest steeplechase by 15 lengths.

It was Mr Buckingham's first ride in the race and neither owner Cyril Watkins nor trainer John Kempton were there to witness the unlikeliest of victories.

John Buckingham was born on July 10, 1940, at Five Ways, Hatton, near Warwick to Nancy Bewley and Thomas Buckingham.

He had a sister Ann, and two brothers, Tom and Ray. Ray is now 74 and still lives near Warwick.

Mr Buckingham went to school in Rowington near Warwick and at Woodford Halse, Daventry, before

beginning his apprenticeship aged 15 with Oxfordshire trainer Edward Courage.

He got his first National Hunt ride aged 16 on Royal Oak at Stratford in 1957 and two years later at Southwell he rode his first winner on Sahagun and went on to name his family home after the horse.

Mr Buckingham met office worker Ann Chater at a dance in 1964 and they married on September 10, 1966 at St John's Church, Leamington Spa, before moving to Chipping Warden near Banbury where they remained until his death.

The couple's eldest daughter, Laura, now 46, was born on October 21, 1970, while their youngest daughter Lucy, now 39, was born on December 12, 1977.

Mr Buckingham retired in 1971 as a jockey and became a jockey's valet.

He built up the business with his brother Tom over 30 years and sold it to fellow ex-jockey Chris Maude following Tom's death in 2001.

Mr Maude paid tribute to Mr Buckingham, saying he was a 'very kind, lovely man' who touched a lot of people's lives, and always loved returning to Aintree.

During his retirement Mr Buckingham also enjoyed playing golf and bowls.

Mr Maude recalled a story Mr Buckingham told him about the first time a fledgling Tony McCoy needed a valet's services in England for the first time.

He said: "When AP had his first ride in England, he didn't have any gear.

"John Buckingham lent him a pair of boots and said. 'You'll have to go some to fill these, young man - they were Peter Scudamore's - the rest, as they say, is history."

Mr Buckingham died earlier this month from pneumonia after suffering a lung condition.

Following a family funeral at Banbury Crematorium a celebration of Mr Buckingham's life will be held at St Peter and St Paul Church, Chipping Warden, on Friday, January 6, at 12.30pm.

Mr Buckingham leaves wife Ann, daughters Laura and Lucy and four grandchildren, Eliza, 21, Ellen, 18, Reggie, eight, and Henry, six.