A Big Long History of the Grand National

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A comprehensive history of the Grand National from its official beginning in the 1800’s. From paintings to photo finishes and radio commentary to internet broadcasting.

1839 GRAND NATIONALThe Grand National was run at Aintree for the first time on Tuesday, February 26 and a horse named Lottery took the honours. Captain Martin Becher was unseated from his mount, Conrad, when leading at the sixth fence on the first circuit and the fence, also the 22nd obstacle when jumped on the second circuit, subsequently became known as Becher’s Brook.
Charity was the first of 12 mares to win the National.
18431843 Grand National
The Grand National was first run as a handicap.
Matthew became the first Irish-trained winner when 27 chasers took part – the biggest field so far.
Abd-el-KaderAbd-El-Kader was the first dual winner of the race, following up his victory of the previous year. Six horses in all have been victorious twice with one, Red Rum, winning three times in the Grand National’s history.
Peter Simple, at the age of 15, became the oldest horse to win the Grand National, scoring for the second time following his initial victory in 1849.
George Stevens, the most successful jockey in the history of the race with five triumphs, gained his first victory on Freetrader. He followed up on Emblem (1863), Emblematic (1864) and The Colonel (1869 and 1870).
Old Grand Nationals1864
Emblematic prevailed the year after her full sister Emblem. In addition to being among a select group of only a dozen mares to have won this great race, they are the only full sisters to have been successful.
Winner The Lamb, who also struck in 1871, had the honour of becoming the first of only two greys to have succeeded. The other was Nicolaus Silver in 1961.
Zoedone Grand National Winner 18831883
Zoedone won the race in a time of 11 minutes and 39 seconds, one of the slowest times ever recorded. The field of 10 runners was the smallest in the history of the Grand National.
This year saw a remarkable success for Voluptuary, who had never jumped fences in public. When his racing career was over, he regularly appeared on the Drury Lane stage where he had to jump The Water, ridden by actor Leonard Boyne.
The 50th running of the Grand National at Aintree was won by 40/1 outsider Playfair.
Jockey Harry Barker recorded the amazing feat of finishing second in both the Grand National and the Derby. He rode Aesop at Aintree and Ravensbury at Epsom Downs.
Ambush II Grand National Winner 19001900
Winner Ambush II was owned by The Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII.
Manifesto ran in the Grand National for a record eighth time in 1904, finishing eighth as a 16-year-old. He previously won the contest twice in 1897 and 1899, came third on three occasions (1900, 1902 and 1903) and fourth in 1895. He also fell in 1896.
Kirkland, based in Pembrokeshire, became the first winner to be trained in Wales, and is still the only one.
Lutteur III 19091909
Lutteur III was the latest five-year-old to capture the Grand National – the fifth in all following Alcibiade (1865), Regal (1876), Austerlitz (1877) and Empress (1880). The current minimum age to be able to run is six.
Glenside prevailed in a remarkable renewal, being the only horse to complete the course without falling or being brought down. Three horses were subsequently remounted to finish the race.
Ally Sloper 1915 Grand National Winner1915
Ally Sloper became the first Grand National winner to be owned by a woman, Lady Nelson.
Lester Piggott’s grandfather Ernie rode the second of his two Grand National winners on Poethlyn, having previously crossed the line first on Jerry M seven seasons earlier. These two winners, together with 1893 scorer Cloister and 1899 victor Manifesto, share the record for the biggest weight carried to victory – 12st 7lb. Keith Piggott, Lester’s father, trained 1963 winner Ayala.
Troytown gave amateur rider Jack Anthony his third success, winning by 12 lengths in heavy ground. The race was worth a record £5,000. Algy Anthony, who in 1900 had ridden Ambush to victory, trained the winner.
At 13, Sergeant Murphy is the joint second oldest winner of the race. He shares the honour with Why Not in 1894. Sergeant Murphy became the first American-bred horse to win the Grand National.


Willie Watkinson recorded the first riding success for Australia. Sadly the Tasmanian born rider was killed at Bogside in Scotland less than three weeks later.
Sprig Grand National Winner 19271927
The first BBC radio commentary of the Grand National was broadcast by Meyrick Good and George Allison. They had to cope with 37 runners – the biggest field to date – and misty conditions, calling home favourite Sprig in a thrilling finish.

42 horses started and the race ended with just two finishers, with Tipperary Tim ahead of Billy Barton (who was remounted) – the least number of horses to complete.
Gregalach 1929 Grand National Winner1929
66 runners provided the biggest Grand National field ever and, for the second consecutive year, a 100/1 chance won when sevenyear- old Gregalach was successful.
Tom Rimell trained 50/1 chance Forbra to win the Grand National. His son Fred would train four winners of the race, a joint-record.
Golden Miller 1934 Grand National Winner Golden Miller became the only horse to win the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season. The winning time of 9m 20.4s created a new record which stood until Red Rum’s first victory in 1973. This was the only occasion that Golden Miller completed the Grand National course in five attempts.
Reynoldstown won for the second time after his initial success the year before – one of six dual scorers in the Grand National’s history. Red Rum, the winner in both 1972 and 1973, triumphed for a record-breaking third time in 1977.
1938 Grand National Winner Battleship 17-year-old Bruce Hobbs became the youngest winning jockey when steering Battleship home. He became a successful Flat trainer and died at the age of 84 in November, 2005. The American-bred Battleship, son of the famous Man o’ War, became the first (and so far only) horse to have won both the Grand National and the American Grand National (won four years earlier).
Workman triumphed in the Grand National, 100 years after Lottery took the first running at Aintree in 1839.
The Lord Stalbridge-trained/owned Bogskar won the final Grand National before World War II stopped the event between 1941 and 1945.
Lovely Cottage was successful in the first post-World War II Grand National and became the 100th Grand National winner at Aintree.
1950 Grand National Winner Monaveen1950
Her Majesty The Queen Mother had her first runner in the race in Monaveen, who finished fifth behind Freebooter.
The Jack O’Donoghue-trained Nickel Coin, partnered by Johnny Bullock, won the Grand National. She was the 12th mare to win the Grand National and none has triumphed since.
1953Vincent O'Brien
Trainer Vincent O’Brien gained the first of three successive winners of the Grand National, courtesy of Early Mist, going on to score with Royal Tan in 1954 and Quare Times a year later. He subsequently saddled six Epsom Derby winners and is regarded
by many as the greatest trainer ever.
This year’s National is remembered more for the defeat of Devon Loch than the success of E.S.B. Owned by Her Majesty, The Queen Mother, Devon Loch had the race won when he inexplicably gave a half-leap just 50 yards (45 metres) from the finish, sprawling and unseating unfortunate jockey Dick Francis, who later became a famous thriller writer. – The race was televised for the first time. Since then it has always been shown by the BBC.
Neville Crump, who died in January 1997, aged 86, trained his third and final Grand National winner, Merryman II, ridden by Gerry Scott, who has acted as the John Smith’s Grand National starter. Crump was also successful with Sheila’s Cottage in 1948
and Teal four seasons later.
Nicolaus Silver1961
Nicolaus Silver, trained by Fred Rimell and ridden by Bobby Beasley, became the second grey to win the Grand National – The Lamb was the first when successful in both 1868 and 1871. He was the second of Rimell’s four Grand National winners, the first coming fi ve years earlier with E.S.B.


Wyndburgh finished runner-up for the third time, but was never to win the race.
Fulke Walwyn trained the Grand National winner when saddling Team Spirit to win at the horse’s fifth attempt. Walwyn rode Reynoldstown to victory as an amateur in 1936.
Fred Winter on Jay Trump 1965 Fred Winter also achieved the rare distinction of both riding and training a Grand National winner when saddling Jay Trump in his first year as a licence holder. Winter had earlier partnered both Sundew in 1957 and Kilmore in 1962 as a rider and he trained
another winner in 1966 with Anglo.
Foinavon sensationally won in bizarre circumstances. At the smallest jump on the second circuit, the 23rd, the riderless Popham Down ran across the fence and caused a pile-up that almost brought the entire field to a standstill. John Buckingham, Foinavon’s jockey, was able to steer his mount wide of the mêlée because they were some way behind the leading group and went on to win on the 100/1 outsider. The Aintree executive named the
fence in honour of the winner. He was the fourth horse to win at 100/1.
Pat Taaffe, successful in the Grand National on Quare Times in 1955, landed the race for the second time aboard Gay Trip, his last ride in the race.
Red Rum1973
The great Red Rum won the first of his three record-breaking Grand Nationals, following up in 1974 and 1977. This was also the year that Brian Fletcher won the world’s most famous chase for the second time, having struck on Red Alligator in 1968 and he went on to score again on Red Rum in 1974.
L’Escargot emulated Golden Miller to become only the second horse ever to have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National. He took the former race in both 1970 and 1971.

Rag Trade 1976 Grand National Winner1976
Fred Rimell trained his fourth Grand National winner with Rag Trade, following the victories of E.S.B. (1956), Nicolaus Silver (1961) and Gay Trip (1970), a record number later matched by Ginger McCain.


The first female jockey rode in the race. Charlotte Brew rode 200-1 shot Barony Fort, who refused at the fourth fence from home. Red Rum’s legendary third victory.
Rubstic 1979 Grand National Winner Rubstic, trained by John Leadbetter in Roxburghshire, became the first Scottish-trained Grand National winner. He was ridden by Maurice Barnes, whose father had finished second on Wyndburgh in 1962.
An emotional year in which winning jockey Bob Champion, who in late 1979 was told he had cancer and only months to live, overcame adversity on Aldaniti, who himself had almost been retired because of leg trouble. Runner-up Spartan Missile added to the story as he was ridden by 54-year-old grandfather and amateur rider John Thorne.
Dick Saunders, who died in January, 2002, became the oldest successful rider at 48 on Grittar, his first and only Grand National ride. He was also the only member of the Jockey Club to ride a winner of the world’s most famous chase. The first female jockey to complete the race – Geraldine Rees, finished 8th (last) on 66-1 outsider Cheers.
Jenny Pitman Jenny Pitman became the first woman to train the winner when Corbiere beat Greasepaint. She also sent out Royal Athlete to success 12 years later. She retired from training in 1999 and writes thrillers with a racing theme.
There was a new record of 23 finishers, led home by Hallo Dandy who lived to the grand old age of 33.
Hywel Davies Last Suspect 1985 Captain Tim Forster gained his third and final Grand National training success with the Hywel Davies-ridden Last Suspect. He had been victorious with Well To Do in 1972 and American import Ben Nevis in 1980.
West Tip, who died in July 2001, aged 24, having competed in the world’s most famous chase on six occasions, gained a much deserved victory. He was also runner-up to Little Polveir in 1989 and fourth in both 1987 and 1988.
The Grand National celebrated its 150th birthday and Little Polveir, ridden by Jimmy Frost, took the honours.
1990 Chris Grant Winner at the Grand National1990
Mr Frisk set a record Grand National winning time of 8m 47.8s when partnered by Marcus Armytage, the most recent amateur to be successful. Jockey Chris Grant came second in the race for the third time (previous years were 1986 and 1988).


The race was won by a horse called Seagram – coincidentally the race was sponsored at the time by the company Seagram. The company had previous chances to buy the horse.

1992 Carl Llewellyn on Party Politics Grand NationalParty Politics won the race just five days before the 1992 UK General Election. Carl Llewellyn got his winning ride only because the horse’s regular jockey Andrew Adams was injured. In 1998 he got another winning ride, this time because of an injury to that horse’s regular jockey Tom Jenks.


The race was declared void after a false start amid chaotic scenes.
1994 Richard Dunwoody Grand National Miinnehoma Richard Dunwoody, the leading Grand National rider of his generation, gained his second success on Miinnehoma, owned by comedian Freddie Starr, to add to his earlier win on West Tip in 1986. Dunwoody was also placed in the race on six occasions. He is now an intrepid explorer.
Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the BBC’s ‘voice of racing’, completed his 50th and final commentary on the great race. This was the 150th running of the Grand National at Aintree and the race took place on a Monday after the scheduled running on the Saturday had to be postponed because of an IRA bomb scare. Lord Gyllene won well.
Earth Summit was the fi rst Grand National winner who had also succeeded in both the Scottish and Welsh Nationals.
Bobbyjo 1999 Grand National Winner1999
Bobbyjo won the Grand National for the combination of trainer Tommy Carberry and his son Paul Carberry who was the successful rider. The following year, Papillon did the same for the father and son, Ted and Ruby Walsh.
Norman Mason became the most recent permit holder – someone who trains horses owned by himself or his family – to train the Grand National winner, Red Marauder, who was ridden by assistant trainer Richard Guest.
2004 Amberleigh House Grand National Winner2004
Amberleigh House gave trainer Ginger McCain an emotional fourth Grand National success following on from Red Rum’s record three victories in the 1970s. McCain equalled Fred Rimell’s record feat of training four Grand National winners.
Hedgehunter became the fi rst winner since Rhyme ‘N’ Reason in 1988 to carry more than 11 stone to victory. This was the initial running as the John Smith’s Grand National.
Numbersixvalverde continued the good run of success enjoyed by Irish horses, following on from Bobbyjo in 1999, Papillon the following term, Monty’s Pass in 2003 and Hedgehunter in 2005.
Silver Birch was the sixth Irish-trained winner in nine Silver Birch Grand National Winner 2007runnings and the 22nd Irish-trained victor of the John Smith’s Grand National. Mercy Rimell, whose late husband Fred trained the winner four times, owned Simon who fell at the 25th fence, while Liberthine was fifth when trying to become the first mare to triumph since 1951. Two new grandstands, the Earl of Sefton and Lord Derby, were used for the first time.

About the Author

Hi, I am an administrator of Popular-Nostalgia.com. I helped to set up this site, and have been given the task of running some of the day-to-day stuff that goes on. Most of the posts written by me are from my own recollections and memories, though some are those which get emailed to me from time to time!

2 Responses to “ A Big Long History of the Grand National ”

  1. 31-05-2009=i am researching my flatman family histry=i want to
    know about nat’s children to make the connection withme.
    can you help me please
    daveflatman@yahoo.co.uk thankyou.

  2. well done! pretty comprehensive history of notable Grand National events. I think 1960 was the first televised race by the BBC

    The other ones I would add are the 1973(then) course record, which is regarded by many as more important than Mr Frisk’s over a somewhat “easier” course.

    1990 significant changes to Becher’s Brook following the melee in 1989.

    1928 Favourite and subsequent dual gold cup winner, Easter Hero refuses at the Canal Turn and takes out 20 horses.

    1929 Canal turn ditch filled in

    1947 Caughoo came out of the fog to win at 100/1. Many disgruntled punters claiming he only went round once! :)

    1963, Lord Oaksey comes second on Carrickbeg and was declared by some as the only jockey in the race’s history to become tired before his horse :)

    1968 Tim Durant was the oldest jockey to complete the course, partnering Highlandie at the age of 68. I think he was American and he was an owner – rider.

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