Grand National Ultimate History



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The start was moved forward to the first field after the Sunken Lane, shortening the race distance by about 300yds, and a more inner line taken that curved to join the original line before the first brook. The course was certainly marked by flags on the inside. The components of many obstacles were made more demanding (greater height of jumps, greater width of ditches, some of the rails were iron!) A 4' 8" high Stone Wall (SW) was sited where the WJ had been in 1836.


(Liverpool Great) Tu 26 Feb 1839 (3.15) 4m 3f Heavy 14.53.00 17 £590 J. Elmore

  1 Lottery 9 12-00 G. Dockeray Jem Mason 9/1   Away well & prominent. More so from fence after B2 1C. Jumped like a cat. 2nd (of 14) SW. Gifted lead early 2C but reined back approaching B1 where 3rd. Left ahead again B2 2C. Controlled race thereafter. Easily in a canter.
  2 Seventy Four 6 12-00   T. Olliver 12/1 3 Away well. Very prominent B1 1C, a little less so latter part of CS 1C. 4th SW. 5th B1 2C. Left 2nd B2 2C. Kept on, no chance with winner.
  3 Paulina 9 12-00   S.Martin 12/1 3 Away well. Refused 1st, kept going well behind. Recovered much of lost ground by B1 1C, 6th SW. Dropped to 10th by B1 2C but rallied again and left 4th B2 2C. Lost ground TTJ, however, gamely responded to rousting to get up for 3rd.
  4 True Blue(1) 12-00   P. Barker 12/1 3 Became prominent by B1 1C. Chased leaders latter part of CS 1C, 7th SW. 9th B1 2C, headway and left 6th B2 2C. Kept on dourly.
  5 Pioneer(1) 11 12-00   T. Walker 12/1   Dreadfully one-paced and mid-division 1C, 8th SW. Same position B1 2C, left 5th B2 2C. Not helped by bad mistake last.
  6 Jack 7 12-00   H. Wadlow 12/1   Away well & chased leaders. Became more prominent fence after B2 1C, 5th SW. 6th B1 2C. Faded, 9th and beaten by late CS but plugged on.
  7R The Nun(1) 10 12-00   A. McDonough 6/1F   Away well & very prominent. 3rd SW where bad mistake. Nevertheless 2nd B1 2C and when fell B2 2C. Remounted behind. 8th ABC and hopeless task. Eased late on.
  8 Railroad 6 12-00   H. Powell 9/1   Mid-division. Headway to become very prominent fence after B1 1C, left in lead SW. Bad mistake at Sunken Lane (2nd element) and headed but still prominent in 4th B1 2C and left 3rd B2 2C. Weakened badly after ABC and later heavily eased.
  9 Rambler 8 12-00   J. Morgan NQ   Slowly away. Never better than mid-division 1C, 9th SW. Generally raced in 7th from B1 2C until after ABC thence faded and eased.
  10 Cramp 6 12-00   Wilmot NQ   Slowly away and always towards rear. Tailed off in 13th SW. 10th and last ABC 2C. Lumbered on.
  F Dictator   12-00   R. Carlin NQ FNC AFT B2 2C Prominent B1 1C but only 10th SW and 11th B1 2C. Similar position but in touch when fell at B2 2C. Remounted behind. Fell again next. Broke blood vessel. Dead.
  F Daxon 10 12-00 T. Ferguson T. Ferguson 8/1 B2 2C Immediately led. Soon headed but remained very prominent. Bad mistake B1 1C, however, left in lead there and still ahead when fell fence after B2 1C. Remounted well behind, 11th SW. Rallied and allowed (by sluggish pace & Lottery taking a pull) to lead again B1 2C. Still ahead when fell again B2 2C.
  U Charity 9 12-00 W. Vevers N. Hardy 20/1 EARLY 2C Away well and prominent until left in lead fence after B2 1C. Maintained advantage until refused SW. Kept going, last of main body, until UR early 2C.
  P Rust 9 12-00 T. Ferguson W. McDonough 7/1 END 1C Away well. Initially chased leaders but mid-division when fell B2 1C. Remounted behind and interfered with by spectators at ABC 1C. Continued completely tailed off and PU after SW.
  F Conrad(1) 11 12-00   Cpt M. Becher 20/1 B2 1C Away well & very prominent until took lead fairly early on. Ahead when fell B1 1C, horse & rider rolled over into brook. Remounted and driven, regaining touch by CT 1C. Quite prominent again when combination fell once more and ended up in B2 1C. Horse ran off.
  F Barkston 11 12-00 T. Ferguson L. Byrne NQ B2 1C Mid to rear until fell B2 1C.
  F Cannon Ball 10 12-00 J. Newcombe J. Newcombe 12/1 B1 1C Mid to rear until fell B1 1C.



William Lynn deserves a good deal of credit for the stunning popularity and success of this renewal, his dreams conclusively capturing the public imagination at last. Ironically, however, the financial problems he accrued in previous years had led to a company (or Racing Committee) being formed to which he was merely attached. The new body ensured greater prize money which helped to attract surely the best field assembled for a steeplechase to this point. The quality was also facilitated by the availability for the first time of nationwide railway access to Liverpool, there were Irish trained horses again too. Furthermore, the St. Albans race was in decline. It is unsurprising, therefore, that some correspondents unofficially dubbed this renewal the Grand National.

The start was moved forward (see 1887 re distance) to negate the difficulties caused by the tricky Sunken Lane obstacle heretofore being the first encountered, now horses would only have to negotiate it once (on the second circuit). That was no consolation, however, to Railroad, who blundered badly at it, or Paulina (for whom little went right in the contest) who initially refused the new 1st! The inclusion of a Stone Wall does not appear to have given rise to much consternation, even amongst critics of the race, presumably because similar obstacles were common in the hunting field.

A very slow pace on the first circuit (most riders were unfamiliar with the country) enabled Conrad to recover much of his prior prominence by the time of his, and Captain Becher's, ultimate departure at the second stream, the latter having quickly remounted his steed following their famous bath in the first brook. In fact, several horses were able to regain prominence after adversity. Alas, it seems Rust was prevented from continuing to any viable effect by an element of the crowd whose financial interest lay elsewhere. Sadly, Dictator became the National's first fatality.

Because of the pace the time (times would show marked improvement from 1840) cannot be held against Lottery who, by common consensus and the weight penalties that would be imposed upon him in later years, was the best horse of his era and probably better than any to finish a National until the late 1860s. He won far more easily than the distances suggest under Jem Mason, who was as stylish out of the saddle as in it, to give George Dockeray the first of what would be four victories. Lottery, for this performance (which I reckon can be rated about a stone, or 14 lengths, below the best that would ever be seen in a Grand National), therefore, is the first horse I will place on my Scroll Of Merit: -14 Lottery.



> Some historians believe Rust was in no position to continue at all after ABC 1C. 




Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling