Grand National Ultimate History



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An oxer was added, it is unclear where and the fence was apparently not retained. The first brook of each circuit was now known as Becher's Brook (BB). It seems certain that from this year the runners carried straight on for the length of a small field after BB before beginning their curve towards the CT, however, the additional yardage traversed was not deemed worthy of mention by the contemporary press, probably because, having previously crossed the small field while beginning a narrower curve towards the CT, it was minimal. SW 5' 2" (previously 4' 8").


(Liverpool Grand) Th 5 Mar 1840 (3.20) 4m 3f Good 12.30.00 13 £630 H. Villebois

  1 Jerry(1) 10 12-00 G. Dockeray B. Bretherton 16/1   Initially held up towards rear, 9th BB 1C. Minor headway, 7th after ABC 1C. Left 2nd (of 8) SW, some way behind leader. Same position but close to new leader by BB 2C. Left in lead B2 2C. Mistake second last but kept up to work and fended off all challengers. Not seriously pressed from before last. Cleverly.
  2R Arthur 6 12-00   A. McDonough 8/1 4 Away well & disputed lead very early. Soon headed, 2nd BB 1C. 5th after ABC 1C and left 3rd SW, some way behind leader. Gradually eroded gap & led BB 2C. Still ahead when fell heavily B2 2C. Remounted and ridden to pressure front pair by just after ABC. Took 2nd after second last. Always held and no more to give.
  3 Valentine 10 12-00 D. Canavan J. Power 25/1 4 Chased leaders in handy position, 6th BB 1C. Led before B2 1C where corkscrewed over & headed. Regained lead just after ABC 1C. Barely ahead SW but advantage extended due to melee in behind. Caught & headed by BB 2C where 3rd. Left 2nd B2 2C. Challenged leader second last but soon began to fade and 3rd at last.
  P Cruickshank   12-00   E. Guy 20/1 LATE 2C Mid to rear when fell BB 1C, jockey being assisted to the ground when shaky partnership cannoned into by Weathercock. Remounted, well tailed off, jockey bleeding profusely from nose. 10th after ABC 1C. Left effectively 6th SW. Unable to make any impression on front trio 2C but inherited 4th due to the misfortunes of others. Passed post but may not have jumped all obstacles.
  P Hasty 5 12-00   J. Rigg 30/1 LATE 2C Mid-division, 10th BB 1C. Fell B2 1C. Remounted, well tailed off. 9th after ABC 1C. Left effectively 4th SW. Unable to make any impression on front trio 2C and fell again B2. Remounted once more, completely tailed off. Passed post but may not have jumped all obstacles.
  P The Sea 10 12-03 H. Beresford H. Beresford 30/1 LATE 2C Soon very prominent. 5th BB 1C. Had dropped to mid-division when hampered by Spolasco TTJ 1C & refused. Kept going, well tailed off in 11th and last. Left effectively 7th and rearmost SW. Left 6th Sunken Lane. Utterly tailed off by BB 2C. Passed post but may not have jumped all obstacles.
  P Spolasco   12-00 W. Rose W. Rose 30/1 LATE 2C Mid-division, 8th BB 1C. Fell TTJ 2C. Remounted, well tailed off in 8th. Left effectively 5th SW. Fell again 1st fence (2nd element) 2C. Remounted once more, utterly tailed off in last.  Passed post but may not have jumped all obstacles.
39 P The Nun(1) 11 12-00   H. Powell 3/1F END 1C Chased leaders in handy position. 7th BB 1C. Progress to be 4th after ABC 1C. Same position when BD by Lottery at SW. Remounted, well tailed off, but found to be lame so quickly PU.
39 F Lottery 10 12-07   Jem Mason 4/1 SW Away well & disputed lead very early. Soon headed, 3rd BB 1C. Remained very prominent, 2nd after ABC 1C. Very close up when coming down amid a flurry of dismantled masonry SW.
  B Columbine(1) 6 12-00 H. Beresford J. Beresford 30/1 SW Headway to lead early 1C, ahead BB. Headed before B2 1C but regained the advantage there. Passed again just after ABC 1C. 3rd when BD by Lottery at SW.
39 B Seventy Four 7 12-00   T. Olliver 6/1 SW Chased leaders until became prominent in 4th BB 1C. 6th after ABC 1C. 5th when BD by prone horses in melee SW.
  F The Augean 7 12-00   C. Christian 30/1 MID 1C Towards rear, refused 1st. Kept going, tailed off in last. Left 11th BB 1C. Fell somewhere mid 1C.
  F Weathercock(1) 8 12-00   P. Barker 30/1 BB 1C Towards rear until cannoned into falling Cruickshank & fell BB 1C.



Originally the height of the Stone Wall was set to be an increase of ten inches, not six, upon that of 1839, however, four inches were taken off the construction due to riders' complaints which was just as well considering the mayhem that occurred there anyway. The incident effectively took out the first three in the betting, the fourth in, Arthur, fell when going well, and Valentine's jockey, John Power, was chiefly interested in being first over the aforementioned obstacle (not an uncommon motivation, wager based, in the early years of the National). Jerry, therefore, was somewhat fortunate. In fairness, his time was much quicker than that of previous renewals but the pace was a lot speedier from the outset in 1840 and it was the first occasion when the race had been run on Good going at its shorter distance. It was a second success for George Dockeray, an ex-Derby winning jockey and mainly a Flat trainer. Bartholomew Bretherton would later go into the family coach business. Jerry was beaten by Lottery on his only subsequent run and is not quite worthy of a place on my Scroll Of Merit.

In most early Grand Nationals there are numerous instances of horses who must be deemed to have pulled up even though they passed the winning post. This is because a judge would sit on a raised chair (adjacent to where the forerunners of and later the eponymous ditch itself were sited). He would record all the horses he could see on the finishing straight as the leader passed him. Those so far behind that he could not see them were not recorded, therefore, there is no certainty that any such horse jumped every obstacle, especially as the crowd, mounted and pedestrian, would close in on them. (The custom in these formative years of steeplechasing was for jockeys to try to finish the course, whatever adversity was encountered along the way, but only the rider would know whether or not his mount had jumped everything!) I have largely adhered to the official record of finishing positions unless absolutely certain from contemporary newspaper reports that it is incorrect.

John Pinfold, in his excellent 2016 book, has cast doubt upon whether Valentine really did make an extraordinary leap over the second brook. Like him, I cannot find reference to it in available contemporary accounts. However, there is a general lack of consistency across these descriptions and when taken individually I find most of them rather hazy. I wonder whether the incident was missed and, therefore, not learned of by reporters until after they had filed their stories, something they would be under pressure to do hastily. If only a few people saw or knew what actually happened it explains why the, initially unofficially-bestowed, name of the fence was slow to catch on (I will refer to it as Valentine's Brook from 1841 but the moniker does not appear in accounts until 1850). I am inclined to believe, based on sources I respect as much as I do John, that Valentine did corkscrew over the second brook on the first circuit in 1840. Firstly, because I find it impossible to be certain that John's recently advanced and interesting theory is correct. He holds that there was a similar incident involving Arthur and it is a case of mistaken identity. One problem I have with this is that Valentine's antics of legend are said to have occurred on the first circuit when he was leading; he definitely was whereas Arthur definitely wasn't and nor did Arthur make a mistake or fall at the second brook first time round. My other problem is that no contemporary source claims that Valentine erred at the obstacle on the second circuit while Arthur, albeit he was now leading, did not make a miraculous safe leap there, he suffered a heavy fall. My second reason for belief in the traditional story is that if it is completely untrue then why, when it became popularly known just a decade afterwards, was it not refuted instead of being freely embraced?  



Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling