Grand National Ultimate History



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We 27 Feb 1856 (3.20) 4m 3f Good to Soft 10.09.50 21 £720 W. Barnett

55 1 Freetrader 7 9-06 W. Holman snr G. Stevens 25/1   Fore of mid-division 2nd, still midfield VB 1C. Good headway to be 4th (of 20) WJ. 5th Proceed's Lane. Left 3rd at fence after BB 2C and left 2nd ABC. Took lead just before straight. Narrow advantage last. Just prevailed following extended tussle.
  2 Minerva 6 9-10   R. Sly jnr 25/1 1 Soon became prominent, 6th at 2nd. Same position VB 1C, 5th WJ. 6th again Proceed's Lane. Left 5th at fence after BB 2C and left 4th ABC. Took 2nd before straight and came to dispute lead last where mistake and cut foot. Nevertheless, only just lost out following an extended tussle.
  3 Minos   9-04   R. James NQ 1/2 Held up in mid-division 1C. Headway to chase leaders early 2C but still only 12th at the fence after BB. Headway to be 6th ABC. Further progress to be 2L down in 4th last. Kept on well. Never nearer.
54 4 Star Of England 9 10-02   W. White 25/1 1/2 Held up in mid-division 1C, 13th WJ. Headway to chase leaders early 2C. 9th at the fence after BB. Further headway to be 5th ABC and continued progress to be a very close 3rd last. Kept on well but relatively slightly one-paced.
55 5 Little Charley 8 9-04 H. May T. Burrows 40/1   Mid-division 1C, 12th WJ. Hampered more than once by loose horse (Victor Emmanuel) and had dropped towards rear before BB 2C. Rallied on plough CS, 11th ABC. Plugged on very well into a respectable 5th.
  6 Emigrant 10 10-02 C. Boyce C. Boyce 100/6   Away well, 3rd at 2nd. Bad mistake fence after BB 1C but soon recovered and 2nd VB 1C. 4th at Gorsed Hurdle and dropped further into 8th WJ. 9th Proceed's Lane, 8th again fence after BB 2C & ABC. Began to fade soon after and finished a bad 6th.
  7 The Forest Queen 9 10-02 A. Fulton J. Thrift 15/1   Away well & took lead before 2nd. Well clear by CT 1C. Advantage reduced to 2L by Gorsed Hurdle. 1L ahead WJ. Joined soon after and became lit up. Still disputed lead BB 2C. Collided with a spectator who ran across her path next & dropped to a fore of mid-division 11th. 9th ABC. Began to fade soon after. Finished tailed off.
  8 The Potter 7 9-08 S. Arnold J. Kendall 10/1   Chased leaders in 7th at 2nd. Same position VB 1C. Headway to be 2nd Gorsed Hurdle, close 3rd WJ. Disputed lead soon after and still doing so BB 2C. Left clear next but only a narrow advantage VB, bad mistake next and began to fade. 10th ABC. Continued to weaken and finished tailed off.
  9 Jean Du Quesne 8 10-06 H. Lamplugh H. Lamplugh 9/2F   Away well, 2nd at 2nd. Remained very prominent, 3rd from VB 1C to Gorsed Hurdle, a very close 2nd WJ. Steadied and 3rd again soon after. Left 2nd once more fence after BB 2C. Took lead before ABC. Came under pressure and headed before straight. Beaten in 5th at last. Eased to a leisurely walk.
  10 Seaman(1) 8 10-04 F. Martin F. Martin 7/1   Fore of mid-division 2nd, 9th VB 1C. Gradual progress to be 6th WJ and 4th early 2C. 6th again at the fence after BB but left 3rd ABC. Began to fade soon after and beaten in 6th at last. Eased to a leisurely walk.
  P Franc Picard 10 10-12 H. Lamplugh F. Wakefield NQ AFT ABC 2C Fore of mid-division 2nd. Headway to be 4th VB 1C but had dropped back to 9th WJ. 7th Proceed's Lane & fence after BB 2C. Came under pressure CS but still 7th ABC. Badly weakened soon after & quickly PU.
48 49 50 P British Yeoman 16 9-07   A. Goodman 40/1 ABC 2C Away well, 4th at 2nd. 8th VB 1C and only 10th at WJ & Proceed's Lane. However, good headway and left 4th fence after BB 2C. Cut corner skilfully CT & a very close 2nd VB. Same position and every chance when broke down (off fore) ABC, PU & limped in.
  F Dan O'Connell(2)   9-04   R. Archer NQ CS 2C Slowly away & last at 2nd. Still rearmost CS 1C & WJ. Modest headway 2C until fell somewhere along the CS.
  F The Pasha   10-04 P. Davies D. Meaney 40/1 FNC AFT VB 2C Away well but only mid-division at 2nd. Progress to be 5th VB 1C, 7th WJ. 8th Proceed's Lane and 10th at the fence after BB 2C but still travelling well when fell at the fence after VB.
  P Jumpaway   9-10 J. Hanlon J. Hanlon 25/1 MID 2C Mid to rear 2nd, midfield VB 1C, rear of mid-division WJ. Towards rear when PU mid 2C.
  P Liverpool Boy 6 9-00   H. McLean NQ MID 2C Never better than rear of mid-division, whereso WJ. Towards rear when PU mid 2C.
  R Stamford   9-02 C. Boyce C. Green 15/1 BB 2C Never better than rear of mid-division, whereso WJ. Refused BB 2C.
  P Harry Lorrequer 5 8-10 W. Fowler W. Fowler 5/1 BB 2C Soon became prominent, 5th at 2nd. Still handy when knocked down several spectators BB 1C and dropped towards rear. Well so by WJ. Became tailed off and stopped to discuss earlier incident with crowd BB 2C.
  F Banstead 6 9-04 H. Boyce W. Bevill 50/1 2ND FNC 2C Fore of mid-division 2nd. Midfield VB 1C & WJ, where 11th. Same position, going well and having jumped well, when fell 2nd fence 2C. Broke shoulder. Dead.
51 52 53 RO Sir Peter Laurie 14 10-12 W. Holman snr S. Darling jnr 12/1 PROCEED'S LANE Rear of mid-division 2nd but towards rear VB 1C and well so by WJ. Made as if to go out on 2C, however, bolted up Proceed's Lane in the direction of his food bin.
  F Victor Emmanuel 6 9-04 J. Pickering W. Seffert NQ 2ND Away well & prominent until fell 2nd.



Another poor quality National although not one without considerable drama. The handicap framed by Edward Topham reached what would be the extremity of its lightness with the joint top weights shouldering just 10st 12lb and one of them was the locally housed Sir Peter Laurie (whom I rated -57 in 1852), absent from the race for three years and now 14! However, he was but a spring chicken compared to the 16-y-o British Yeoman who had not contested a renewal for twice as long. Connections would seem to have accurately appraised the standard of opposition as wholly deficient so as to chance these old stagers and their view was almost justified in respect of the latter. The 1856 Grand National was the first to feature French based horses although Jean Du Quesne and Franc Picard, the other top weight, were trained by exiled Yorkshireman Harry Lamplugh, neither stayed though possibly they were overburdened in relation to their ability.

The first three home were all ex-Flat horses. Freetrader, sired by the 1840 fourth The Sea, allowing William Holman senior (senior because one of his six sons was also a 'W', Walter) to achieve what he had been unable to as a jockey in the closest finish yet. Runner-up Minerva was very probably unlucky not to win having cut a foot when blundering at the last, although she may not have felt the injury due to adrenaline. And Minos, some contemporary reporters suggested, might have been played earlier. However, perhaps no horse could have overcome the determined and skilful ride of George Stevens who, in recording the first of what would be five National victories, enabled Freetrader to go one better than he had in 1855. The man from Cleeve Hill, who became as much of a legend in his own lifetime as would A.P. McCoy in a later era, received his early coaching from Tom Olliver as well as Cheltenham based Holman and he (Stevens) became known for hold up rides in the Grand National along with the nous to leave a horse alone going into a fence. Emigrant may well not have been fully sound (and made a bad mistake at the fence after first Becher's). Stamford went on to win the 2m hurdle that was the concluding event of the day and meeting!

Returning to the matter of ill fortune, not for the first time in National history there is a touch of irony. On this occasion in that the usually very capable and organised Topham had, as manager in addition to lessee of Aintree, extended the Liverpool Spring Meeting to a second afternoon yet on the big day even he could not prevent an idiot, from a crowd said to be as large as any for a previous Grand National, encroaching onto the course and ruining the chance of The Forest Queen. Perhaps the offending numbskull was piqued by the sight of Harry Lorrequer mowing down several of his co-spectators a circuit earlier! As for British Yeoman, it is unsurprising that a racehorse of such advanced years ultimately broke down. Meanwhile, Sir Peter Laurie, whom I believe had been off with a leg and was heavily bandaged, reportedly did not look well and ran accordingly - maybe he'd been underfed!

At the weights in 1856 Star Of England (who ran here and would do in 1857 as Hopeless Star) emerged the best horse, 5 (pounds/lengths) ahead of Minerva, 8 superior to Freetrader (rated -75 in 1855) and 11 better than Minos. Freetrader appears to have run an almost identical race to last year so the other horses' ratings can be easily calculated: Star Of England -67 (which just happens to be 10 below the rating referred to above of Sir Peter Laurie who was giving Star Of England 10lb!); Minerva, allowing her 3 for her late mistake and injury, -69; Minos -78. Little Charley, whose late progress suggested he required a greater test of stamina, carried the same weight as Minos and was likely circa 10 lengths behind the third, however, Little Charley was badly interfered with by the loose Victor Emmanuel so may rate somewhere in the low -80s. The deterioration in the quality of Grand National runners at this time can be exemplified via British Yeoman. In 1848 I rated him -45 and it is logical to think, eight years later at the age of sixteen, he had personally declined by at least two stone (which would be -73). Here he had every chance, some observers felt he was travelling like the winner, when breaking down fairly late on and, indeed, he carried a similar impost (albeit including 3lb overweight) to Freetrader (-75).

I will discuss the subjects of time comparison and what I term general athletic improvement when more appropriate (see in particular 1859, 1860, 1868, 1893, 1923, 1933). However, the keener of eye among readers may have noticed that Freetrader's time in 1856 was 10.5s slower than that of Abd-El-Kader in 1851 (raw rating -61), both on similar Good to Soft, and the latter carried 12lb more. Yet I have rated Freetrader only a stone lower than 'Little Ab'. Partly that's because of what collateral form tells me (time is far from everything!) and partly it's due to there being more plough in 1856 than five years earlier. Also and significantly, however, I believe the pace collapsed in the 1856 National. The Forest Queen may have gone off too fast, then became lit up when joined early on the second circuit by The Potter who was her only close rival when The Forest Queen collided with the errant member of the crowd. The Potter was left several lengths clear only to cook his own goose by making a bad mistake along the canal side. This allowed others to catch up but the new leader Jean Du Quesne went out like a light just after the Anchor Bridge Crossing where second placed British Yeoman broke down. Freetrader and Minerva had raced prominently but not right up with the speed whereas Minos and Star Of England (a doubtful stayer) had been held up. The collapse in the pace meant the race panned out well for this quartet but it also affected the winning time.



> Sources are somewhat vague re the finishing order and some historians have The Potter as the eighth and last to finish with Jean Du Quesne and Seaman curtailing their stroll short of the post. 



Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling