Grand National Ultimate History



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The race distance was lengthened by relocating the start about 300yds back to essentially its original position (near to the furthest extremity of the grandstand). This meant that the run to the 1st was about 1/4 of a mile, Proceed's Lane (later Melling Road) having been completely level with the surrounding fields for quite a few years. The start would remain at this spot through 2012.


We 11 Mar 1863 (3.46) 4m 4 1/2f Good to Firm (Good places) 11.20.00 16 £855 Lord Coventry

  1 Emblem 7 10-10 E. Weever G. Stevens 4/1   A prominent 8th at 3rd, held up and fore of mid-division in that position BB 1C. Took closer order in 4th (of 14) WJ and briefly disputed lead soon after but reined back & held onto. Tracked leading pair in 3rd BB 2C, 4th CS. Unleashed & took lead soon after ABC, 6L clear entering straight. Mistake last where 10L ahead. Ridden further away.
  2 Arbury 5 11-02   A. Goodman 25/1 20 Prominent, 6th at 3rd, 3rd BB 1C, a handy 8th WJ. 2L down in 2nd BB 2C. Still 2nd CS. Dropped to 3rd soon after ABC but regained 2nd early in straight, 6+L down. 10L adrift last where dwelt. No chance with winner, kept on very one-paced.
  3 Yaller Gal 8 10-13 C. Green G. Dixon 20/1 10 Very prominent. 4th at 3rd, 2nd BB 1C. A close 5th Gorsed Hurdle, still handy in 6th WJ. Took lead towards BB 2C where 2L ahead. Came under pressure soon after ABC & easily headed. Lost 2nd early in straight. Faded.
  4 Fosco 7 9-11 W. Holman snr G. Holman 40/1 2 Initially rear of mid-division. Midfield when slightly hampered by the fall of The Orphan at the Gorsed Hurdle, 10th WJ. Under pressue in 9th BB 2C. Plugged on dourly.
  5 Avalanche 6 10-09 H. Lister G. Palmer 33/1 11 Mid-division, 9th BB 1C. Had dropped to 12th by WJ. 10th but under pressure BB 2C. Laboured on until ultimately eased to a canter.
59 61 6 Jealousy 9 11-10 C. Bennett J. Kendall 3/1F   Prominent, 7th at 3rd, 4th BB 1C. Took lead with good jump CT 1C. 6L clear ABC 1C. Advantage narrowed by Gorsed Hurdle but still ahead WJ. Joined briefly soon after. Decisively headed when showed first signs of tiredness towards BB 2C and dropped to 6th over said brook. Rallied to be 3rd CS, 4th ABC. Had sustained cuts to a fore & a hind leg and gradually eased to a trot, losing 2 places.
61 P The Freshman 10 11-13 T. Golby G. Ede NQ LATE 2C Very prominent until led 3rd. Headed CT 1C. Chased leader in 5th ABC 1C. Still pursuing but had dropped to 9th by WJ. 11th and under pressure BB 2C. Laboured on until eventually PU.
61 P The Dane 7 11-06 T. Wadlow W. White 10/1 LATE 2C Prominent, 5th at 3rd, 6th BB 1C. Chased leader in 4th ABC 1C. A close 3rd Gorsed Hurdle, 5th again WJ. Pursued leading pair in that position BB 2C and still 5th CS. Weakened approaching ABC and ultimately PU.
  P Light Of Other Days 8 10-04 T. Golby J. Nightingall 20/1 LATE 2C Initially mid-division, 10th BB 1C. More prominent in 7th WJ and chased leading pair in 4th BB 2C. Had dropped to 6th by CS. Weakened further and ultimately PU.
  P Real Jam 4 9-11 David Hughes David Hughes 20/1 CS 2C Initially rear of mid-division. Further towards rear in last but one WJ. Still had only one behind & under pressure BB 2C. PU CS.
  P Medora 12 12-00 T. Olliver F. Rowlands 100/12 VB 2C Away well & immediately led but soon joined. Left in sole possesion of lead again 2nd, headed by 3rd. 5th BB 1C. Chased leader in 3rd ABC 1C. Close 2nd Gorsed Hurdle & WJ but bad mistake at latter & dropped to 8th. 7th BB 2C. Sustained bad cut to leg not long after and PU lame circa VB 2C.
61 P Master Bagot 9 10-04 W. Saunders J. Knott 100/8 VB 2C Bandaged forelegs. Very prominent. 3rd at 3rd, 7th BB 1C, 2nd although several lengths down ABC 1C. Close up in 4th Gorsed Hurdle, 3rd again WJ. Ran as if feeling something 2C & had dropped to 8th by BB. Lost further ground then broke down badly & PU VB 2C.
  P Birdbolt 7 9-11   T. Spence NQ CT 2C Reluctant to start and last when hampered by fall of Inkerman 2nd & dropped further behind. 14th & rearmost WJ. Well behind in 13th & last BB 2C. PU CT.
  F Telegraph 7 9-11   G. Waddington NQ 3RD FNC 2C Initially rear of mid-division. A midfield 11th WJ. No significant further progress when fell heavily 3rd fence 2C. Broke back. Dead.
  F The Orphan 8 9-11   W. Bevill NQ GH Led to start where reared, sulked and dwelt. Ridden to join main body of field before 1st but towards rear. Made headway more gradually to be 6th ABC 1C. Close up in similar position when unsighted & fell at Gorsed Hurdle.
  F Inkerman 9 9-11 T. Olliver P. Smith NQ 2ND Intractable and wild. Soon disputed lead. Fell 2nd.



Edward Topham's objective in moving the start back (see 1887 re distance) was to enable horses to have a longer run during which to settle into their stride before the 1st (something akin to the opposite would be given as one reason for moving the start forward in 2013!) One consequence was that the approximately 300yd stretch that now had to be traversed twice (as opposed to merely on the second circuit) was just about the heaviest piece of plough on the course. However, this alone cannot possibly account for why the winning time in 1863 was nearly two minutes slower than Huntsman's record of the previous year, especially because the grassed sections of the course were by all accounts Good to Firm for the 1863 Grand National (the course was reported as never in better condition, the ground dry and light). A rough calculation using a horse travelling speed of five lengths per second for the distance as a whole (perhaps a bit lofty - see 1859) and allowing for the extra terrain being plough would suggest the race might take up to 40s longer. True, Huntsman's time was exceptional for the era but Emblem coming away to win by 20 lengths was impressive in its own right, albeit she beat relative plodders and suspect stayers. It is reasonable to wonder whether the increased distance prompted a change of mindset regarding pace on the first circuit by the jockeys. There may be some truth in this, however, what pace there was (contemporarily described as moderate to good) appears to have collapsed on the second tour round. The best of the prominent runners, Arbury, finished a distant runner-up while Yaller Gal and Jealousy faded (though the latter had the excuse of cutting two legs) indicating the field possibly went too quick on the first lap. Another factor to consider is that, following the strong criticism of recent years, there was a general raising of the weight range. A minimum impost of 9st 11lb appears to have been set and three of the four horses who also ran in 1861 had gone up by an average of nearly 27lb.

Emblem became the fifth mare to win the Grand National and in doing so she provided George Stevens with the second of his five victories as well as the name for his cottage on Cleeve Hill. Brilliantly trained by Edwin Weever at Bourton Hill since a switch from Golby's yard in early 1863, Emblem was produced a super fit ex-Flat racer who had shown her first notable form in subsequent romps at Birmingham and Derby (for which she incurred 10lb in penalties) and who possessed a vastly superior turn of foot to that of her rivals at Aintree, included amongst whom was the first 4-y-o to run in a National, steeplechase debutant Real Jam. In reality the race, or more pertinently its participants, somewhat fell apart. Avalanche had sustained a cut leg in training shortly before race day. The Dane had not run to the same level of form since the 1861 National, the winner of which, Jealousy, had not run since. Both Medora and Master Bagot went lame on the second circuit. Meanwhile, the wild Inkerman, loose since falling at the 2nd, had hightailed it off the course after the first Anchor Bridge Crossing and was only rediscovered much later in the evening at a farmhouse a few miles away. Incidentally, there is an amusing story about the day Weever refused to doff his titfer to a magpie. Less than fifteen minutes later his mount fell at a gate and Edwin broke a collarbone. It goes without saying he politely raised his hat to all magpies thereafter!

Assessing the merit of Emblem's performance in the 1863 Grand National I feel rather like the curate presented with a stale egg at the bishop's table. The first five home had not run in a previous renewal, the successful mare herself became injured and was never quite the same again, and, in fact, very few of 1863's participating horses ever contested another National, the notable exception being Arbury. Even allowing for a moderate pace Emblem's time was poor, I cannot possibly rate her as highly as Huntsman (-32) and she did not have much to beat as events panned out, however, Arbury, far from useless, was trounced. Strictly at the weights Emblem emerged 14 (pounds/lengths) superior to the runner-up and 27, 44 and 45 better than Yaller Gal, Avalanche and Fosco respectively. The interesting horse is the former winner Jealousy, the only runner shorter in the betting than Emblem, who finished sixth. Despite not having seen a racecourse since her triumph, Jealousy (rated -56 in 1861) was clearly thought to retain her ability and indications are that had she not suffered cut legs and been eased to a trot she would have finished 4th. We can, therefore, presume that Jealousy would have finished around 31 lengths behind her fellow mare to whom she was conceding a stone (as it proved, an impossible task and it would have been 24lb were it not for Emblem's penalties!) This would place Emblem at -39 and I will allow 1 for her mistake at the last for a final rating of -38 which feels about right. I will not allow anything for ease of victory because her lead doubled in distance from the last which suggests she was pushed right out. There is no sign that Arbury was eased so I will uprate him 1 for dwelling at the final hurdle to -52. Yaller Gal receives -66.     





Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling