Grand National Ultimate History



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There was more plough than had been the case recently, 8 of the 11 fields in the country were non-grass.


We 8 Mar 1865 (3.27) 4m 4 1/2f Soft 11.16.00 23 £1,105 C. Angell

  1 Alcibiade 5 11-04 C. Cornell Cpt B. Coventry 100/7   Held up and kept to outer. Mid-division 1st. Chased leaders in 9th (of 21) WJ. Left 5th, pursuing clear frontrunner, BB 2C. Tracked leading pair in 4th CS. Headway to be 2nd ABC. Close up in that position at second last where mistake. 1/2L down last. Level halfway up run in. Went ahead 12 strides from post. Just prevailed following neck and neck battle.
  2 Hall Court 6 11-00 W. Saunders Cpt A. Tempest 50/1 HD Held up 1C. Mid-division 1st. Chased leaders in 8th WJ. Left 2nd, pursuing clear frontrunner, BB 2C. Good headway to lead by mid CS. Almost joined by second last where mistake. 1/2L ahead last. Joined halfway up run in. Narrowly headed 12 strides from post. Just lost out following neck and neck battle.
64 3 Emblematic 7 11-10 E. Weever G. Stevens 5/1F 19 Slowly away & towards rear 1st. Well held up. A mid-division 17th WJ. 10th & last BB 2C. Kept on and made late headway past beaten horses. Took a very distant 3rd before second last. Slightly reduced gap after. Never nearer.
  4 Mistake 5 10-08   W. Jarvis NQ   Soon prominent. Refused circa BB 1C. Kept going but had lost much ground. A mid-division 16th WJ. 7th and in rear division BB 2C. Headway to gamely chase leading pair in 3rd mid CS. Effort told and began to fade approaching ABC where 4th. Ultimately eased to a canter.
  5 Merrimac 8 11-04 W. Burbidge B. Land jnr 33/1   Prominent 1st. 2nd BB 1C. Very handy in 3rd WJ. Left 2nd at 2nd fence 2C. Left in lead of 20L BB 2C. Caught and headed mid CS. Lost 2nd ABC. Weakened badly thereafter. Lost 3rd before second last and continued to fade.
63 P Emblem 9 12-04 E. Weever W. Walters 100/8 LATE 2C Slowly away & towards rear 1st. Gradual and sustained headway to be very prominent in 4th WJ. Had dropped back to be fore of rear division in 6th BB 2C. No further impact, became tailed off and did not bother to pass post.
  P Flyfisher 6 11-12 T. Golby J. Riddell NQ ABC 2C Prominent 1st, 5th BB 1C. Very handy in same position WJ. Left 4th, but only chasing clear leader, BB 2C. Began to fade CS and made bad mistake, nearly falling, at fence before ABC. PU prior to reaching said lane.
  P Lightheart   10-12 J. Peace J. Monaghan 20/1 LATE CS 2C Slowly away & towards rear 1st. A mid-division 15th WJ. Began to fade early 2C, a rear division 9th BB. PU late CS.
  P Philosopher 6 10-08 J. Peace E. Jones NQ LATE CS 2C Slowly away & towards rear 1st. A fore of mid-division 14th WJ. Began to fade early 2C, a rear division 8th BB. PU late CS.
  P The Czar 12 10-00   A. Goodman 20/1 LATE CS 2C Prominent 1st, 6th BB 1C. Chased leaders in 7th WJ. Left 3rd, pursuing clear leader, BB 2C. Faded badly from VB and PU late CS.
63 64 F Arbury 7 11-08 W. Balchin C. Boyce 100/8 BB 2C Prominent 1st, 4th BB 1C. Took 2nd soon after and led by ABC 1C. Headed & 2nd WJ. Regained lead before 1st fence 2C. Still ahead and going well when overjumped & fell BB 2C.
  P Stanton 7 10-08 W. Scott G. Waddington 9/1 FNC BEF BB 2C Prominent 1st. Chased leaders in 11th WJ. Began to fade early 2C. Very badly hampered by Ballycasey (who was in the act of falling) 4th fence 2C & caused to refuse. Kept going but jumped obstacle well behind & immediately PU.
  F Ballycasey(1)   11-00   T. Barton NQ FNC BEF BB 2C Initially mid to rear. A fore of mid-division 13th WJ. Had made no significant progress when fell 4th fence 2C.
  P Meanwood 6 11-09 J. Nightingall J. Knott 50/1 3RD FNC 2C Led, keen & soon clear. Still nicely ahead BB 1C. Advantage considerably reduced CS and headed by ABC 1C. Had dropped to 6th, chasing leaders, WJ. Tired and faded rapidly early 2C. PU 3rd fence 2C.
  P Princess Dagmar 7 10-12   G. Holman 100/8 3RD FNC 2C Sweaty. Initially mid to rear. Headway CS 1C. Chased leaders in 12th WJ. Tired and faded quickly early 2C. PU 3rd fence 2C.
  P Tony Lumpkin 8 10-04   T. Pickernell 100/7 3RD FNC 2C Mid-division 1st, fore of midfield CS 1C, chased leaders in 10th WJ. Tired and faded quickly early 2C. PU 3rd fence 2C.
  F Joe Maley 8 11-10 H. Hadley Johnny Page 100/12 2ND FNC 2C Prominent 1st, 3rd BB 1C, 2nd at Gorsed Hurdle and led WJ. Headed before 1st fence 2C where 2nd. Fell heavily next.
61 63 P The Freshman 12 10-10 T. Golby D. Meaney 40/1 EARLY 2C Initially mid to rear. Never a factor and towards rear WJ. Desisted before 1st fence 2C.
  P Tumbler   10-06   G. Drake NQ END 1C Slowly away & towards rear. Refused 1st. Kept going, well behind. Tailed off WJ and PU at end of 1C.
  P The Dwarf(2) 12 10-00 J. Igoe J. Igoe 25/1 END 1C Slowly away & last on the run to the 1st. Tailed off by WJ and PU at end of 1C.
  P Express   11-06 D. Collins D. Collins NQ END 1C Mid-division when hampered, possibly by Arbury, & caused to refuse 1st. Kept going, well behind. Well tailed off WJ and PU at end of 1C.
  R Market Gardener   10-00   T. Spence NQ 2ND Prominent on the run to the 1st but did not like the look of it when got there. Kept going, well towards rear, however, refused again 2nd.
  R Acrobat   11-09 G. Bloss W. Mumford 50/1 START Very fractious before start, displaying full range of tricks. Stubbornly refused to race.



The Liverpool Spring Meeting was extended to three days in 1865 and a very healthy sized crowd was at Aintree to witness the Grand National on the middle one. Some of the folks will also have been present on the Tuesday when they would have seen Stanton run away with a two mile hurdle race under top weight and Meanwood perform poorly in a bumper. Some extraordinary things occurred during these still formative years of the sport! Alcibiade became the first 5-y-o to win the National and achieved the feat on his chasing debut. He was also the first French bred to triumph and had in fact been a steeplechaser masquerading as a Flat horse (when his trainers included John Nightingall and Dick Drewitt), victorious only in minor races on the level. The winning jockey Captain Bee Coventry, who never rode in another National, was a cousin of the owner of the successful sisters who both returned. Emblem may not have been quite what she was following injury and George Stevens chose to ride Emblematic who in appearance looked improved. Contemporary newspaper sources indicate the going was pretty Soft when the course was taken as a whole and it cannot have been entirely dissimilar to that of 1864. Emblematic simply ran into two newcomers to the race who were better horses, were likely underestimated and who would go on to prove they relished plenty of cut. Therefore, it would be wrong to criticise Stevens, the supreme hold up artist, for being too far out of his ground. In reality, both Alcibiade and Hall Court were essentially waited with too! The very good pace sustained throughout the first circuit and a half was almost certainly too fast for the conditions and did collapse to a degree. One-time very prominent horses fell by the wayside (Meanwood, Emblem, Flyfisher, Merrimac) or just fell (Joe Maley, Arbury). Yet despite these capitulations it was Hall Court's ability that allowed him to catch and pass Merrimac before the latter had truly begun to fade and the time was the fastest since the race distance was relengthened. So there is plenty (also see below) to suggest the 1865 Grand National was a higher quality renewal than many of its recent predecessors, Emblematic almost certainly ran a lot better than she had when winning and was not giving that much weight to the first and second but was thrashed. Signs of an upturn in the class of horse attracted to steeplechasing was further reward for Alcibiade's owner Cherry Angell who with W.G. Craven (a member of the Jockey Club that oversaw Flat racing and who had owned Xanthus), Lord Coventry, Fothergill Rowlands and Captain Josey Little had done plenty to improve the sport's affairs over the previous few years. Alcibiade, now trained privately at Angell's in Lubenham, Leicestershire by Charles Cornell (presumably Cherry's groom), was in one way possibly fortunate to win at the weights because Captain Arthur Tempest, despite having been tutored by the legendary Allen McDonough, became too knackered to provide much assistance to Hall Court in the closing stages. On the other hand, in a contest of fine margin, perhaps Tempest had been just a tad overenthusiastic in his chasing down of Merrimac, whom he happened to own! Other hard luck stories included those of Arbury who had the form to place third but uncharacteristically fell when leading and Mistake who gamely attempted to rally from an early refusal. Conversely, it was sorely tempting fate to run horses named Mistake and Tumbler (ridden by 'The Admiral', George Blake) in a Grand National!

How good, then, were the performances in the 1865 Grand National? At the weights Alcibiade emerged 4 (pounds/lengths) superior to Hall Court and 13 better than Emblematic (whom I rated -62 in 1864 but was improved in appearance). Alcibiade may have been a chase debutant but had schooled exceptionally well and in private trials had easily outperformed stablemate Bridegroom (rated -51 in 1862). Bridegroom was still effective in 1865, beating Express in a Wetherby open steeplechase and Digby Collins's mare carried 11st 6lb in the National, two pounds more than Alcibiade. The latter, therefore, was clearly much better than his handicap mark, was kept to the outer in the race and erred at the second last so I will rate Alcibiade -36. Hall Court also blundered at the penultimate flight and could have done a little better with a fitter rider so I will award him -40. Both winner and runner-up had scope for improvement given their youth. Emblematic likely wasn't ridden out vigorously when third place was secure but the most she could achieve, therefore, she gets -49. This figure is due reward for a better performance on the clock than when winning last year and also reflects Stevens preferring her over Emblem whom although rated -38 in 1863 was on the slight downgrade and had to give Emblematic 6lb.



> Whilst it is quite common in this era to find minor deviation in the exact phrasing of horses' names between sources and/or years none splits opinion more than Lightheart or Light Heart.

> Many historians have Pat Igoe, who rode in the 1864 National, as also riding in the renewals of 1865 and 1867 (Revolver). However, I am quite confident that on the latter two occasions the jockey was John Igoe, here on The Dwarf, who also trained his pair of mounts.

> Sporting Life places Flyfisher sixth and last while Bell's Life says he completed the half dozen passing the post. However, the latter specialist newspaper also recounts that the horse made a bad mistake along the CS 2C, was pumped-out and "stopped" in the final plough. Therefore, I believe he was pulled up by the ABC and whilst he may indeed have passed the post it seems extremely unlikely that he jumped the final obstacles.

> Whilst all agree that Market Gardener refused the 1st, one source is specific that his second refusal came at BB 1C and one is specific that his final act was to decline the 2nd. The use of the word "soon" by Bell's Life to indicate how quickly his second act of defiance followed his first, although rather vague, inclines me to feel he exited the race at the 2nd.               






Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling