Grand National Ultimate History



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Almost certainly the fence hitherto immediately before the CT was removed in 1868 (although conceivably it may have been banished in 1867) because from now there is never any mention of there being two obstacles between BB and the CT and, furthermore, when the hedge in a similar spot to the modern-day Foinavon was taken out in 1873 it left no obstacle betwixt those two points.


We 4 Mar 1868 (3.05) 4m 4 1/2f Heavy 10.30.00 21 £1,570 Lord Poulett

  1 The Lamb 6 10-07 B. Land G. Ede 10/1   Away well & took lead before 1st. Headed by 3rd but remained very prominent, 2nd (of 12) WJ. Regained lead mid CS 2C and drew clear with eventual runner-up towards ABC. Narrowly headed approaching second last. Disputed lead last. Asserted & prevailed following ding-dong battle run in.
  2 Pearl Diver 8 10-12 A. Cowley J. Tomlinson 9/1 2 Mid-division. Prominent 3rd. 3rd BB 1C. Still very handy Gorsed Hurdle, led WJ. Soon headed. 2nd mid CS 2C and drew clear with eventual winner towards ABC. Took narrow lead approaching second last but first of pair to come under pressure. Joined last. Lost out following ding-dong battle run in.
65 66 3 Alcibiade 8 11-10 C. Cornell Col G. Knox 100/6 10 Away well. Very prominent 3rd, 5th BB 1C. Extremely handy Gorsed Hurdle, 4th WJ. Took lead soon after BB 2C. Headed mid CS and unable to go with front pair. Left clear of the 4th TTJ. Kept on and responded to urgings to fend off the rallying Captain Crosstree.
  4 Captain Crosstree   10-05 W. Reeves W. Reeves 33/1 3 Away well, led by 3rd. Increased advantage after BB 1C, about 6L ahead VB 1C. Only a narrow edge Gorsed hurdle, 3rd WJ. Regained lead early 2C. Headed again soon after BB and appeared to be tiring, however, remained in touch. 4th when whipped round & refused TTJ. Kept going and rallied very gamely to threaten Alcibiade for 3rd.
67 5 Astrolabe 8 12-00 J. Cassidy A. French 25/1 DIST Initially raced prominently. Reduced to chasing leaders and had dropped into rear-division by WJ where last but one. Tired further towards BB 2C and ultimately cantered home completely tailed off.
  6 Helen 7 10-01 G. Palmer A. Goodman 10/1   Initially midfield but had dropped into rear-division by WJ where 10th. Gradually faded further 2C until completely tailed off. Finished badly lame.
  P Huntsman's Daughter 8 10-12 W. Holman snr G. Holman 100/6 LATE 2C Away well. Chased leaders 3rd. Up to 5th WJ. Began to fade early 2C and beaten by BB. Became well tailed off. Could have finished 5th or 6th but PU late on.
  P Moose 8 10-07 A. Cowley W. White 8/1 LATE 2C Initially mid-division. Prominent from 3rd. 4th VB 1C, 6th WJ. Began to fade early 2C and beaten by BB. Became well tailed off. Could have finished 5th or 6th but PU late on.
  P Daisy 9 11-07 J. Purnell T. Pickernell 11/1 VB 2C Away in mid-division but 3rd at 3rd, 4th BB 1C and took 2nd just before ABC 1C. However, dopped back before Gorsed Hurdle and only 8th WJ. Faded further early 2C and blundered badly BB. Very tired and could barely be persuaded to clamber over VB. PU immediately upon landing.
  P Buszke   12-00   Cou Szapary 40/1 VB 2C Slowly away & initially towards rear. Progress into mid-division by 3rd and up to 7th WJ. Soon began to fade 2C and PU just before VB.
65 66 67 P Hall Court 9 11-04 Cpt J. Browne B. Land jnr 50/1 MID 2C Rear of mid-division at best 1C. 12th & last of those to get over WJ. Struggling badly from just before BB 2C. Became well tailed off, PU and walked in with crowd.
  R The Plover 8 10-10 Robert Walker Robert Walker NQ 1ST FNC 2C Slowly away & initially towards rear. Progress into mid-division by 3rd. Unable to maintain position and a rear-division 9th WJ. Did not fancy going round again and refused 1st fence 2C.
  F The Nun(2) 8 11-06 T. Golby J. Wheeler 100/6 WJ Mid-division. Chased leaders 3rd and a little more handy when hampered Gorsed Hurdle, rider lost iron & horse lost ground. 9th when overjumped & fell next (WJ).
  F Kingswood 6 10-12   P. Gilroy NQ WJ Soon rearmost. Relieved of that position briefly 1st but soon last again. Left with one behind 3rd. BD in scrimmage BB 1C. Remounted well behind. Became utterly tailed off but wantonly ridden to attack WJ & fell, giving rider a cold bath.
  F Thalassius 6 10-00 C. Green H. Crawshaw 40/1 BB 1C Rear of mid-division to 3rd. Had made headway into 6th and was going well when slipped on take off & fell BB 1C.
  R Garus 10 10-12 H. Lamplugh Johnny Page 33/1 BB 1C Immediately led but headed before 1st and merely chased leaders 3rd. Mid-division when repeatedly refused BB 1C.
  B Charming Woman 9 10-00 W. Saunders J. Terratta jnr NQ BB 1C Away well. Refused 3rd. Kept going but rearmost. Effort to catch Kingswood et al ended when BD in scrimmage BB 1C.
  F Mentmore 7 10-06   L. Hyland NQ 4TH Away well. Fore of mid-division 3rd. Fell next.
67 R Fan 6 10-06 G. Palmer A. Thorpe 10/1 3RD Towards rear when hesitant 1st & dropped to last. Minor progress until persistently refused 3rd.
  R Slieve Carne 5 10-00   G. Pritchard 50/1 1ST Rear of mid-division, refused 1st.
  F Chimney Sweep(1) 6 12-00 E. Weever J. Adams 7/1F BEF 1ST Mid-division when struck marking boulder on run to the 1st with near fore & fell. Broke leg. Dead.



Despite a strong wind chill factor it was, according to Edward Topham, the biggest crowd yet to attend a Grand National. Prior to the Liverpool meeting of 1868 he had arranged for the course to be measured, basically along a mid-point-of-the-course line (as was standard practise until 2016), and it was found to be 30yds short of exactly 4m 4f. However, like many things, surveying improved over time and this measurement would later prove to be inaccurate (see 1887). If only as much attention had been given to other aspects of the course, for the 1868 National was marred by an unfortunate accident that cost the favourite, Chimney Sweep, his life. The talented 6-y-o broke his near fore on a marking boulder that was denoting a side path adjacent to the perfectly level thoroughfare later named the Melling Road (it was no longer sunken, you may recollect, or known as Proceed's Lane, the contemporary press was split between calling it a lane or a road). Presumably a different way of marking this spot was employed from 1869.

There was probably less plough than in 1867, though there was a long stretch of wheat, and the official going description of Heavy appears to have been correct according to all sources. Therefore, it was an impressive feat by The Lamb to easily establish another course record (since the start was moved back) on ground much worse than that of last year, especially as he preferred a sound surface, although he did carry 20lb less than Cortolvin had. The first grey to triumph in a National, The Lamb was compact, athletic and game. He was ably assisted by George Ede who notched his sole success in the race and helped his former tutor Old Ben Land to at last win the National. Ede, who jointly formed Hampshire County Cricket Club with The Lamb's de facto owner Lord Poulett (the horse belonged to a Dublin vet but was managed by and ran in the colours of Poulett), rode a finish as effectively as any Flat jockey so it may be harsh to criticise Tomlinson for costing Pearl Diver the race by apparently getting tired during the final half mile. It may not have helped Pearl Diver that he had raced the day before albeit winning easily. There was a fair amount of grief at first Becher's, one brought down there being Charming Woman who, having already refused at the 3rd and been kept going, was one of a pair of somewhat injudiciously persisted with. The second was Kingswood, knocked over in a scrimmage at the famous Brook, whose rider then proceded, despite being right out with the washing, to tackle the water as if the hounds of hell were on his mount's tail. Hall Court had not been in form for some time, probably since his owner took over the horse's training from William Saunders. Last year's runner-up Fan was becoming increasingly mulish. There can be virtually no doubt that it was at the 3rd she refused in 1868. The race descriptions in all four main sporting newspapers of the time are unanimous in saying so despite being inconsistent with each other in several other respects. Not for the first or last time in National history there was a tragic footnote to this renewal, George Ede was killed two years later in the Grand Sefton while Land committed suicide in 1872.

The Lamb, if he had not quite done so already, would go on to establish himself as one of the greatest Grand National horses of all time. Above I have alluded to his athleticism and also to how things improve over time. Therefore, and with the general quality of steeplechasers having revived, it is a good moment to introduce the concept of general athletic improvement. All athletic beings, human and equine, inevitably grow stronger and faster over the decades for various reasons. Records are broken by each succeeding generation. The physiology, if you like, of horses, the development of steeplechasing and the advancement of training methods and jockey skills all contribute towards the improvement of times (which, the reader may recall, are only one, somewhat unreliable, measure of performance). As a consequence allowances (impossible to quantify all that accurately) must be made when comparing performances of horses from different eras (in favour of those from the earlier period). For example, Lottery, so far the only horse on my Scroll Of Merit (at -14), ran 4m 23s slower when winning 29 years before than did The Lamb in 1868, both renewals on Heavy. And the course was 1 1/2f shorter in 1839 though it contained more plough and was a stiffer jumping test plus Lottery carried 21lb more. Significantly in this case, however, the style and pace of racing was much different. Therefore, we can only investigate how contemporary sources regaded each horse in its own era, Lottery and The Lamb were both great horses.

That said, I am not yet willing to place The Lamb on my Scroll Of Merit (minimum -20). A normal time-based comparison with Cortolvin (final rating of -27 in 1867) is not possible because of the disparate ground, which is exacerbated by slight course changes in The Lamb's favour and a vast contrast in the tempo of the two races. The pace in the 1868 Grand National is described variously as uncommonly strong, cracking, rattling and very severe. True, this reflects credit on the principals and the suspicion is The Lamb's performance was better than Cortolvin's. However, I will award The Lamb -27 also because other aspects of the form provide a balance. At the weights Alcibiade, who loved cut, emerged 2 (pounds/lengths) superior to Pearl Diver, 5 better than The Lamb and 22 in advance of Captain Crosstree. Alcibiade was rated -36 when winning in 1865 with plenty of scope for improvement and he must have run a deal better as a fully mature 8-y-o in 1868, he had filled out into a fine, sturdy beast, but surely not by more than a stone. Therefore, I will rate his performance -22 with Pearl Diver thus receiving -24 and Captain Crosstree, whom I will allow 10 for his refusal at the second Table Top Jump, on -34.



> Some sources say Hall Court was among those who PU late 2C but I fear they may have confused the horse with Moose. Bell's Life indicates that Hall Court walked in with the crowd which suggests he was PU a lot sooner than near the finish whilst Yorkshire Post does not include him in its list of the first six after the ABC 2C (two of whom did PU to allow the completely tailed off pair who finished fifth and sixth to do just that).

> There are historians who believe that The Nun unseated her rider rather than falling at the WJ. It's easy to be misled by the rider not having regained the iron he lost at the Gorsed Hurdle and to think he fell off, especially as Bell's Life says the mare pitched onto her head and shot Wheeler from the saddle. However, Sporting Life employs "fell" in one place and "came down a burster" in another part of its report; The Sportsman records "slipped up and threw her jockey, who lost hold of the rein, and the mare, after nearly rolling over him, jumped up and went on riderless"; and Yorkshire Post says "falling on landing, and unseating Wheeler". That all convinces me Bell's Life is incorrect. What I think happened is that the horse came down, belly on the ground and legs either splayed or tucked underneath. That counts as a fall to me. At this point Wheeler was still perched on top but, already minus a stirrup, he lost the reins as The Nun began to struggle up, toppled off and would have been crushed if she had lost her balance when rising. Fortunately she managed to get up on first try and run off. She could not have "jumped up" unless she had fallen in the first place!                   






Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling