Grand National Ultimate History



prev . next


The course was comprised of roughly 2/3 grass and 1/3 non-grass in 1873. The posts and rails were placed closer to fences/hedges. Running rails on both sides on the approach to fences, laced with strong telegraph wire, (previously in place for the 1st to 3rd) were also added for the 4th up to VB. The fence after BB was removed and the now next obstacle the CT was modified. I'm very confident the course this year was: 1st/13th - partial posts & rails, hedge, ditch; 2nd/14th (Fan) - ditch and bank; 3rd/15th - double posts & rails over a ditch; 4th/16th - posts & rails, natural hedge; 5th/17th (BB) - posts & rails, natural hedge (3' high), brook (10' wide); 6th/18th (CT) - natural hedge; 7th/19th (VB) - posts & rails, natural hedge, brook; 8th/20th - posts & rails, natural hedge; 9th/21st - posts & rails, ditch (6' wide), natural hedge; 10th/22nd - natural hedge; (the bank that the lane/ABC was on is not counted as an obstacle); 11th - gorsed hurdle; 12th (WJ) - small rail, artificial brook, TW still said to be 16'; ... 23rd - hurdle; 24th - hurdle (the hurdle added in 1851 which sat before the second last hurdle on the wider line of the second circuit had likely not been present much more often than it was in place).           


Th 27 Mar 1873 (3.35) 4m 4 1/2f Good Not Taken 28 £1,960 Captain J. Machell

  1 Disturbance 6 11-11 C. Richardson C. Richardson 20/1   Initially held up in mid-division. Tracked leaders in 9th CT 1C. A fore of midfield 12th (of 24) WJ. Steady headway after next, 4th BB 2C. 3rd by 21st (CS ditch), same position ABC. Took 2nd very early in straight. Led soon after second last. Spring-heeled leap at last and won in common canter.
72 2 Ryshworth 7 11-08 Z. Boxall T. Boxall 8/1 6 Away well & immediately led. Soon headed, 4th at 1st. Disputed lead from 2nd until BB 1C where jumped left & headed again. 2nd from CT to ABC 1C. A very close 3rd at Gorsed Hurdle where swerved. Mistake and 1/2L down in that position WJ. 2nd again by BB 2C, 6L behind leader VB. Still 2nd but very close up ABC and led by entrance to straight. Under pressure jumping second last and decisively headed soon after that hurdle. Kept on relatively one-paced.
  3 Columbine(3) 9 10-09 W. Jenkins S. Harding 50/1 10 Mid-division. Progress to chase leaders in 8th CT 1C. Continued to pursue front-runners ABC, still 8th WJ. Good headway to lead fairly early 2C. 6L ahead VB. Only a narrow avantage ABC and headed by entrance to straight. Soon dropped to 3rd. Weakened.
72 4 Master Mowbray 8 10-07 W. Holman snr G. Holman 12/1 15 Chased leaders 1st. Prominent BB 1C. 6th CT 1C and initially further headway CS, however, became outpaced and only a fore of mid-division 13th WJ. Renewed progress following the artificial brook and 6th again by BB 2C although still fore of midfield. Chased leaders in 5th ABC. One-paced but plugged on all out to pass an easing Alice Lee and take a distant 4th inside last 100yds.
  5 Alice Lee 7 10-03 Stevenson G. Waddington 14/1   Mid-division. Became prominent by BB 1C, chased leaders in 7th CT 1C. Headway CS and 3rd ABC, 4th WJ. 3rd again BB 2C, 4th once more by 21st (CS ditch). Same position ABC but under pressure and began to lose ground on leading trio. Beaten by entrance to straight. Ultimately eased and caught for 4th inside last 100yds.
  6 Star And Garter 6 10-07 C. Vyner Cpt D. Smith 66/1   Mid-division until headway after BB 1C to be 5th at next (CT). Very prominent ABC, 7th WJ. Same position but only fore of midfield BB 2C. No closer to leaders in 6th ABC. Plugged on very one-paced but doggedly.
  7 Richard 5 10-03 A. McDonough G. Gray 40/1   Away well & chased leaders 1st. Refused BB 1C. Kept going, tailed off, and last but one WJ. Still so by BB 2C but stuck to task dourly, inherited a few positions 21st (CS ditch) and stayed on extremely one-paced past weakening, injured & eased horses to finish a bad 7th.
  8 Reugny 5 10-13 C. Richardson J. Cannon 33/1   Rear of mid-division when badly hampered by the refusing Ismael 3rd and dropped towards rear. Hampered again BB 1C and, not surprisingly, still towards rear in 19th WJ. Gamely persisted and a rear of midfield 8th ABC 2C. Laboured on.
  9 Sarchedon 5 10-03 J. Pope J. Pope 25/1   Mid-division BB 1C but had dropped towards rear in 20th WJ. Tailed off by BB 2C. Lumbered on.
72 10 Acton 7 11-01 R. Sly jnr R. I'Anson 30/1   Slowly into stride but soon closed up to latch onto main body. Very bad mistake 2nd, tack problems & lost ground. Towards rear in 18th WJ. No great progress 2C when came under pressure CT. Laboured on, well tailed off.
  11 Loustic 6 10-13 W. Bambridge W. Bambridge 33/1   Initially towards rear. Mid-division BB 1C and fore of same CT but had dropped back to 21st by WJ. Rear of midfield CT 2C. Laboured on becoming well tailed off. Finished lame.
  12 Revirescat 7 11-08 W. Reeves Cpt W. Hope-Johnstone NQ   Initially chased leaders but soon settled in mid-division, 15th WJ. Remained in midfield 2C, 7th ABC. Thereafter weakened very badly and ultimately eased to a trot.
  13 Congress 7 10-10 H. Wilson T. Wilson 40/1   Away well, 3rd at 1st, disputed lead from 2nd to BB 1C. Dropped back to 3rd well before CT 1C but remained very prominent. Extremely close 2nd Gorsed Hurdle, disputed lead again WJ. Soon began to fade quite rapidly 2C and rear of mid-division by early CS. Continued to weaken and finished completely tailed off.
  14R Crawler 6 10-10 A. Yates A. Yates 50/1   Away well. Prominent until BB 1C where hampered and only 12th next (CT). Had regained a handy position by ABC, 6th WJ. Gradually faded 2C, mid-division CT. Weakened further and rear of same when BD in melee 21st (CS ditch). Remounted, completely tailed off.
  F Broadlea 6 10-05 C. Green T. Pickernell 12/1 21ST (CS DITCH) Chased leaders, 10th CT 1C. Had dropped into a mid-division 14th by WJ and remained in midfield until fell at fourth last when very tired.
  B Red Nob 7 11-03 R. Sly jnr J. Goodwin 33/1 21ST (CS DITCH) Chased leaders 1C, 9th WJ. Had dropped into mid-division by BB 2C and rear of same next (CT). Similar place when BD by Broadlea at fourth last.
  B Solicitor 6 10-08 E. Dalglish E. Dalglish NQ 21ST (CS DITCH) Initially mid-division but keen and prominent by BB 1C. 4th next (CT), even more handy ABC and took very narrow lead Gorsed Hurdle. Joined WJ. Slightly lost position after 1st fence 2C but still as high as 5th BB. Soon faded further and rear of midfield when BD in melee fourth last.
  P Charlie 8 10-09   W. Gregory NQ 18TH (CT) Rear of mid-division at best 1C, 17th WJ. Came under severe pressure soon after BB 2C and PU before next (CT).
  F True Blue(2) 7 10-13 W. Reeves Marquis of Queensbury NQ 18TH (CT) Always towards rear. Tailed off 24th & last WJ. Boxed on but no improvement and exhausted when fell CT 2C.
  P Curragh Ranger 7 11-03 P. Doucie T. Ryan 25/1 17TH (BB) Away well. Chased leaders 1st. Fore of mid-division 11th CT 1C. Pursued leaders ABC 1C, 10th WJ. Faded badly early 2C and PU BB.
  F Footman 6 11-05 E. Weever D. Marsh 100/15F 14TH (FAN) Mid-division, 13th CT 1C. A little more prominent ABC, 11th WJ. Making minor progress when knocked into by spectators after landing over Fan & fell heavily.
  B Lingerer 6 10-13 W. Bambridge W. Mumford 50/1 14TH (FAN) Towards rear 1st, rear of mid-division BB 1C, a midfield 16th WJ. Similar position when BD by Footman at Fan.
  B New York 5 10-06 H. May W. Reeves NQ 14TH (FAN) Away well. Took lead 1st. Joined from 2nd until after BB 1C, led alone well before next (CT). Clear lead VB 1C and still nicely ahead ABC. Caught and headed just before Gorsed Hurdle. 5th WJ. Lost position very early 2C and mid-division when BD by Lingerer at Fan.
72 P Cinderella 6 10-13 W. Saunders J. Adams 100/12 13TH Rear of mid-division when badly hampered by the refusing Ismael 3rd and dropped towards rear. Remained there, 22nd WJ. Broke down on off fore & PU at 1st fence 2C.
71 F Cecil 8 10-09 J. Nightingall R. Wyatt 10/1 5TH (BB) Away well & soon took lead. Headed 1st, very prominent 2nd. Disputed lead briefly 4th and still extremely handy when hampered by Ryshworth on take off at BB 1C, landing on top of fence where got stuck for a while before falling over into the brook.
  R Ismael 7 10-13 H. Wilson B. Daniels NQ 5TH (BB) Mid-division until refused 3rd. Kept going and towards rear when confronted by Cecil stuck on the hedge at BB 1C and took the opportunity to refuse again.
  CO Huntsman(2) 6 10-11 H. Ellison H. Ellison NQ 5TH (BB) Slow to get going & last at 1st. No great improvement when carried out by the refusing Ismael at BB 1C.
70 71 72 P Casse Tete 8 11-03 A. Cowley Johnny Page 10/1 2ND (FAN) Chasing leaders when overjumped & very bad mistake 2nd, bridle broke & came off and no choice but to PU.



A fine win by the entire Disturbance who was an improving novice but had fallen on his first try over the National obstacles the previous November. Possibly he was helped by the course being made even easier for the 1873 Grand National, E.W. Topham's last, in particular by the removal of the fence formerly after Becher's which had seen more than its fair share of grief in recent renewals. My perception of the course above the race facts is an attempt to clarify the general confusion which has existed since 1873 and will, nevertheless, probably continue to do so! It is my belief that some sources who, intermittently and inconsistently since 1870, had been suggesting the 1st had been removed are erroneous and unreliable. There is, in my opinion, conclusive evidence to the contrary (which I will not bore you at length with in this discussion but please see hoofnotes below).

Notwithstanding the added rails, two loutish idiots emerged from the crowd (estimated, possibly very wildly, at 100,000) and, apart from precipitating the middle one of three melees, caused Footman, the favourite, to nearly lose his life. Evidently there were several other close shaves due to spectator encroachment. The initial fracas occurred at first Becher's where Ryshworth, who had a tendency to wander at obstacles, barged into Cecil (certainly not a case of after you!) who, before toppling into the brook, got stuck on the hedge causing Ismael, who required little invitation, to refuse which, in turn, led to Huntsman being carried out. The Footman incident, at second Fan, resulted in Lingerer and New York being brought down. The final melee, at the fence after second Valentine's, affected four tired horses: Broadlea fell and brought down Red Nob while Solicitor and Congress suffered the same fate in the backwash. The bulk of the field in the 1873 National couldn't hack or sustain the frantic pace, again fuelled by a mad dash to lead at the Water Jump, and many became exhausted. Disturbance, the top weight in a handicap with a condensed range, provided a training and riding victory for Cat Richardson, a dashing sportsman who had ridden the winner of a 5f Flat race the day before and who, at this time, enjoyed a harmonious relationship with Disturbance's owner Captain James Machell who was a good judge of a horse as well as being a big gambler. The omens for Disturbance's success were present at the Liverpool Spring Meeting of a year earlier when he won a 6f contest on the level and a handicap hurdle on consecutive days.

This was a great performance by Disturbance, we'll never know exactly how brilliant because of a watch malfunction, either mechanical or human, however, there are some clues as to its merit. Observers and jockeys confirm the pace was rattling and it was sustained, the winner cruising away off it late on. In theory, at least, Master Mowbray (who finished fourth) should have been less outpaced on the Good going of the 1873 Grand National than he had been on Firm in 1872. Last year he was sixth carrying 8lb more than the third, Despatch, whom I rated -47 but it is completely unknown how far behind the latter he finished. As a rough guide, if it was 30 lengths Master Mowbray would have earned a rating of -69 in 1872. Bearing that tenuous figure in mind, strictly at the weights in 1873 Disturbance emerged 9 (pounds/lengths) superior to Ryshworth, who was joint second top weight, 32 better than Columbine, the veteran of the party at nine years old, and 49 in advance of Master Mowbray. The last number tentatively places Disturbance's effort at -20. Such was the ease of his victory, however, I am inclined to double the margin of it and allow him 6 which would put him alongside the two horses already on my Scroll Of Merit. And I think Disturbance is worthy of the high ranking. Apart from the large weights carried by the first two, Ryshworth, whilst not a battler, had finished fourth in the 1869 Derby and ran away with a race off 12st 7lb the day after the 1873 National! Furthermore, as a 2-y-o Ryshworth had won a Group 2 race over 6f. He was no slouch and Disturbance destroyed him for toe. The performance of Disturbance would stand up very well in a pretty strong decade too. In conclusion, he deserves all benefit of doubt and I will rate Disturbance's effort -14 (Ryshworth -29, Columbine -52, Master Mowbray -69). Thus the Scroll now reads: -14 Lottery, The Lamb, Disturbance.



> Regarding the course, the key dispute is over whether the 1st was always present or whether, for a spell beginning in 1870, it was not there and BB thus became the 4th, as some sources and historians claim. A brief precis of my view follows.

There is no question in my mind that it was to the 2nd that Fan's name was attached in 1870 because, although she refused at each of the first three fences at one time or another, it was the 2nd that she had resolutely declined in two different 1869 races. Had the 1st been removed in 1870 her name would have been attached to the new 1st (old 2nd).

Fundamentally, it seems to me extremely unlikely that horses would have been asked to gallop 640y, rather than 440y, before being required to leave the ground for the first time and at such a notoriously tricky obstacle especially as any type of opening leap inherently catches horses out.

Although in one place Bell's Life in 1870 says the 1st was removed it clearly indicates in two separate places that the 2nd fence jumped was Fan. For example, it illustrates that Traveller fell into the ditch at the 1st and Fan refused at the 3rd ("...only to break the rail, and run around at the next." (i.e. the next after the fence bearing her name, the next after the fence she had on two occasions displayed aversion to in 1869)) while Sporting Life corroborates that there was a fence in between those at which these two incidents occurred. Furthermore, Bell's Life says Fan slid into a ditch in the act of refusing, the 4th did not have a ditch element, while Sporting Life in its race narrative clearly, in my opinion, refers to a fence preceding BB which it does not link in any way as being the obstacle where Fan refused and The Era, after Fan's refusal, firstly denotes "at the fence beyond" and then starts a new passage with "as they approached Becher's Brook".

The Graphic (25/3/1871, quoted in John Pinfold's 2016 book) claims the 1st had been removed but is an unreliable source because many of its fence descriptions don't match what we know about the obstacles it is attempting to chronicle. Indeed, one of the things we do know for sure is that the 2nd (Fan) was the only bank fence on the course and The Sportsman's 1871 race decription says "The first obstacle was negotiated without any mishap, but the second proved disastrous to St Valentine, who blundered, and breasting the bank..."

In respect of 1872, a piece in an 1873 edition of Cheshire Observer links incidents in the two renewals (the one in 1873 involving Footman) in a way which unequivocally proves that the 2nd/14th (Fan) was still the second fence jumped on each circuit, and there is strong supporting evidence, too lengthy to go into here, as well.

In 1873 itself there is a lot of contemporary verbiage (I too could go into reams) about the course because, independently in the weeks and days (we know not exactly when) prior to the day of the race, two gentlemen walked the course and subsequently produced reports on it. Their descriptions differ because in between the first person's stroll round and the second's Aintree carried out quite a few significant alterations (e.g. the removal of the one remaining fence between BB and the CT and the modification of the latter). The first to stride was somebody who called himself Xanthus and produced a table which unfortunately contains many mistakes; the other's offering was syndicated but has been misinterpreted in so many different ways by various newspapers as to render the base material, in parts, lost in translation. Sporting Life also had a chap pace round, however, is not credible as a whole in its Grand National coverage this year due to contradictory statements. In its race narrative it claims BB is the 4th (and no source ever suggests the 4th itself was removed), pointing to the absence of the 1st, however, elsewhere it concurs with Cheshire Observer, which identifies the 2nd/14th (Fan) as where Footman fell, by stating his fall as occurring at "the second fence in the second round" and all other papers agree with that statement.

Most crucially of all, though, several different papers in 1873 say there were 26 jumps in total. The reader will notice that my perception includes just 24, however, I do not count the mere bank at the ABC which at this time papers did. If the 1st had been absent my total would be 22 and that of contemporary newspapers 24. I have conducted an intense study in microscopic detail to seek another obstacle which might have been taken once on each circuit and there is no suggestion of one in any source. The 1st was always present.

Further and final proof is that there is never a mention after 1873 of the 1st being reinstated and it was certainly present in 1874 by definition because it was replenished (not reinstated) with strong thorns in 1875.           

> Almost as divisive is the issue of whether or not Congress PU and if not where did he finish! My belief is that Bell's Life accidentally omitted him in its list of finishers and as a consequence in its preamble to its race description invented a cock and bull story that he was PU at BB 2C. All three main contemporary sporting newspapers have 14 finishers, The Sportsman and Sporting Life place him thirteenth. That pair of sources also have Loustic and Revirescat in eleventh and twelfth respectively, Crawler fourteenth and last. Bell's Life skips from Acton in tenth to saying Loustic finished twelfth, etc. It misses out eleventh and misses out Congress. It has listed both Loustic and Revirescat one position too low and left itself unable to slot Congress into his correct position of thirteenth. No actual narrative account of the race says he PU.

> One unreliable, I think, source states that Charlie fell at the 14th, however, The Sportsman reports that the horse was still going, under severe pressure, three fences later. Furthermore, the unreliable source is by consensus incorrect about another horse (True Blue) having fallen at the 14th.     











Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling