Grand National Ultimate History



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There was much more plough than in recent years.


Fr 24 Mar 1876 (3.20) 4m 4 1/2f Soft 11.14.00 19 £1,485 Captain J. Machell

  1 Regal 5 11-03 J. Cannon J. Cannon 25/1   Held up. A mid-division 10th mid CS 1C but towards rear WJ & early 2C. Headway to chase leaders in 7th VB, 5th next. 6L down ABC and 5th again entering straight. Took 2nd between last 2. Same position last, close up. Just prevailed following sustained battle, protagonists wide apart.
73 74 75 2 Congress 10 11-08 G. Palmer T. Wilson 25/1 NK Mid-division. Hampered by loose horses fairly early 1C but chased leaders in 7th mid CS 1C. Same position WJ where slight mistake. 8th VB 2C, still pursuing frontrunners. 5th ABC and further progress to be 2nd entering straight. Took lead at second last and held narrow advantage over final flight. Just lost out following sustained battle, protagonists wide apart.
  3 Shifnal 7 10-13 J. Nightingall R. I'Anson 33/1 3 Prominent. 4th BB 1C and took lead VB 1C. Headed circa ABC & dropped to 3rd. Same position Gorsed Hurdle but led again at WJ (where 16 remained). Joined early 2C, however, ahead alone once more BB. 2nd VB and remained very prominent, 3rd ABC & entering straight. Took 2nd at second last but dropped back to 3rd between last 2. Kept on well though relatively one-paced.
74 4 Chimney Sweep(2) 9 10-08 J. Jones J. Jones 25/1 4 1/2  Away well & led at bold gallop until headed just before BB 1C where 3rd. Remained prominent, 4th from mid CS 1C to Gorsed Hurdle, 5th WJ. Vied for lead early 2C but reduced to chasing leaders in 4th VB and came under pressure mid CS. 6th ABC (where 6L down) and same position entering straight. Kept on one-paced.
  5 Rye 6 10-00 W. Weston G. Waddington 25/1   Initially prominent but had dropped to a fore of mid-division 8th by mid CS 1C and a rear of midfield 12th by WJ. Good headway early 2C, 4th BB. Further progress to be 3rd VB and took lead next. Still ahead ABC but began to fade soon after and 4th again entering straight. Continued to weaken.
75 6 Jackal 8 11-00 D. Marsh D. Marsh 100/8   Chased leaders. Only mid-division BB 1C but headway to be 3rd mid CS 1C and further progress to lead circa ABC. Headed Gorsed Hurdle, 2nd WJ. Remained very prominent 2C, vying for lead until went ahead again briefly VB. Headed again next, 2nd ABC. Led once more entering straight but came under pressure and headed decisively at second last. Weakened badly.
  7 Phryne 8 11-03 T. Golby J. Goodwin 20/1   Initially rear of mid-division. Last CS 1C. Rear of midfield 13th WJ. Minor progress to be 9th VB 2C and further headway into 4th by ABC. Began to fade soon after it and continued to weaken.
72 73 74 Master Mowbray 11 11-11 G. Holman G. Holman 100/8   Away well & very prominent. Took narrow lead before BB 1C. Headed VB 1C, 2nd CS & ABC 1C. 5th Gorsed Hurdle, 3rd WJ. Still prominent early 2C, however, slightly lost position circa BB. Chased leaders in 6th VB but beaten by ABC. Plodded on.
75 9 Pathfinder 9 11-00 W. Reeves W. Reeves 20/1   Generally mid-division until ABC 1C where 8th. Chased leaders in 6th WJ. Had dropped towards rear by VB 2C and well beaten by ABC. Laboured on.
74 10 Defence 10 11-11 D.Marsh T. Pickernell 100/8   Chased leaders until became fairly prominent BB 1C but had dropped back into a fore of mid-division 9th by mid CS, 8th WJ. Had dropped towards rear by VB 2C and well beaten by ABC. Laboured on.
  F Chandos 6 11-07 J. Cannon J. Jewitt 100/30F 21ST (CS DITCH) Slowly away. Rear of mid-division BB 1C. Still mid to rear CS 1C. Slovenly jump & towards rear WJ. No change early 2C but gradual headway to chase leaders in 5th VB. 6th next (20th). Fell CS ditch (when possibly feeling the pinch).
  P Gamebird 7 10-12   J. Hutchinson 40/1 EARLY CS 2C Slowly away. Rear of mid-division 1C, 11th WJ. Had dropped towards rear by CT 2C and PU not all that long after.
  F Zero 6 10-10 C. Richardson Vsc Melgund 20/1 19TH (VB) Mid-division. 11th mid CS 1C. Headway to be 7th ABC, a fore of midfield 10th WJ. Renewed progress early 2C, 3rd BB. Still going well when fell heavily VB.
  F The Liberator 7 10-11 T. Ryan T. Ryan 40/1 18TH (CT) Rough passage over and coughing pre-race. Nevertheless, away well & very prominent, 2nd BB 1C. Chased leaders in 6th mid CS 1C and 5th ABC, however, took lead Gorsed Hurdle. 4th WJ but vied for lead early 2C. Had dropped to 5th by BB. Fell next (CT).
  P Spray 6 10-02 T. Cunningham T. Cunningham NQ 14TH (FAN) Initially fore of mid-division. Mid to rear CS 1C. Towards rear WJ. Little change when badly hampered & PU 14th.
  R Thyra 6 10-06 T. Stevens B. Daniels 20/1 13TH Initially prominent. Chased leaders BB 1C. Continued to do so, 5th mid CS 1C, 6th ABC. Had dropped to a fore of mid-division 9th WJ. Refused next.
  R Palm 8 11-00 A. Yates F. Barnes 100/8 3RD Rear of mid-division when very bad mistake 2nd. Refused 3rd.
  R Gazelle 5 10-09 H. May R. Flutter 40/1 3RD Rear of mid-division, refused 3rd.
75 R Clonave 8 11-05 J. Monaghan P. Gavin 22/1 3RD Rear of mid-division, refused 2nd. Kept going towards rear but would have nothing to do with the 3rd.



Following discussions between the Tophams and their Lincoln counterparts a way to avoid any clash of days betwixt the Liverpool Spring Meeting and the Flat season curtain-raiser was agreed upon. Each would henceforth occupy a separate portion of the week and as a consequence the Grand National was found a new regular slot on a Friday. The change was marked by a good renewal, however, the Aintree going was not Good despite it being officially described as such. The winning time was the slowest since 1865 (when it had last been Soft) and almost a minute outside that of 1875 when the ground (actually on the easy side of Good) had erroneously been labelled Heavy! I searched in vain for references to a very slow pace but found that quite the reverse was true and, furthermore, the speed was sustained. Therefore, the grass alone may well have contained more cut than last year but the main reason for the tardy impression conveyed by the timepiece was a large increase in the amount of plough, which Pathfinder for one would have hated, hence my tentative overall going description of Soft. As the trend in recent years had been for less ploughed fields we may surmise that the Long Depression had caused the need for better agricultural production and it's also pertinent to note the prize money was significantly lower in 1876. Impecunity, however, did not deter folk - the attendance was possibly a record.

Any umbrage taken by Captain James Machell over the reduced monetary value of the Grand National and the eclipse of his hot favourite Chandos (a chase debutant! - he was a ridiculously short price thus allowing the first five home to all go off at 25/1 or bigger) by second string Regal was readily assuaged by him having taken advantage of Regal's ever-lengthening odds, seemingly as a casual afterthought, when placing wagers on Chandos! Following his fall out with Cat Richardson (see 1874), Machell had switched his jumpers to Joe Cannon and Joe had felt Regal possessed the sounder chance of the two, hence his preference to take that mount. As a reward, after the 1876 National Cannon was switched to train Machell's Flat horses while James Jewitt (who rode Chandos here) took over the Captain's jumpers (the Flat was Machell's first and last love). Both Cannon and Jewitt were fine jockeys, who had a few years left in the saddle yet, as well as talented trainers. Captain James, who here achieved his third success in the capacity of owner, would continue to busy himself with race planning and tactics, including in his guise as racing manager for other owners who generally hailed from noble stock. In fact, much like Lord Poulett with The Lamb, Machell was the de facto owner of Regal, in this case on behalf of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (who had many horses in training either on a similar basis or in partnership with various people). Thus began the future monarch's long association with the National.   

James Machell also bought and sold horses with great frequency. Regal he purchased thrice and flogged twice over the years. The black gelding became only the second 5-y-o to win the Grand National (the previous, coincidentally, being Alcibiade on the Soft ground of 1865) but the first of three to do so in a five year span. In hindsight Joe Cannon's opinion was blindingly logical. Regal was a good jumper who in 1875 had won over four miles at recently opened Sandown Park while Chandos, lacking previous experience, proved only that he was a sloppy leaper. Both he and Zero were, according to some sources, travelling reasonably well when they fell so can be regarded as a touch unfortunate in that regard. Not as much, however, as Congress who may well have got the verdict anyway had the photo finish been invented earlier but who was hampered in the early stages. It's hard to deduce the amount loose horses cost him, however, it was certainly a lot more than a neck. Congress had looked a patent non-stayer in two of his three previous attempts at the National although there was promise in his 1874 effort considering he both fell and refused on that occasion.

Undoubtedly, therefore, Congress had strengthened with maturity because the 1876 Grand National boasted a quality field studded with past and future winners/good performers and the conditions were more stamina-sapping than on the occasions of his previous three tries. Although Ted Wilson, who said Congress was the best horse he ever rode, retained the ride Congress had passed from the ownership of the Wilsons so it's possible a different training approach also helped. Strictly at the weights Congress emerged 5 (pounds/lengths) superior to Regal, 12 better than Shifnal and 21 in advance of Chimney Sweep. Whilst there are more similarities than just age and going between Regal this year and Alcibiade in 1865 I feel comparisons with more recent renewals are a more accurate guide to the merit of the performances in 1876. Chimney Sweep appears to have run almost identically to how he did in 1874 when I awarded him -43 so I will rate the race around him. Defence (-26 in the same year) ran no sort of race and may not have liked the ground and/or the National experience second time. Jackal (-34 last year) seems to have done too much too soon on the going. Pathfinder (-44 in his victory of 1875) looked short a week of work and hated the extra plough. And our old friend Master Mowbray (-69 in 1873 and 1874) who was in the form of his life, having won six of his last seven, consequently had too much weight, conceding 17lb to Chimney Sweep and, with the distances beyond fourth place unknown, may have run somewhere near his mark. All in all, I am confident in the line through Chimney Sweep and, therefore, will rate Shifnal -34, Regal, slightly inferior to Reugny, at -27 and Congress, allowing him 4 for the effect of the interference he suffered, -18. My Scroll Of Merit thus now reads: -14 Lottery, The Lamb, Disturbance; -18 Congress.



> Sources and historians differ regarding Chandos's place of exit. I have preferred The Sportsman which says he fell two fences from the racecourse proper.

> Some historians narrowly favour that Zero fell at the CT 2C rather than at the next (VB).

> I do not trust the sources who say Spray refused at the 2nd and was kept going because she was able to be racing in close proximity to the winner at the WJ.

> Some contemporary race reports say Palm actually fell at the 2nd and did not continue.

> Similarly, there are newspaper descriptions that state Gazelle refused at the 2nd not the 3rd.                     






Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling