Grand National Ultimate History



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All fields up to BB were non-grass this year, plus there was the usual amount of plough down the canal side. The fences were generally made up a bit bigger in 1881.


Fr 25 Mar 1881 (3.15) 4m 4 1/2f Heavy 11.50.00 13 £925 Captain T. Kirkwood

80 1 Woodbrook 7 11-03 H. Linde T. Beasley 6/1   Chased leaders, 6th at 1st. Headway to be 2nd BB 1C. Left in lead CS ditch 1C. Revelled in quagmire and never headed thereafter. 4 1/2L to the good ABC & WJ (where 10 remained). 6L clear early 2C. Advantage reduced CS, 2L lead ABC. Only one serious challenger from second last who was shaken off at final flight. Very comfortably.
76 77 79 80 2 Regal 10 11-12 J. Jewitt J. Jewitt 11/1 4 Slowly away & towards rear 1C, 10th & last WJ. 7th CT 2C, 6th ABC and took 2nd entering straight. Effort between last 2 but mistake last and no extra. Kept on at the one pace.
  3 Thornfield 5 10-09 D. Marsh D. Marsh 11/2F DIST Away well but settled in fore of mid-division, 5th from BB to VB 1C. Left 4th CS ditch 1C. However, floundered in mud, 5th again ABC and only 7th WJ. Renewed progress early 2C, 4th once more BB. Generally raced in 6th from CT until entering straight. Modest further headway under pressure to finish a bad 3rd.
  4 New Glasgow 8 10-07 T. Wadlow Cpt D. Smith 11/1   Away well & very prominent. 2nd at 1st, 3rd BB 1C, left 2nd again CS ditch 1C and 3rd once more ABC & WJ. Generally raced in 3rd 2C but came under pressure entering straight, weakened and eventually dropped to 4th.
  5 The Scot 5 10-00 J. Jewitt F. Webb 25/1   Initially mid-division but held up towards rear BB 1C. Headway to chase leaders in 6th WJ. Same position BB 2C. 8th CT, 7th ABC and 5th entering straight. Came under severe pressure second last and weakened.
  6 Abbot Of St Mary's 5 10-09 J. Nightingall J. Adams 8/1   Slowly away & towards rear 1st. Mid-division BB & ABC 1C (where 7th) but last but one WJ. Rallied to be 6th early 2C, 5th CT. Had dropped back to last but one (8th) by ABC, however, renewed effort to be 4th entering straight. Came under severe pressure second last and weakened badly.
  7 Cross Question 6 10-00 J. Jones J. Jones 100/15   Soon became prominent, 4th over 1st. A fore of mid-division 6th from BB to VB 1C and same position ABC 1C despite being slightly hampered by the fall of The Liberator at CS ditch. Back up to 4th WJ and retained that position early 2C, still 4th ABC. Began to fade badly shortly after. Continued to weaken.
  8 Montauban 7 10-07 H. Hall A. Coventry 100/7   Soon became prominent, 3rd at 1st. 4th BB 1C, left 3rd at CS ditch and 2nd, 4 1/2L down, ABC 1C. Same place WJ. Mainly raced in 2nd 2C and only 2L adrift ABC. Began to fade badly shortly after. Continued to weaken.
76 77 79 80 9R The Liberator 12 12-07 J.H. Moore Garrett Moore 100/15   Away well & led 1st. Still ahead BB 1C but not jumping well. Nevertheless, retained lead unttil fell CS ditch 1C. Quickly remounted. Last ABC but back in touch in a rear of mid-division 8th WJ. Effort and weight on ground soon told 2C. Dropped to last, got increasingly behind and finished well tailed off.
  R Fair Wind 8 10-13 H. Linde H. Beasley 100/7 16TH Initially mid-division. Left 5th CS ditch 1C and chased leaders in same position WJ. Refused 14th (Fan). Kept going, well behind, only to refuse again 2 fences later.
  F Little Prince 6 10-08 P. Doyle D. Canavan jnr 40/1 5TH (BB) Prominent, 5th at 1st. Refused 2nd (Fan). Kept going tailed off. Fell BB 1C.
  R Fabius 5 10-00 W. Reeves W. Hunt 25/1 1ST Mid-division, refused 1st.
  R Buridan 7 10-02 A. Yates A. Yates 50/1 1ST Slowly away & towards rear. Refused 1st.



Worryingly, there were only 47 initial subscribers for the 1881 National and this meant the winning connections collected less than a grand for the work of Woodbrook who, as mentioned in the 1880 discussion, revelled in the dreadfully Heavy ground and didn't seem to mind the rain and high winds either. It could not have helped most of his rivals that the amount of plough yo-yoed up in 1881. And the fences had been made more demanding to the extent that the 1st and 2nd were slightly reduced in size for the National following complaints on Thursday's opening day of the Liverpool Spring Meeting. No surprise then that the time was the slowest since 1864.

There appeared to be at this juncture a dearth in both the quantity and quality of British-trained chasers and so the recent Irish domination continued as messrs Linde and T. Beasley registered their second consecutive Grand National victory. The race became something of a procession once The Liberator fell at the canal side ditch on the first circuit because all those who subsequently tried to go with the winner eventually faded badly and Thornfield, the favourite, got bogged down in the worst of the plough. Ultimately only the game Regal, back in the ownership of Captain Machell for the third time and who was held up off the pace, provided any real threat to the improved Woodbrook. More fully capitalising on Woodbrook's success his owner sold him to a German, sadly the horse died in 1882.

Whilst Woodbrook won comfortably the going was extreme and Regal blundered at the last flight. It was a gallant effort by Regal who was carrying 9lb more on more testing ground than when winning as a 5-y-o in 1876. He had seemingly become a bit of a monkey, in particular witness last year's Grand National, however, contemporary sporting newspapers reported Regal looked wonderfully fit and never moved better than in preparation for the 1881 renewal, one in which he displayed no sign of waywardness. Therefore, it would be harsh to think he ran below the -27 I rated him in 1876. Allowing him 1 (pound/length) for his late mistake I will thus award him the same figure. At the weights in 1881 Woodbrook, who had filled out a good deal since twelve months earlier, emerged 5 inferior (-33) but, bearing in mind the winning distance of 4 lengths and the relative ease of his success, I will uprate Woodbrook by 3 to -30.   







Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling