Grand National Ultimate History



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There was a similar amount of plough as in the previous two years. Four obstacles were made/converted into unguarded open ditches (OD): the 3rd (previously double posts & rails over a ditch), the CT (formerly just a natural hedge), the canal side ditch (the posts & rails were removed), and the former gorsed hurdle immediately before the WJ (which came to be referred to as the Chair). The small rail guarding the WJ was removed leaving a stretch of open water 12' wide (TW previously about 16') and 2' deep (formerly 4'). Two hurdles were added in the country, one of which was placed between the 4th and BB while the other was put in-between VB and the canal side OD (possibly replacing the posts & rails and hedge although it may be more likely that said fence had been absent in 1881 and 1882). A hurdle was also added prior to the Chair on the inner (first circuit) line and another between the ABC and the pair already in the straight on the outer line of the second circuit. A fence between BB and the CT was reintroduced. Some other fences were increased in size. My understanding of the course in 1883: 1st/16th - plain fence; 2nd/17th (Fan) - ditch filled up and rail moved close up to hedge; 3rd/18th (OD); 4th/19th - rail and hedge; 5th/20th - hurdle; 6th/21st (BB); 7th/22nd - rail and fence; 8th/23rd (CT, OD); 9th/24th (VB); 10th/25th - hurdle; 11th/26th (OD); 12th/27th - rail moved close up to fence (ditch on landing side); 13th - hurdle; 14th (Chair, OD); 15th (WJ);...28th - hurdle; 29th - hurdle; 30th - hurdle.          


Fr 30 Mar 1883 (3.18) 4m 4 1/2f Heavy 11.39.00 10 £925 Count Kinsky

82 1 Zoedone 6 11-00 S. Harding Cou Kinsky 100/8   Chased leaders, 5th from 1st to BB 1C. Up to 3rd CS and disputed lead soon after ABC 1C. 1L down in 2nd (of 9) WJ. Led early 2C. Headed BB and 2nd CT but ahead again immediately after VB and gradually went clear. Nearly 20L to the good just after ABC. Advantage halved by entrance to straight and mistake second last, however, kept on well and won unchallenged.
82 2 Black Prince 11 10-04 R. Exshaw D. Canavan jnr 33/1 10 Away well and took lead lane/road. Headed before BB 1C where 4th. Jumped well and 2nd CS 1C. 3rd at Chair, 4th WJ. Raced in 3rd again from early 2C and 20l 2nd just after ABC. Had halved deficit by entrance to straight. Kept on dourly with no further impression.
82 3 Mohican 6 12-01 H. Linde H. Beasley 9/1 6 Slowly away and held up towards rear 1C, last but one BB & WJ. No great progress 2C, last CS & still towards rear ABC, but ran on well past beaten horses thereafter to take 3rd in straight. Never nearer.
80 4 Downpatrick 9 10-07 P. Gavin T. Widger 100/7 6 Mid-division 1C, 6th BB & WJ. Dropped towards rear early 2C but rallied to be 6th again CS. Modest further progress to be a poor 3rd circa ABC. Lost that place in straight as slightly faded.
  5 Zitella 5 11-02 H. Linde T. Beasley 3/1F   Prominent, 3rd at 1st & 2nd. Led at slightly raised pace from BB 1C, 6L ahead VB 1C. Joined soon after ABC but regained 1L advantage WJ. Headed early 2C and 2nd but led again BB and briefly held handy advantage CT. Reeled in by VB and headed again immediately after. 2nd once more CS but became increasingly adrift from leader/winner and under severe pressure by 27th. Weakened and ultimately eased to a trot.
81 82 6 Montauban 9 10-09 H. Hall T. Wilson 9/1   Away well & reluctant early leader. Headed lane/road and 4th at 1st & 2nd. Had settled in mid-division by BB 1C where 7th. Still in midfield CS 1C but briefly regained prominence towards WJ where 3rd. Soon lost position 2C, 7th CS and no further impact. Laboured on until eased to a trot.
82 7 Eau De Vie 8 11-10 D. Marsh D. Thirlwell 9/2   Initially towards rear but had pulled way into 3rd by BB 1C. Able to be steadied, 5th CS, 4th Chair and a mid-division 7th WJ. Regained 4th early 2C and generally maintained that position until came under pressure circa 27th. Weakened badly thereafter and finished well tailed off.
  8 Athlacca 8 11-04 D. Marsh J. Adams 9/1   Initially mid-division but had dropped to last by BB 1C. Pecked CT 1C and remained rearmost CS & WJ. Headway early 2C and 5th until came under pressure circa 27th. Weakened badly thereafter and finished well tailed off.
  F Cortolvin(2) 6 10-05 J. Jewitt A. Barker 33/1 18TH (OD) Away well & very prominent. 2nd from 1st to beyond BB 1C. 4th CS, 5th Chair & WJ. Continued in similar position 2C until took off too soon & fell 18th.
  R Jolly Sir John 6 10-05 T. Cannon A. Coventry 100/12 4TH Rear of mid-division until tried to refuse, turning sideways, & fell first ditch. Quickly remounted and coaxed on but would have none of it and successfully refused next (4th).



The antithesis to the superb race of 1882, the 1883 Grand National was all round as poor a renewal as there had ever been. It lacked drama, a competitive finish, an epic performance and quality in depth. The contemporary press was scathing re the lack of the latter element, although in fairness its view was a tad harsh and certainly relative as we need only to look back to the period between the mid-1850s and mid-1860s to find far worse in that regard. The ninth victorious mare, Zoedone, who had been interrupted in her preparation for the 1882 National due to coughing, was stronger as a 6-y-o, game and a good jumper. Comprehensively winning her battle, that raged for over a circuit, with the favourite, Zitella (whom, along with her stablemate Mohican, paddock judges were unanimous in saying looked overdone by Henry Linde), Zoedone conveyed the Austro-Hungarian nobleman Count Kinsky, who had been inspired by Lord Manners's triumph last year, to the first riding success by a non-British/Irish person. William (only known to his friends as Jenks) Jenkins is widely shown as Zoedone's trainer, however, whilst he held the licence, information from several contemporary sources suggests that Snowy Harding, himself a former licence holder, did the actual training of the horse. The mare was part of the joint third smallest field in Grand National history, the paltriest turnout since 1838. I alluded to the dearth in quantity and quality of British-trained chasers in 1881's discussion and the paucity now appeared to have spread to Ireland. Perhaps more pertinently, it seems that the owners of what decent class horses that there were around at this time were often reticent to run them in the Aintree National because they felt there was too much galloping required and not enough leaping, that the obstacles were too small, and that the course should be fully railed.

As can be seen from the course changes described above the race facts, however, the NHC was alert to the current criticisms of Liverpool and indeed steeplechasing in general. Many of the changes had been applied for the Aintree Autumn Meeting of 1882 following the report, published that July, of a sub-committee the NHC had appointed to look into aspects of the sport. The report called for: 12 fences per 2 miles and another 6 for each additional mile; 1 open ditch (with no guard rail), 6ft wide and 4ft deep, on the take off side in each mile; 1 water jump, 12ft wide and 2ft deep, with no fence before the pond but instead either one rail or left completely open; and all hurdles to be 3ft 6in high. As in 1873, my perception of the course is unlikely to terminate debate on the subject, however, all specifics pertaining to the racetrack will at last become crystal clear in 1885. I can, though, bring to a conclusion here my running discussion of the obstacle immediately before the Water Jump (last vented upon in 1878). Whilst it had been long since that a judge had last sat on the adjacent distance chair the structure remained, therefore, it's understandable why the open ditch that replaced the obstacle previously at that spot came to be known as the Chair. What, however, did the ditch replace? Bell's Life (the organ that employed the nomenclature 'gorsed hurdle' longest among the sporting press before succumbing to the trend to call the obstacle some combination of bush/thorn fence/jump) said in November 1882 (and I paraphrase) what has always been known as the thorn jump has been replaced by an open ditch. As stated, that paper didn't in fact always know it as the thorn jump! We have seen above regarding quality that the fourth estate has a rather short-term memory! Also, even though on a course map of 1848 the obstacle is called a thorn fence it was clearly described in 1847/1848 as a hurdle stuffed with gorse! Therefore, whatever the obstacle was called at any time from its inception in 1847 does not mean it was anything other than a gorsed hurdle until its replacement in the autumn of 1882 and that remains my contention.

Strictly at the weights in the 1883 Grand National Zoedone emerged 1 (pound/length) superior to Mohican, 20 better than Black Prince and 29 in advance of Downpatrick. Degrees of Heavy going can vary a lot and I don't believe that the surface in 1883 was quite as bad as the quagmire of two years earlier. Therefore, despite Zoedone's winning time being 11 seconds quicker than that of Woodbrook in 1881 (raw rating -33) off a similar pace with the mare carrying just 3 pounds less and negotiating a much stiffer jumping test, I am inclined to award Zoedone the same raw figure as Woodbrook, especially bearing in mind the concern about quality. However, given her mistake at the second last and ease of victory I will allow Zoedone 7 for a final mark of -26. Meanwhile, Mohican is awarded -34, Black Prince -53 and Downpatrick -62. The latter was rated -46 in 1880 on Good but, in contrast to that year, did not fully stay on the much more testing going of 1883, had been long absent and, according to our old friends the paddock judges, looked burly due to an interrupted preparation. Therefore, to say Downpatrick performed over a stone worse is not unreasonable and gives the calculations further ballast.  








Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling