Grand National Ultimate History



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At the insistence of the National Hunt Committee, a section of plough was reintroduced, its location to be changed from year to year. The hurdles at the 1st/16th, 5th/20th and 10th/25th were replaced by plain fences, all standing 4' 6" H, which were constructed in the style that became classic and was gradually applied to all fences (see discussion). It's possible that one or both of the 13th and 28th (both hurdles) was omitted due to jockeys' exhortations.


Fr 26 Mar 1886 (3.25) 4m 4 1/2f Good to Soft 10.14.60 23 £1,380 A. Douglas

  1 Old Joe 7 10-09 G. Mulcaster T. Skelton 25/1   Away well & disputed lead 1st. Led outright by 3rd. headed after BB 1C but led again CS 1C. Headed once more after ABC, 5th (of 18) WJ. Very prominent 2C until went ahead for good after ABC. Left clear last. Kept on well.
  2 Too Good 7 11-12 H. Linde H. Beasley 7/1 6 Settled in mid-division 1C, 11th WJ. Headway to chase leaders CS 2C, 7th ABC. Further progress into 4th at 29th, took/inherited 2nd last. Never nearer.
85 3 Gamecock 7 10-12 J. Gordon B. Stephens 50/1 5 Very prominent from 1st until led 7th. Soon headed but remained extremely handy, 2nd WJ. Generally 4th 2C. 3rd at 29th. Briefly lost then inherited that position last. Kept on one-paced.
  4 Magpie 7 10-05 E. Woodland W. Woodland 200/1 4 Mid-division until chased leaders CS 1C. 6th WJ. Never able to challenge but kept on dourly.
  5 The Badger 9 10-03 T. Leader jnr A. Nightingall 25/1   Very prominent 1C, 4th WJ. Continued in same vein 2C until came under pressure 26th. 8th ABC. Plugged on.
  6 Coronet 5 10-07 Jimmy Ryan Cpt S. Lee-Barber 3/1F   Very prominent until pulled way into lead before Chair. Clear early 2C. Advantage gradually reduced and pressed after ABC. Soon headed, well before 29th, and weakened badly.
83 84 7 Cortolvin(2) 9 11-07 A. Yates B. Dollery 50/1   Headway into mid-division BB 1C. Chased leaders from ABC 1C, 7th WJ. Generally 9th for most of 2C. No more to give after ABC. Plodded on.
  8 Lady Tempest 6 10-05   W. Beasley 22/1   Became very prominent BB 1C and led briefly CT 1C. Began to fade CS & 12th WJ. Mid-division 2C. Relegated to last by those behind exiting. Plodded on.
  F Savoyard 8 10-03 S. Harding G. Kirby 22/1 30TH Chased leaders until dropped into mid-division ABC 1C, 10th WJ. 8th BB 2C, 5th CT & up to 3rd ABC. Took 2nd soon after and close up in that position 29th although under pressure. Nevertheless tried to dispute lead last where fell.
  P Harristown 6 10-07   J. Purcell 66/1 30TH Raced in mid-division until effort to chase leaders from CT 2C. 5th ABC. Weakened & beaten before 29th and so tired was PU before last.
85 P Redpath 9 11-07 T. Cannon G. Lambton 100/6 AFT ABC 2C Slowly away. Recovered to chase leaders 1C, 8th WJ. Became more prominent in 6th BB 2C. Thereafter faded, tailed off by ABC and PU soon after.
  P Amicia 5 10-00 W. Walters F. Cotton 25/1 AFT ABC 2C Always towards rear. Last but one WJ. Tailed off by ABC 2C and PU soon after.
76 77 79 80 81 82 F The Liberator 17 10-10 E. Woodland S. Woodland jnr 100/1 26TH (OD) Chased leaders until BB 1C but dropped towards rear and plum last WJ. No sign of a revival when fell 26th.
82 83 84 85 P Black Prince 14 10-12 J. Jewitt William Nightingall 50/1 CS 2C Slowly away & always towards rear. Tailed off last when PU CS 2C.
83 85 F Jolly Sir John 9 11-06 T. Cannon C. Waller 40/1 24TH (VB) Mid-division to BB 1C. Chased leaders from CT 1C. 9th WJ. Headway into 5th BB 2C and same position when fell VB.
  P Billet Doux 6 10-11 R. Sherwood J. Behan 100/1 21ST (BB) Started full of enthusiasm but soon becalmed in rear of mid-division 1C. Got very tired & PU BB 2C.
85 F Belmont 9 10-10 J. Westlake J. Westlake 33/1 19TH Initially chased leaders. Became more prominent BB 1C but dropped into mid-division CS 1C where remained until fell 19th.
84 85 F Roquefort 7 12-03 W. Wilson T. Wilson 5/1 18TH (OD) Away well & disputed lead 1st & 2nd. Headed 3rd but remained very prominent, 3rd WJ. 2nd when fell heavily 18th.
  R Fontenoy 9 10-04 Salmon J. Page 200/1 7TH Slowly away. Attempted to make headway 3rd but towards rear BB 1C. Refused next.
  F Limekiln 6 10-02   W. Brockwell NQ 6TH (BB) Chased leaders on run to 1st but only in mid-division when fell BB 1C.
  F Sinbad 5 10-03 D. Marsh A. Hall 25/1 3RD (OD) Away well & very prominent until fell into ditch while attempting to refuse 3rd.
  F Conscript 5 10-00 A. Yates H. Escott 100/1 3RD (OD) Became prominent on run to 1st, after jumping which merely chased leaders until fell 3rd.
84 85 U Frigate 8 11-13 A. Yates J. Jones 9/1 1ST Away well & very prominent when very bad mistake & UR 1st.



Unquestionably, in my opinion, the most important and influential person in Grand National history William Steuart (not Ewart!) Gladstone was appointed Clerk of the Course by the Tophams in 1886. The first and overriding image that pops into most folks minds upon mention of the Aintree spectacular is a visage of the distinctive fences, Gladstone fences. For it was he, starting with the new 1st, 5th and 10th, who redesigned them. His vision was in line with that of the NHC which was keen to ensure the National was a proper test of a steeplechaser rather than a haven for ex-Flat cast offs. Gladstone would also reconfigure the course in 1888 and this energetic, genuine and able man successfully ran Liverpool meetings until his death in January 1905.

1886 is the first year for which I can find definite proof that a Distance Judge was no longer in situ, however, it's certain that he had been gone for many renewals of the Grand National. Had one remained he would have enjoyed a good view of the improving Old Joe registering a sixth consecutive chase victory. Versatile and hardy, the horse had once won two races on the same day, he had been nursed to recovery from a bruised foot just in time by Cumberland trainer George Mulcaster. Tommy Skelton, who walked with a permanent limp due to a racing fall, was more about finesse than strength but possessed a powerful determination. Savoyard was feeling the pinch when falling at the last flight and would not have triumphed, he may not have held off Too Good whose excellent effort under 11st 12lb was the best ever by a Linde trained horse. That knowledge would have been scant consolation for Harry Beasley who finished runner-up for the third consecutive year. The Liberator, extraordinarily turned out again in the National at the age of 17 and after a four year absence from the race, became the second horse to contest seven renewals. In stark contrast his stable companion, National debutant Magpie, was ridden by William Woodland who was just 13! The boy was treated to an astounding tour round into fourth by the 200/1 shot. Roquefort, who fell at the 18th, would have had no chance of successfully conceding the weight having been raised 17lb, even with further improvement, and the same sentiment applies to Frigate who had joined Arthur Yates's but was left cursing Gladstone for changing the nature of the opening leap!

The pace of the 1886 Grand National was fine and stood up, and the winning time is a very good one. It is hard to compare it with the most recent previous National run on Good to Soft (1879) mainly because of the many subsequent changes to the course and partly because the going in 1886 may have been very much on the Good side of the official description of Average. Glancing back to 1885 and taking everything into consideration, I feel the fairest thing to do is to credit Old Joe with having run as well as Roquefort did on tthat occasion, thus -32. At the weights in 1886 Too Good emerged 11 superior to Old Joe so I will award the former -21. Gamecock came out 19 inferior to Henry Linde's charge so gets -40. Magpie was 30 inferior and, therefore, merits -51. Savoyard fell at the last and the run in was nowhere nearly as long in 1886 as it would soon become so we can rate the horse. Again in the interest of fairness, I will give the benefit of doubt to Savoyard that he would have just held off Too Good by a length. Savoyard was receiving 23lb from the eventual runner-up, therefore, I will rate him -43.    







Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling