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 almost certain that the 13th and 28th (both hurdles) were omitted due to jockeys' exhortations.


Fr 26 Mar 1886 (3.21) 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 after 3rd. Headed by CT 1C but remained prominent and regained ascendancy before ABC. Pestered by loose horses and headed again before Chair where 4th. 5th (of 18) WJ. 4th once more early 2C. 3rd from BB, very close up in that position ABC. Went ahead for good before entering straight but had only the narrowest of advantages when left clear last. Comfortably although tiring.
  2 Too Good 7 11-12 H. Linde H. Beasley 7/1 6 Away quite well but settled in mid-division, 12th Chair, 11th WJ & BB 2C. Gradual headway to be 9th early CS 2C and 7th ABC. Sustained further progress into 4th at 29th and left 3rd as approached last where took 2nd. Kept on. Never nearer.
85 3 Gamecock 7 10-12 J. Gordon B. Stephens 50/1 5 Chased leaders until very prominent in 4th at 1st, 3rd BB 1C. 5th CT 1C. 2nd from ABC to WJ. 3rd again early 2C. 4th once more from BB, 6+L down in that position ABC. No nearer entering straight but 3rd at 29th. Very briefly left 2nd as approached last where relegated back to 3rd. Faded run in and finished tired.
  4 Magpie 7 10-05 E. Woodland W. Woodland 200/1 4 Mid-division, 10th BB 1C. Chased leaders from CT 1C, 7th ABC, 6th Chair & WJ. A fore of midfield 7th BB 2C and only 8th early CS. 6th again ABC, never able to challenge but kept on very dourly.
  5 The Badger 9 10-03 T. Leader jnr A. Nightingall 25/1   Very prominent 1st & 3rd, 2nd BB & CT 1C. 3rd ABC & Chair, 4th WJ. 5th early 2C but 2nd once more from BB to early CS. Came under pressure after 26th (CS ditch) and had dropped to 8th by ABC. However, plugged on until eased run in.
  6 Coronet 5 10-07 Jimmy Ryan Cpt S. Lee-Barber 3/1F   5th at 1st, 4th BB 1C. Keen, 3rd CT 1C and 4th again ABC. Pulled way into lead before Chair, ahead by about 3L WJ. Extended lead early 2C and left further clear at 18th. Still enjoyed healthy advantage mid CS but only just retained lead ABC. Headed and began to fade rapidly before the entrance to the straight. Continued to weaken and finished virtually tailed off.
83 84 7 Cortolvin(2) 9 11-07 A. Yates B. Dollery 50/1   Rear of mid-division to 3rd. A midfield 9th BB 1C, same position ABC. Chased leaders in 7th Chair & WJ. Dropped back into mid-division early 2C, 9th again BB. 7th once more early CS, 9th ABC. Laboured home, tailed off.
  8 Lady Tempest 6 10-05 P. Saurin W. Beasley 22/1   Chased leaders, prominent by 3rd. 6th BB 1C. Good headway to lead by CT 1C but headed mid CS and 6th again ABC 1C. Further lost position on run to Chair where 10th, rear of mid-division WJ. 10th once more BB 2C. Beaten by ABC. Laboured home, well tailed off.
  9 Harristown 6 10-07 J. Purcell J. Purcell 66/1   Held up in mid-division, 12th BB 1C. Rear of midfield WJ. Had advanced to fore of same in 6th by early CS 2C and sustained effort to chase leaders in 5th ABC. Weakened badly thereafter and finished well tailed off.
  10 Amicia 5 10-00 W. Walters F. Cotton 25/1   Rear of mid-division BB 1C. Had dropped to last but one by WJ. Becoming tailed off by ABC 2C and finished well so.
85 11R Redpath 9 11-07 T. Cannon G. Lambton 100/6   Rear of mid-division BB 1C. Steady progress: 10th ABC, 8th Chair & WJ, 6th early 2C & BB. In similar position when fell VB. Remounted but unable to recover and was becoming tailed off by ABC. Ultimately eased to a walk and finished completely tailed off.
82 83 84 85 12 Black Prince 14 10-12 J. Jewitt William Nightingall 50/1   Slowly away and always towards rear. Last ABC 1C although not so WJ. Hopelessly beaten by ABC 2C. Ultimately eased to a walk and finished completely tailed off.
76 77 79 80 81 82 13R The Liberator 17 10-10 E. Woodland S. Woodland jnr 100/1   Initially mid-division but chased leaders in 7th BB 1C. However, had dropped to plum last by WJ. Began to become detached early 2C. Persisted with until hampered by a loose horse & fell 25th. Shamefully remounted. Utterly tailed off.
  F Savoyard 8 10-03 S. Harding G. Kirby 22/1 30TH Held up towards rear for a large part of 1C. Quietly made way into mid-division, 11th Chair and 10th WJ. Had advanced into a fore of midfield 8th by BB 2C. Further headway to chase leaders in 5th early CS and progressed to be a very close 2nd ABC. Same situation at second last (29th). Came under pressure & hung right just after but virtually upsides when fell heavily last. Lay winded for some time.
83 85 F Jolly Sir John 9 11-06 T. Cannon C. Waller 40/1 24TH (VB) Mid-division, 8th BB 1C. Prominent in 4th CT 1C but merely chased leaders in 8th again ABC. 9th Chair & WJ. Midfield early 2C but renewed headway into 5th BB. Similar position when fell VB.
  P Billet Doux 6 10-11   J. Behan 100/1 21ST (BB) Started full of enthusiasm and chased leaders but becalmed in rear of mid-division BB 1C. Similar place WJ. Got very tired fairly soon after & PU circa BB 2C.
85 F Belmont 9 10-10 J. Westlake J. Westlake 33/1 19TH Mid-division, 11th BB 1C. Rear of midfield WJ. Similar place when fell 19th.
84 85 F Roquefort 7 12-03 W. Wilson T. Wilson 5/1 18TH (OD) Fractious before race. Away well & disputed lead 1st & 2nd. Headed after 3rd but remained prominent, generally 5th from BB 1C to Chair. 3rd WJ. 2nd early 2C when overpowered rider, overjumped & fell heavily 18th.
  R Fontenoy 9 10-04 Salmon J. Page 200/1 7TH Slowly away. Urged to make headway 3rd but towards rear BB 1C and rearmost when refused next.
  F Limekiln 6 10-02   W. Brockwell NQ 6TH (BB) Mid-division until fell BB 1C.
  F Sinbad 5 10-03 D. Marsh A. Hall 25/1 3RD (OD) Away well, 6th at 1st and very prominent when fell into ditch whilst attempting to refuse 3rd.
  F Conscript 5 10-00   H. Escott 100/1 3RD (OD) Fore of mid-division until very badly hampered by Sinbad & fell 3rd.
84 85 U Frigate 8 11-13 M. Maher J. Jones 9/1 1ST Away well & very prominent when slipped upon take off 1st and shot jockey out of saddle.



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.

The reason behind jockeys' complaints about the two hurdles which each formed the first obstacle encountered in the straight on a circuit (see course changes), certainly the one on the first tour round, was to do with it not permitting a full gallop towards the huge Chair. Meanwhile, 1886 also saw the opening of three new stands including the County.

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 very probably would have held off Too Good whose excellent runner-up 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 second 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. Coronet, the favourite, pulled too hard on the first circuit to have any chance of staying. The equally headstrong Roquefort, who this year eventually overpowered Ted Wilson (weakened by a recent illness) and 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, all of whose training was carried out under the supervision of Mat Maher before a very late sale, who 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 fully 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 well 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 very nearly as well as Roquefort (raw rating -37, final -34) did on that occasion. Therefore, I will award Old Joe -35 which includes an allowance of 2 (pounds/lengths) because he was slightly hampered by loose horses on the first circuit. Strictly on how they ran at the weights in 1886 Too Good emerged 11 superior to Old Joe so I will award Henry Linde's charge -26. Gamecock came out 19 inferior to Too Good so gets -45. Magpie was 30 inferior and, therefore, merits -56. 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. Whilst Old Joe was left to win comfortably he finished tired and could not have gone any faster. It's apparent Savoyard was a little more weary, however, the horse had responded well to pressure since the second last, therefore, had he not erred it's my judgement he would have finished about 2 lengths behind the winner from whom he was receiving 6lb. This computes to a figure of -45 for Savoyard, the same mark as awarded to the year younger Gamecock.



> The papers vary amost as badly as in 1885! There are several options presented as to where The Liberator fell and was remounted. Mick has gone with the open ditch along the canal side 2C, I have chosen the previous obstacle. We may both be wrong.

> Belmont (again!) is another toss up, Mr Mutlow prefers the 2nd fence on the 2C to my 4th obstacle on the final lap.

> Fontenoy's weight is shown in some contemporary newspapers as 10-09 rather than the 10-04 that I have. Were they correct this would inicate that the horse had incurred a 5lb penalty for winning a race subsequent to the weights being published in January, however, I can find no trace of the beast having done so and all the specialist sporting papers display 10-04.      







Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling