Grand National Ultimate History



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The bank that the lane was on at the ABC was levelled out. The 28th (a hurdle) was omitted.


Fr 25 Mar 1887 (3.50) 4m 4 1/2f Good 10.10.20 16 £1,207 E.J. Thornewill

85 86 1 Gamecock 8 11-00 J. Gordon W. Daniels 20/1   Away well. Led from just after 1st to BB 1C. Remained prominent once headed, generally in 4th or 5th until took 2nd on run to 29th. Led again between last 2, 1L ahead last. Ran on well.
86 2 Savoyard 9 10-13 S. Harding T. Skelton 100/14 3 Away well & very prominent early. Less so before & after WJ (where 12 remained) but led BB 2C. Headed VB. 2nd ABC. Took lead again well before 29th. Headed, finally, before last where 1L down. Kept on.
  3 Johnny Longtail 9 10-06 A. Yates J. Childs 40/1 DIST Towards rear early. Controlled progress to be 3rd WJ. Remained very prominent until began to fade somewhere along CS 2C, 6th ABC. Inherited a distant 3rd.
  4 Chancellor 7 10-12 S. Harding W. Moore 20/1 DIST Always prominent 1C, 5th WJ. Disputed lead early 2C, 2nd BB. Went to front VB and led until came under pressure on the bend into the straight & quickly weakened. 4th at 29th. Faded further to finish well tailed off.
  5 Chancery 9 11-06 H. Linde B. Dollery 100/1   Head of mid-division 1C. Continued to chase leaders until after VB 2C. 7th ABC and essentially beaten. Finished well tailed off.
86 P Too Good 8 11-10 H. Linde H. Beasley 100/7 RUN IN Towards rear 1C, last ABC and last but one WJ. Some improvement to chase leaders by VB 2C and 5th ABC 2C. Faded soon after. Broke down on run in, PU & dismounted before post.
86 P Magpie 8 10-09 E. Woodland W. Woodland 10/1 RUN IN Away well & disputed lead 1st. Remained very prominent and disputed lead again WJ. Had dropped to 4th by 20th and faded from next (BB), completely losing place. Towards rear and under pressure ABC. PU lame on run in.
84 85 86 RO Roquefort 8 12-08 A. Yates T. Wilson 7/1 29TH Very prominent to 3rd and became prominent again by WJ. 3rd at ABC 2C but came increasingly under pressure and swerved wildly through rails 29th.
86 P Old Joe 8 11-10 G. Mulcaster C.J. Cunningham 100/8 AFT ABC 2C Away well & disputed lead 1st. Remained very prominent and led from 7th to VB 1C. Vied for lead again briefly just after ABC 1C but had dropped into mid-division WJ. Mistake 18th (OD) & faded further. Well towards rear VB. PU after ABC.
86 P Sinbad 6 10-03 Boulton William Nightingall 22/1 AFT ABC 2C Initially towards rear. Modest headway to be in rear of mid-division from ABC 1C to WJ but well behind by VB 2C. Became tailed off and PU after ABC.
84 85 86 P Frigate 9 11-05 Hunt F. Lawrence 100/9 END CS 2C Became very prominent by BB 1C and led CS 1C. Had dropped to last and under pressure WJ. Well behind VB 2C and PU at end of CS.
  F Spectrum 6 10-10 R. Sherrard R. Grimes 33/1 26TH (OD) Mid-division until headway CS 1C and made further progress to dispute lead WJ. Soon headed but chased leaders until fell 26th.
  F The Hunter   10-00 T. Wadlow W. Beasley 50/1 14TH (CHAIR) Mid-division until became prominent after BB 1C. Further headway CS 1C and disputed lead from just after ABC until fell Chair.
  F Spahi 6 10-10 H. Linde T. Beasley 9/2F 3RD (OD) Mid-division when mistake 1st. Overpowered rider & rushed at first ditch with predictable consequences.
  F Bellona 5 10-10 J. Cannon G. Lambton 100/9 2ND (FAN) Bandaged near hind. Slowly away & towards rear, fell 2nd.
  F Ballot Box 8 10-05 Sam Darling Cpt R. Owen 33/1 2ND (FAN) Slowly away & towards rear, fell 2nd.



Ahead of the alterations to the Grand National course that would occur for the 1888 renewal, now is an appropriate point to clarify any confusion regarding the distance of the race from 1836 through 2012. It's an apt juncture because the course was not actually remeasured in 1888 but it was in 1889 and here in 1887. A competent surveyor was employed and there is no reason to think anything other than that the measurements of 1887 and 1889 were made along a line at the mid-point of the course, identical to the line used when E.W. Topham had had the course measured in 1868 (it would not be until 2016 that the British Horseracing Authority had all Jumps racecourses remeasured along a line just 2yds off the inner running rail). Like many things, surveying improved over time and whereas in 1868 the race distance was said to be 4m 850yds (4m 4f) the more accurate measurement (of the same amount of ground traversed) taken in 1887 found it to be 4m 1005yds (4m 4 1/2f). In fact, since the measurement in 1868 there had been many claims that the distance was longer than 4m 850yds and the measurement in 1887 proved those voices correct, it had been 4m 4 1/2f all along. It is, therefore, reasonable to say that: between 1836-1838 the distance of the Grand National was 4m 4 1/2f; in 1839 the start was moved forwards about 300yds so the distance became 4m 3f; in 1863 the start reverted to essentially its original position so the distance was again 4m 4 1/2f; in 1888 (and through 2012) it became 4m 4f. The race became of the latter distance in 1888 because the inner line that had always been used after the Anchor Bridge Crossing on the first circuit would henceforth be taken on both circuits (instead of the outer (Flat/hurdles course) line on the second). Compared to the distance of 4m 1005yds last raced over in 1887 the trip traversed from 1888 was 149yds shorter, it was measured (in 1889) at 4m 856yds. Perusal of contemporary before and after alteration course maps confirm the correctitude of the above. (Some sources suggest that the National distance became merely 25yds shorter in 1888, however, this claim is, quite frankly, nonsense. In fairness, said sources may have been confused by an 1886 course map that shows the distance as 4m 850yds (it hadn't yet been officially discovered that that measurement was erroneous) and/or an 1888 map which, whilst clearly displaying that the inner line was now to be taken on both circuits, gives the distance as 4m 1000yds (rounded down by 5yds from the measurement of 1887) which it could not possibly have been in 1888!)

The final Grand National over 4m 4 1/2f was a little below average, certainly in terms of the finishers. Gamecock, gutsy and hardy with a very low head carriage, was somewhat exposed although currently in the form of his life. A locally owned horse, he would, remarkably, turn out again the next day and win Aintree's Champion Chase off 12st 2lb and eventually wound up with 28 successes in his chasing career including one when carting 13st 5lb! Jimmy Gordon's training methods were as rigorous as those of Henry Linde, Gamecock was galloped for four miles daily, however, unlike many of the Irish trainer's inmates, Gamecock proved durable and sound. William Daniels had been warned off between 1876 and 1886, he later became a publican and lived until the age of 81. Savoyard may have gone for home a mite too soon and both winner and runner-up benefited from the tale of woe that attached itself to the other high-profile horses. Roquefort had developed from being a bit of a monkey into a complete rogue, though in someways we can't blame him from shirking from the impossible weight concession imposed upon him. Frigate was in new ownership for the second consecutive renewal and was patently unfit. Young and excitable Charlie Cunningham may have asked Old Joe (carrying 15lb more than when victorious last year) for too much on the first circuit. Spahi, the favourite, had never run in a Jumps race! Another of Linde's, his best horse Too Good, became his latest to break down. And the same fate befell Magpie, sent off at one twentieth of last year's odds, whose young rider probably should not have persisted for so long.

At the weights in the 1887 National Gamecock (rated -40 in 1886) emerged 4 (pounds/lengths) superior to Savoyard (-43 last year), pretty much confirming what would have occurred had the latter stood up in 1886. Purely from the pace/time/weight carried/difficulty of course perspective Gamecock's performance was very similar to that of Roquefort on Good in 1885. I rated the latter -32, allowing 2 for his bad mistake early on without which he would have finished in a faster time, therefore, we might rate Gamecock -34 were it not for the conflict of 6 with the collateral form. It's likely the winner and runner-up produced slightly improved efforts in 1887 and given Gamecock's overall career record I'm inclined to more or less split the difference and award him -37 and Savoyard -41.          







Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling