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 (3.53) 4m 4 1/2f Good 10.10.20 16 £1,207 E.J. Thornewill

85 86 1 Gamecock 8 11-00 J. Gordon B. Daniels 20/1   Away well. 3rd at 1st and led from just after it until headed before BB 1C where 5th. Still prominent CS 1C, 6th ABC but only 8th (of 12) WJ. Had worked way back into a prominent position when bad mistake BB 2C, rider lost irons & helped to stay in saddle by jockey on Johnny Longtail. 5th VB, 4th ABC. 2nd entering straight and at second last. Took lead again before last where 1L up. Ran on well.
86 2 Savoyard 9 10-13 S. Harding T. Skelton 100/14 3 Away well. 4th at 1st and 2nd next. Soon restrained in mid-division. Chased leaders in 6th WJ. 5th early 2C, soon took 2nd again and hit the front approaching BB. Headed and 3rd VB. A close 2nd ABC and regained lead entering straight. Headed decisively before last where 1L down. Kept on one-paced.
  3 Johnny Longtail 9 10-06 A. Yates J. Childs 40/1 DIST Soon towards rear. Controlled progress to be 5th ABC 1C, a very close 3rd WJ. 4th early 2C, 3rd once more BB and 2nd VB. Had dropped to 6th by ABC. Final effort to briefly become very prominent again but began to fade entering straight and finished a bad 3rd.
  4 Chancellor 7 10-12 S. Harding W. Moore 20/1 DIST 5th at 1st, 6th BB 1C, 3rd ABC and 5th again WJ. Disputed lead early 2C. Headed approaching BB where 2nd. Regained lead VB and led, narrowly ahead ABC, until came under pressure on the bend into the straight, headed again and quickly weakened badly. Finished tailed off.
  5 Chancery 9 11-06 C. Elphick B. Dollery 100/1   Initially mid-division. 7th BB 1C, chased leaders at hurdle before Chair, 9th WJ. Continued to pursue frontrunners 2C, 7th again from VB to ABC. Began to fade before entering straight and finished tailed off.
86 P Magpie 8 10-09 E. Woodland W. Woodland 10/1 RUN IN Prominent, disputed lead 1st. 4th at 2nd, 3rd from next to BB 1C and remained very handy CS. 4th again ABC 1C, 3rd once more at hurdle before Chair and regained share of lead WJ. Continued to vie for pole position early 2C but headed before BB where broke down when chasing leaders. Rapidly lost position and a rear-division 9th VB but persisted with. Became tailed off but would have been 6th had not finally and mercifully been PU & dismounted run in.
86 P Too Good 8 12-00 H. Linde H. Beasley 100/7 RUN IN Held up towards rear 1C, last ABC and last but one WJ. Initially continued in same vein 2C until headway to be 6th by VB 2C and 5th ABC. Began to fade before entering straight and around this time broke down on off fore. Persisted with and became tailed off but would have finished 7th had not been mercifully been PU & dismounted run in.
84 85 86 RO Roquefort 8 12-08 W. Wilson T. Wilson 7/1 29TH Initially chased leaders. Soon became very prominent, 3rd at 2nd and 2nd next. Lost position circa BB 1C, 7th ABC. 4th at hurdle before Chair and very close up in same position WJ. 3rd again early 2C and generally maintained that position until came under severe pressure and swerved wildly through the rails shortly after second last, falling in the process.
86 P Old Joe 8 11-10 G. Mulcaster C.J. Cunningham 100/8 ABC 2C Very prominent, disputed lead 1st. Headed before 2nd, 4th at 3rd. Remained very prominent and regained lead before BB 1C. Headed again for most of CS 1C but vied for superiority once more ABC and at hurdle before Chair. Had dropped back to 7th, merely chasing leaders, WJ. Bad mistake 18th (OD) & faded further. Towards rear BB. 12th & last VB, soon became tailed off and PU circa ABC.
84 85 86 P Frigate 9 11-05 W. Hunt F. Lawrence 100/9 ABC 2C Prominent, 2nd BB 1C. Led for most of CS 1C but quickly lost place when headed and only mid-division ABC. 12th & last, under pressure, WJ. Continued towards rear 2C, stumbled upon landing BB. Last but one VB, soon became tailed off and PU circa ABC.
86 P Sinbad 6 10-03 J. Nightingall William Nightingall 22/1 ABC 2C Initially rear of mid-division but towards rear 3rd & BB 1C. Fairly modest headway to be 8th ABC 1C, 10th WJ. Dropped to last early 2C and still towards rear BB. A rear-division 10th VB and became tailed off mid CS. PU circa ABC.
  F Spectrum 6 10-10 R. Sherrard R. Grimes 33/1 26TH (OD) Initially rear of mid-division but towards rear 3rd. Steady headway to become prominent CS 1C and made further progress to dispute lead WJ. Soon headed and 6th early 2C, 8th VB. However, renewed headway and 3rd, apparently going well, when fell 26th.
  F The Hunter   10-00 T. Wadlow W. Beasley 50/1 14TH (CHAIR) Initially rear of mid-division but soon began to make headway and 4th BB 1C. Further progress to dispute lead ABC and still vying for it when 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 when overjumped & 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! And in further mitigation these maps also contain other errors.)

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. Bill Daniels had been warned off between 1876 and 1886 and this was his first victory since revocation of his sentence, 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 ever 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.

Strictly at the weights in the 1887 National Gamecock emerged 4 (pounds/lengths) superior to Savoyard, I rated both -45 in 1886. There is a remarkable symmetry between Gamecock's triumphant performance and that of Roquefort (raw rating -37, final -34) in 1885. Both horses carried 11 stone dead to victory on going that was Good, despite showers earlier in the day, and their winning times were merely one fifth of a second apart off a similar pace. Gamecock was fractionally the slower and I detect the shade of Good ground may have been a sliver better in 1887, however, he negotiated a jumping test that was a little tougher and encountered a piece of plough. Therefore, I will allot Gamecock a marginally higher raw rating of -36 and because of his incident at second Becher's and the fact that he ran on well I will allow Gamecock 4 for a final figure of -32. Accordingly, this puts Savoyard in at -40. Thus, both the winner and runner-up produced improved performances in 1887, the more so Gamecock who was the year younger of the pair and was never in better form.          







Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling