Grand National Ultimate History



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Fr 28 Mar 1890 (3.45) 4m 4f Soft 10.41.80 16 £1,680 G. Masterman

  1 Ilex 6 10-05 J. Nightingall A. Nightingall 4/1F   Away well & prominent in either 4th or 5th from 1st to BB 1C. Even more prominent from 7th, 2nd VB 1C and disputed lead 11th. 3rd ABC, a very close 2nd (of 10) WJ. Vied for lead again early 2C then raced in 2nd until took lead for good circa CT/VB. 4L ahead CS. Shook off only remaining threat 29th and drew away. Clear advantage last. Won as liked.
  2 Pan 7 10-05 E. Woodland W. Halsey 100/1 12 Soon prominent, 6th at 1st. More handy at 3rd & 4th but only 5th at 7th. Chased leaders in 6th at 10th, same position, however, in midfield, WJ. Renewed headway early 2C and generally raced in 3rd from when left in that position 20th. Took 2nd at 27th and remained close up but came under pressure before 29th and no chance with winner from that fence. Plugged on dourly.
89 3 M.P. 9 11-05 G. Mulcaster W. Moore 8/1 DIST Away well & very prominent (in either 2nd or 3rd) until left in lead 10th. Soon joined but led alone again by ABC, narrow advantage WJ. Joined briefly once more early 2C, however, 3L ahead at BB. Gap reduced to 1L next (23rd) and headed circa CT/VB. Dropped 4L behind CS and to 3rd at 27th. Began to fade just after ABC, became exhausted and finished a bad 3rd.
  4 Brunswick 6 10-04 J. Redding G. Mawson 100/1 8 Soon became prominent and raced in either 3rd or 4th from 1st to 7th. 5th VB 1C and only a mid-division 7th at next (10th). Had dropped to a rear of midfield 8th by WJ. Rallied early 2C to generally hold 5th, just 6L down in that position 23rd. Came under pressure, began to fade from VB and left merely a distant 4th at 27th. Laboured on. Tailed off.
89 5R Why Not 9 12-05 H. Hall C.J. Cunningham 100/9 50 Away well & chased leaders until fell 5th. Remounted, tailed off. Effort to be an in touch last but one 9th WJ and up to 6th fairly early 2C. Same position but in rear-division BB and only a distant 6th (& last) towards end of CS. Soon well tailed off and as exertions continued to tell finished completely tailed off, though gained one place.
  6R Emperor 5 11-01 J. Jewitt D. Thirlwell 100/6 6 Initially mid-division. Chased leaders from 2nd for a spell but back in midfield from 10th where 8th, 7th ABC, 5th WJ. Fell 17th. Remounted tailed off in a last but one 9th and very shortly found himself last of those still remaining. 7th & rearmost BB 2C. Effort to gain one place but just a distant 5th towards end of CS. Became well tailed off and as exertions told lost 5th, finishing completely tailed off.
84 89 F Voluptuary 12 11-07 T. Skelton T. Skelton 10/1 27TH (OD) Towards rear 1st, mid-division 2nd, 6th at 4th and 4th VB 1C. Chased leaders in 5th next (10th), a midfield 6th ABC. Pursued front runners again in 4th WJ. Slightly lost position early 2C but renewed headway towards BB where 4th once more. 5L down in same position next (23rd) and still going well when fell 27th.
  F Fireball 9 10-04 H. Hall W. Corner 100/1 20TH Slowly away but progress into a fore of mid-division 6th by 7th. Continued headway to be 4th at 10th & ABC 1C, 3rd WJ. Chased leading pair in same position 2C until fell 20th.
  F Fetiche 7 10-12 H. Andrews V. Baker 25/1 18TH Initially rear of mid-division. Fore of same in 7th at 7th and when swerved next (CT) causing melee. Last of main body 10th but back up to 7th, in midfield, WJ. Similar position when fell heavily 18th.
89 P Battle Royal 6 11-13 Lewis T. Wildman 100/8 18TH Initially mid-division but towards rear by 3rd. Same story when fell VB 1C. Remounted well tailed off and completely so in 10th & last when very bad mistake and considerable splash WJ. PU circa 18th.
  F Braceborough 7 10-13 J. Adams F. Lawrence 100/1 15TH (CHAIR) Initially mid-division. Gradual progress to dispute lead just after 10th. 2nd ABC 1C and still very prominent when fell Chair.
87 88 89 F Bellona 8 11-09 J. Cannon A. Barker 11/2 12TH Initially mid-division but towards rear by 3rd. Still so when fell VB 1C. Remounted, tailed off, fell again 12th. (Met with misfortune when running loose. Dead.)
85 86 87 88 89 F Gamecock 11 12-06 A. Yates B. Dollery 20/1 10TH Away well & led until fell 10th.
84 85 86 87 88 89 F Frigate 12 12-07 M. Maher T. Beasley 100/7 8TH (CT) Slow into stride but in mid-division by 2nd and 5th at 4th. Only a midfield 8th at 7th and when hampered by the swerving Fetiche & fell into ditch next (CT).
  B Baccy 7 10-08 E. Woodland W. Woodland 100/1 8TH (CT) 5th at 1st but soon lost position and in rear of mid-division when BD by Frigate CT 1C.
89 B Hettie 7 10-11 J. Jones T. Wilson 25/1 8TH (CT) Always towards rear. BD by Frigate CT 1C.



The 1890 Grand National was the first renewal when the sterner jumping test created by William Gladstone coincided with Soft going and the effect this combination would very often prove to have was immediately apparent. There was plenty of grief with the result that the race fell apart, horses belonging to the 25% of the field that was carrying the lowest weights (10st 4lb and 10st 5lb) filled three of the first four places. Therefore, whilst Ilex, who seized control at second Valentine's when the pace began to lag, could have won by a fair bit further I'm not convinced by Arthur Nightingall's claim (in his 1901 book) that Ilex was the best (as well as the first) of the three National winners he would eventually ride (which included Why Not) based on this performance. In fairness, it's understandable that Arthur held great affection for Ilex because it was he who had recognised the potential of the young horse, had the creature bought cheaply by big gambling, outspoken George Masterman, and arranged for Ilex to be sent to his father John to be trained. The elder Nightingall, who would pass away in November 1891, applied his expert touch and gained his second National success. However, the runner-up Pan (one of the first horses to sport blinkers in the Aintree Blue Riband) was a rank outsider and not genuine in a finish, indeed Pan's jockey, William Halsey, received most of the plaudits for the partnership's efforts (though his steed's trainer had also astonished with Magpie's fourth at three-figure odds in 1886). In addition, the 1890 third, M.P., was beaten a distance by the second-place horse for the second consecutive year but on this occasion was giving rather than receiving plenty of weight to the runner-up and his lack of stamina would figure to have been more pronounced on ground much softer than that of 1889. And the winning time in 1890 (only a reasonable one for Soft) was merely similar to that of Seaman in 1882 (raw rating -20), the last time the going had been of that ilk, despite (whilst the fences were tougher) the race distance now being 149yds shorter, there being a lot less plough and Ilex carrying a stone less than had Seaman (who, you will recall, broke down before the post). In an ironic twist typical of the Grand National, Ilex's best effort would come in a couple of years when he himself finished badly lame.

Among the casualties in 1890, Voluptuary was running better than he had on his return last year, however, as we shall see below, even had he not fallen at the final ditch he couldn't possibly have successfully given 16lb to Ilex. Talking of ditches, this renewal marked the first time the one at the Canal Turn displayed a propensity to act as a catalyst for chaos. To further clarify the melee there: the French raider Fetiche swerved and hampered Frigate who fell into the ditch, bringing down Baccy and Hettie. It took until fifteen minutes after the race for Frigate to be extricated and it's to be hoped this wholly unfitting experience did not impact upon the well-bred mare's career at stud (I can find no mention of progeny) to which she was now sensibly and honourably retired having become the third horse to contest seven Grand Nationals. Bellona, tragically, had to be put down a few days after the race due to the injuries she sustained while running loose.

The horse she conquered last year Why Not (who I then rated -24) was an early faller in 1890 when attempting to give Ilex two stones. On the terms set by the handicapper, therefore, we might suspect that the latter ran to -52, however, Masterman had clearly indicated to punters that better was expected and their faith in his word was rewarded. At the weights Ilex emerged 12 (pounds/lengths) superior to Pan but the manner of victory inclines me to extend that to 18. The definition of a 'distance' is a minimum of 30 lengths so M.P. was effectively inferior to Ilex by at least 48 minus the stone he conceded, therefore, 34. Applying the same logic to calculating M.P.'s performance in 1889 would have given him a rating of -64 and thus via collateral form we could peg Ilex at -30 for his 1890 performance. That figure, though, is highly tenuous and not only because we don't know exactly how far M.P. was beaten in either year. It's also closer to Seaman's final rating of -14 (Seaman, like Ilex, was also allowed 6) than to the -52 mentioned above, stamina-challenged M.P. likely didn't perform quite to his 1889 level on the more testing surface of 1890, and Pan was a pretty ordinary horse (the stable's Magpie was rated -56 in 1886). Considering all that, and glancing ahead to the 1891 National, I am minded to award Ilex -38 (NB: Voluptuary merited -36 when winning in 1884) and Pan, therefore, -56 (with M.P.'s hypothetical mark thus being -72, 8 worse than on Good last year).   







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