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, very much so by CS 1C. 2nd (of 10) WJ. Disputed lead early 2C then raced in 2nd from 23rd until took lead VB. Drew away from 29th and clear advantage last. Won as liked.
  2 Pan 7 10-05 E. Woodland W. Halsey 100/1 12 Soon prominent, very much so from 4th to BB 1C. Mid-division CS 1C. 6th WJ. Chased leaders 2C until advanced into 3rd VB, 2nd from 27th. Came under pressure and no chance with winner from 29th. Plugged on dourly.
89 3 M.P. 9 11-05 G. Mulcaster W. Moore 8/1 DIST Away well & very prominent until left in lead 10th. Briefly headed but led again Chair & WJ. Joined early 2C but sole leader once more from 23rd until headed again VB. 3rd at 27th. Weakened badly after ABC. Laboured home.
  4 Brunswick 6 10-04 Redding G. Mawson 100/1 8 Very prominent to BB 1C but only in mid-division CT 1C and had dropped towards rear by WJ. Rallied early 2C to become prominent at 23rd but came under pressure VB and drifted back towards rear. Plodded on.
89 5R Why Not 9 12-05 H. Hall C.J. Cunningham 100/9 50 Away well & chased leaders until fell 4th. Remounted but tailed off and never able to get back into it. Finished completely tailed off.
  6R Emperor 5 11-01 J. Jewitt D. Thirlwell 100/6 6 Chased leaders from 2nd, 5th WJ. Fell early 2C. Remounted tailed off and finished completely so.
84 89 F Voluptuary 12 11-07 T. Skelton T. Skelton 10/1 27TH (OD) Towards rear 1st. Headway to chase leaders 4th. 4th WJ. Very prominent 21st. 4th again VB 2C. Still going well when fell 27th.
  F Fireball   10-04 H. Hall W. Corner 100/1 20TH Steadily away but chasing leaders by 5th. Continued headway to be prominent CS 1C and up to 3rd WJ. Still handy when fell 20th.
  F Fetiche 7 10-12   V. Baker 25/1 18TH Initially mid-division. Chasing leaders when swerved CT 1C causing melee. Back in midfield CS, 7th WJ. In a similar position when fell heavily 18th.
89 P Battle Royal 6 11-13 Lewis Wildman 100/8 END 1C Mid-division 1st but towards rear when fell 7th. Remounted tailed off and still so when very bad mistake WJ & not persist much further.
  F Braceborough 7 10-13 J. Adams F. Lawrence 100/1 15TH (CHAIR) Initially mid-division. Came to dispute lead after 10th. Still very prominent when fell Chair.
85 86 87 88 89 F Gamecock 11 12-06 A. Yates B. Dollery 20/1 10TH Away well & led from 1st until fell 10th.
87 88 89 F Bellona 8 11-09 J. Cannon A. Barker 11/2 9TH (VB) Tried to chase leaders briefly 1st but towards rear from 2nd until fell VB 1C.
84 85 86 87 88 89 F Frigate 12 12-07 M. Maher T. Beasley 100/7 8TH (CT) Slow into stride but headway to be prominent 4th. Only mid-division when hampered by the swerving Fetiche & fell into ditch CT 1C.
  B Baccy 7 10-08 E. Woodland W. Woodland 100/1 8TH (CT) Prominent 1st but settled in mid-division until BD by Frigate CT 1C.
89 B Hettie 7 10-11 J. Jones T. Wilson 25/1 8TH (CT) Initially towards rear. In rear portion of mid-division when 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). 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 the softer ground. And the winning time in 1890 (only a reasonable one for Soft) was merely similar to that of Seaman in 1882 (rated -14), 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, Ilex carrying a stone less than Seaman, and the former not breaking down before the post as the latter had. 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, 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.

The horse she conquered last year Why Not (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 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. It's closer to Seaman's -14 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 -51 in 1886). Considering all that, and glancing ahead to the 1891 National, I am minded to award Ilex -38 (the same as Voluptuary merited when winning in 1884) and Pan, therefore, -56.   







Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling