Grand National Ultimate History



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Fr 20 Mar 1891 (3.50) 4m 4f Good to Firm 9.58.00 21 £1,680 W. Jameson

  1 Come Away 7 11-12 H. Beasley H. Beasley 4/1F   Chased leaders. Held up in mid-division by 4th, 8th ABC 1C, 6th (of 14) WJ. Headway early 2C and 2nd by BB. Continued progress to lead VB. Joined halfway along CS but led outright again just after ABC. Began to go lame 29th. Narrow advantage last. Ran on very well under pressure, just held on.
  2 Cloister 7 11-07 D. Marsh Cpt R. Owen 20/1 1/2 Rear of mid-division 1st. Headway towards 3rd, 6th at next. 3rd CS 1C and led by ABC. Joined from Chair until early 2C, soon ahead alone again. Headed by VB but vied for lead once more halfway along CS. Relegated to 4th just after ABC. Left 3rd at 29th. Soon 2nd and close up last. Ran on very well. Short of room Elbow. Just denied.
90 3 Ilex 7 12-03 J. Nightingall A. Nightingall 5/1 DIST Away well & immediately led. Headed after Melling Road, 7th at 1st. Mid-division, held up, from 4th. 9th ABC, 10th WJ. Headway early 2C, 5th BB. A 3L 3rd halfway along CS and disputed lead by ABC. Dropped to 2nd just after and began to fade immediately after 29th. Further weakened and finished a bad 3rd.
84 85 86 87 89 4 Roquefort 12 11-13 A. Yates F. Guy 40/1 19 Soon prominent, 8th at 1st. Further progress to be 2nd at 4th. 4th BB 1C but took lead circa CT and went 8L clear mid CS. Soon caught & headed, 3rd ABC 1C. Back up to 2nd at 14th and disputed lead from Chair but until early 2C. Soon began to fade, lost position and a mid-division 7th BB. About 20L behind in 6th CS. Struggling in same position 28th. Plugged on tailed off.
  5 Cruiser 6 10-08 T. Gordon T. Beasley 7/1 20 Initially chased leaders. Mid-division by CS 1C. 10th ABC, 8th WJ. 6th early 2C but had dropped to a rear of midfield 8th BB. Circa 20L behind in 7th & last CS. Struggling in same position 28th. Laboured on, finished well tailed off.
85 86 87 88 89 90 6 Gamecock 12 12-04 A. Yates B. Dollery 66/1   Chased leaders until became prominent in 4th at 1st. Left 3rd next. Remained handy, 3rd again BB & CT 1C. 5th CS, 6th ABC 1C. Renewed headway to dispute lead WJ. Continued to do so very early 2C but had dropped to 4th by BB. Came under pressure before VB and began to fade. 5th CS, struggling in same position 28th. Badly weakened further.
89 90 F Why Not 10 12-04 H. Hall C.J. Cunningham 100/9 29TH Mid-division until became more prominent CS 1C where 4th. 5th WJ & early 2C. 3rd by BB. 4th again VB and close up in same position 28th. Took 3rd once more just after ABC and still going well when fell heavily 29th.
  F Veil 6 10-13 W. Roser W. Moore 25/1 25TH (VB) Away well & 3rd at 1st. Left 2nd next, 3rd again at 3rd & 4th. Had dropped to 6th by mid CS 1C, 5th at 13th, 7th WJ. Became more prominent again early 2C, 6th BB and even handier when fell VB.
84 89 90 P Voluptuary 13 11-03 W. Wilson T. Wilson 66/1 25TH (VB) Slowly away & towards rear 1st. Mid-division at 4th but only rear of same BB 1C. 12th ABC, 13th & last but one WJ. Soon became tailed off 2C, 10th & last BB. Well behind when PU VB.
90 P Emperor 6 11-03 J. Nightingall William Nightingall 25/1 23RD Slowly away. Last BB 1C. Progress to be mid-division CS 1C but only 11th WJ. Last but one in 9th BB 2C and struggling when PU next. (Fell jumping rails on the way in and broke neck. Dead.)
  P Dominion 6 10-13 H. Escott W. Thornton 66/1 22ND (BB) Slowly away & towards rear 1st. Mid-division from 4th, 7th ABC. 9th WJ. Had dropped back towards rear when very bad mistake BB 2C & immediately PU.
  F Young Glasgow 10 10-03   R. Mitchell 40/1 22ND (BB) Chased leaders until became very prominent, 2nd at 3rd. Took lead just after BB 1C. Headed circa CT 1C, 2nd CS and maintained that position until dropped to 3rd at 14th. 4th WJ & very early 2C. Continued to gradually lose position and under pressure when fell BB.
90 P Fireball 10 10-00 H. Hall W. Halsey 100/1 21ST Generally towards rear, 11th ABC 1C, 12th WJ. Soon became tailed off 2C and PU 21st.
  P Adelaide 7 10-00 T. Sherwood A. Ripley 200/1 21ST Always towards rear, 14th & last WJ. Soon became tailed off 2C and PU 21st.
  P Roman Oak 7 12-00 P. Doucie H. Escott 100/9 ABC 1C Away well & prominent, 5th at 1st and 4th at 4th. Similar position when BD by Grape Vine VB 1C. Remounted but well tailed off. Pursuit soon abandoned and PU just after ABC 1C.
88 F Jeanie 8 10-04 W. Wilson A. Barker 66/1 12TH Towards rear until fell 12th.
  F Grape Vine 6 10-07 McKenna J. Hoysted 9/1 9TH (VB) Away well & took lead after Melling Road. Not headed until just after BB 1C. 4th when fell VB 1C.
  F Choufleur 5 11-03 H. Linde T. Kavanagh 25/1 4TH Away quite well, 6th at 1st. Similar position when fell 4th.
  F Nasr-Ed-Din 5 10-00 R. Cowe H. Brown 50/1 3RD (OD) Mid to rear, fell 3rd.
90 F Brunswick 7 10-04 J. Redding G. Mawson 40/1 3RD (OD) Towards rear, fell 3rd.
  F Flower Of The Forest 6 10-04 H. Escott R. Clark 50/1 2ND Away well & 2nd at 1st. Fell 2nd.



The 1891 Grand National was almost certainly the best seen to that date. Past, present and future winners accounted for one third of the field. Among them Gamecock became the fourth horse to run in seven renewals, however, it was a pair of 7-y-o newcomers to the race, both of whom will immediately or soon take their place on my Scroll Of Merit, who fought out an epic duel. Come Away had fragile legs but rock solid form entering the contest, having won seven of his nine starts, whereas Cloister (who loved quick ground) was relatively unheralded before the off because experts doubted his jumping and stamina. However, it would transpire that his sire, Ascetic, would produce three Grand National winners and perhaps the period we are entering was the true dawn of general athletic improvement amongst steeplechasers (see 1868). Training methods had not greatly evolved, however, that is not to knock the prowess of Harry Beasley who had to resort to assuming that duty in order to finally attain National success following three second-place rides. It has to be said, though, that in cold weather he would often gallop Come Away, who would have been better suited by a bit of cut in 1891, in the middle of the night by the glow of storm lanterns to avoid the morning frost! Jockey skills had not appreciably advanced overall either, however, here Beasley employed all his experience and nous in the saddle to legally shut out Roddy Owen, Cloister's headstrong rider, who went for a non-existant gap after the Elbow. Owen's objection was overruled and (we can imagine Harry's anger and frustration had he forfeited the elusive prize in the stewards' room) a punch up narrowly averted. The latter, unfortunately, had already lost a great racehorse for Come Away had won despite suffering a recurrence of a suspensory ligament injury at the second last which was so severe he was never able to run again. In the circumstances a more prudent ride by Owen could well have seen Cloister notch a National victory two years before he actually did, however, even had Cloister edged it he would still have been second best at the weights and had Come Away not broken down who knows by how far he would have triumphed?

Let's investigate whether we can go some way towards answering that question. It's reasonable, based upon his past and future exploits, to believe Why Not, had he stood up, would have finished off his race. It's a long way home from the 29th at Aintree and, therefore, difficult to assess how he would have emerged at the weights with Come Away to whom he was giving 6lb. However, Ilex, the 1890 winner, was trounced by the front pair in 1891 and would have been well beaten by Why Not who was also ahead of him at the second last. These two shouldered almost identical weights and the reader may recall I rated Why Not -24 (1889) and Ilex -38 (1890) so that provides us a basis of sorts. As mentioned in last year's discussion a 'distance' is a minimum of 30 lengths, therefore, in 1891 Come Away beat Ilex by at least 31 lengths less the 5lb the former was receiving for a figure of 26 (pounds/lengths) or -12. However, whilst Ilex may actually have been beaten by even further I severely doubt that he gave his true running, perhaps finding the going a bit too quick, and in all likelihood he was eased. In addition, to achieve -12 Come Away would have to have beaten Why Not by 18 lengths which seems unlikely to have transpired had the latter stood up. However, it's conceivable that the theoretical margin could have been 9 which would peg Come Away at -21. Strictly at the weights in 1891 Come Away came out 6 superior to Cloister who thus would be rated -27 (he had not yet fully matured). Bearing those figures in mind for the moment, it is worth comparing the performance of Come Away with that of The Lamb (raw rating -18, final rating -14) on the last occasion the going was Good to Firm in 1871. Over a distance 149yds further and a course containing many sections of plough that the dark grey dual winner hated, The Lamb recorded a time 23s quicker than that posted in 1891. However, the jumping test was an awful lot sterner in 1891, Come Away carried 7lb more than had The Lamb, apparently the pace in 1891 was not as blisteringly fast as it had been twenty years earlier, and, crucially, Come Away was prevented by his injury from going any quicker. (The reader will hopefully find the discussions of 1859 and 1893 relevant to the last passage). On balance I find it hard to distinguish between the merits of the two performances and returning to the figure of -21 tentatively attributed to Come Away I have no hesitation in allowing him 7, it's a long haul from the 29th for a seriously lame horse notwithstanding adrenaline and this brave animal fully deserves his rank alongside those on -14. I will also uprate Cloister by 2 to -25 for being short of room near the Elbow. The Scroll thus now reads: -14 Lottery, The Lamb, Disturbance, Seaman, Come Away; -18 Congress, The Liberator.



> Some historians reckon that Voluptuary PU at the CT 2C rather than the next (VB), however, this belief can only have been drawn from Sporting Life whose report in general contains many deficiencies, whose narrative of the race is disjointed and whose hitherto unheard of nomenclature of "Canal fence" appears to have been applied to a different obstacle on each circuit. Set against the evidence from multiple other contemporary sources the contradictions in Sporting Life's description of the race are unresolvable and it, therefore, must be dismissed in toto.         









Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling