Grand National Ultimate History



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4th/20th - 4' 10" H (was 5'); 7th/23rd - 4' 10" H (5').


Fr 27 Mar 1903 (3.36) 4m 4f Good (Good to Soft places) 10.09.40 23 £2,000 J. Morrison

01 02 1 Drumcree 9 11-03 Sir C. Nugent P. Woodland 13/2F   Initially prominent, 6th shortly after BB 1C. Mid-division in 11th ABC 1C, 8th (of 13) WJ. Headway to be 4th BB 2C and 3rd CT but took off too soon, came down on nose & jockey temporarily lost both irons VB and hard ridden in 4th circa ABC. Renewed and game progress to take a 1/2L lead at 29th. Narrowly headed last but soon back in front and ran on well, especially from Elbow.
02 2 Detail 7 9-13 C. Payne A. Nightingall 100/14 3 Away well but soon restrained and towards rear BB 1C. Continued to be well held up 1C and plum last WJ. Great headway early 2C and took lead BB. Headed CT and shortly after briefly dropped to 3rd, 2nd ABC. 1/2L down in 3rd at 29th, narrowly ahead again last. Soon headed once more despite jockey's vigorous efforts up to Elbow. No extra to give after.
95 96 97 99 00 02 3 Manifesto 15 12-03 W. Moore G. Williamson 25/1 20 Chased leaders, 7th BB 1C. Jumped well in mid-division, 10th CS 1C, 8th ABC and 9th WJ. 8th again BB 2C, 6th CT & ABC but rather one-paced. Left a fairly distant 3rd at last and spirited effort to hold off eventual 4th.
  4 Kirkland 7 10-08 Lt Col F. Lort-Phillips Tich Mason 100/8 HD Mid-divison. Headway to be 4th CS 1C, 5th ABC, 4th again WJ. Continued progress early 2C and 3rd BB. Took 2nd fairly briefly shortly after CT but soon lost position and dropped to 6th along CS. A beaten 7th ABC. Ran on again after last, where left a distant 4th, but not quite able to get up for 3rd.
  5 Benvenir 7 9-12   M. Hayes 100/1   Chased leaders until became very prominent, 3rd at 3rd. 4th just after BB 1C, 7th ABC and 10th WJ. Decline continued 2C, last but one BB. Plugged on inheriting several positions.
01 6 Pawnbroker 8 9-09 James O'Brien James O'Brien 100/1   Away well but ran in snatches. Prominent at 3rd, however, lost position and rear of mid-division immediately after 12th. Rapid headway from ABC to be 2nd WJ. Paid for this effort to lead at the artificial brook by just as swiftly fading early 2C, 12th & last BB. Laboured on inheriting several positions.
01 7 Fanciful 8 11-07 W. Cullen W. Cullen 100/6   Always towards rear 1C, last but one WJ. Brief effort into a rear of mid-division 9th BB 2C but soon weakened and finished tailed off.
99 00 F Ambush 9 12-07 T. Lushington A. Anthony 100/6 30TH Away well & led initially but soon steadied and headed before 1st. Remained fairly prominent: 3rd BB 1C, 5th CS 1C, 4th ABC, 7th WJ. Similar story 2C. 6th BB, 4th CT and 3rd ABC. Further headway to be 1/2L down in 2nd at 29th. 3rd again but only 3/4L behind leader, though under pressure, when failed to rise and fell heavily last.
02 F Drumree 7 11-04 J. Cannon J. Phillips 25/1 30TH Mid-division until beyond BB 1C, 6th from mid CS to WJ. 5th BB 2C, then more hasty progress to take lead CT. Not headed until just before 29th where had dropped to 4th and looked beaten. Under severe pressure between last 2. Staggered & stumbled through last, falling directly after. Exhausted.
  F Dearslayer 7 10-11 W. Moore E. Piggott 25/1 29TH Initially chased leaaders then held up in mid-division 1C: 8th BB, 9th CS, 10th ABC, 11th WJ. Steady progress 2C, 7th BB and 5th ABC. Same position and going well with every chance when fell 29th.
  F Saxilby 6 9-07 J. Cowap G. Goswell 50/1 29TH Mid-division initially but soon became prominent, 5th BB 1C. 3rd from VB to ABC 1C, 5th again WJ. Faded early 2C, 10th BB. Appeared beaten along CS, 8th when fell 29th.
02 F Mathew(2) 7 10-07 D. Shanahan J. Widger 10/1 24TH (CT) Prominent. 2nd at 3rd & BB 1C. Took lead soon after VB 1C, clear advantage ABC. Still ahead WJ. Increasingly tended to jump sideways 2C but not headed until BB. Remained very prominent until took off too soon & came a right purler CT.
  F Patlander 7 10-07 Cheshire M. Walsh 40/1 22ND (BB) Away well & took lead before 1st. Handy advantage by 3rd and still ahead BB 1C. Caught & passed soon after VB 1C but remained very prominent, 2nd ABC and 3rd WJ. Still going well when fell BB 2C.
  F Gillie 11 9-07 W. Pullen A. Wilkins 100/1 14TH Slowly away. Steady progress into a mid-division 9th by ABC 1C. Similar position when fell 14th.
  F Marpessa 6 10-11 D. McNally A. Persse 25/1 14TH Initially chased leaders but gradually faded and towards rear from mid CS 1C until fell 14th.
01 F Cushendun 8 10-10 H. Batho F. Cole 100/1 3RD (OD) Mid to rear, fell 3rd.
  F The Pride Of Mabestown 7 10-08 J. Cannon B. Dollery 10/1 3RD (OD) Mid to rear, fell 3rd.
02 F Aunt May 7 10-00   D. Read 10/1 3RD (OD) Mid to rear, fell 3rd.
02 F Fairland 10 10-13 T. Coulthwaite W. Morgan 20/1 2ND Away well & very prominent, fell 2nd.
  F Kilmallog 6 10-09 D. Shanahan T. Moran 20/1 2ND Chased leaders until fell 2nd. Broke leg. Dead.
02 F Inquisitor 8 10-13 Cpt C. Coventry E. Matthews 100/6 2ND Slowly away & towards rear, fell 2nd.
  F Expert 6 10-05 B. Gore S. Woodland 40/1 1ST Mid to rear, fell 1st.
  F Orange Pat 7 9-10   D. Morgan 40/1 1ST Mid to rear, fell 1st.



The 1903 renewal was the most dramatic Grand National so far and one played out in front of a record attendance with many folk inspired to visit Aintree by the presence of the King. Bertie's horse, Ambush, was at the centre of the spectacle being foremost of the two participants racing in the leading quartet who fell at the last. The other, Drumree, was exhausted and beaten whilst Ambush himself was under pressure. Both, it appears, went for home a little too soon for their respective good and the pace collapse that resulted from the former's tiredness perhaps partly helps to explain the below average winning time for the going. On the subject of the clock, and without wishing to belabour my point regarding the drop off of quality in depth since the first part of the 1890s, it is salient that in none of Manifesto's Nationals, this was the great horse's record equalling seventh, was the time better than average. As enduring as Manifesto was, surely the 15-y-o now deserved an honourable retirement because his performance in 1903 showed pronounced deterioration from last year's and only the misfortune of others (and a favourable call by the Judge if Tich Mason, rider of Kirkland, is to be believed because the latter was suspended for directing unbecoming language towards the former!) allowed him to place third again. And the drama was far from confined to the last. Two horses had also come to grief at the 29th, one of whom, Dearslayer, was going well. Plus Mathew (on my ratings weighted to finish a couple of lengths behind the winner had he stayed on his feet and improved in line with Drumcree and Detail) and Patlander both fell when very prominent in the mid part of the second circuit. Additionally, over one third of the field had departed by the 3rd. The numerous early casualties were the start of a bit of a trend and, because the fences were becoming a tad smaller at this time, I strongly suspect that jockeys had begun to ride shorter, copying the successful Flat style introduced by American riders, such as Willie Simms and Ted Sloan, and, reluctantly, mimicked by British pilots on the level. As the difference between a fall and unseat would not be commonly distinguished by the printed media for many decades (I will employ visual evidence to do so when and where available) I wonder how many of 1903's falls were actually unshippings. Jump jockeys were used to sitting upright and leaning back markedly over obstacles, therefore, a lack of balance would be understandable as they endeavoured to become used to crouching further forward in an effort to advance their craft.

Drumcree's rider Percy Woodland, Champion Jockey elect, was one of those who rode short. Having steered home his first Flat winner aged 13, Percy was a quick learner and had the neatness of style to carry off the forward seat. Woodland only came in for the mount because the trainer's son Hugh (who tragically would be killed in a Belgian hurdle race later in 1903) had broken a collar bone. Hugh's father Sir Charles, who had succeeded to his baronetcy aged 16 in 1863 when his elder brother accidently shot himself, had race-ridden and gambled unsuccessfully before taking up training. Drumcree had already enjoyed a most productive 1902/03 season, having not run to form in the 1902 National, and, as alluded to above, improved upon his 1901 second place effort which had come sans butter in the snow. However, Drumcree's form in Grand Nationals inclines me to believe contemporary sources were generous in opining that Drumcree would not have gotten within 21 pounds/lengths of Cloister (rated -14 in 1893), who had died in January. Both horses were sired by Ascetic but there was no sign of the equine athletic improvement promised by Cloister in Drumcree and I have a differential of 32 between them.

The reader will thus have gathered that I am rating Drumcree -46 for his 1903 National victory. Allowing him 2 for his bad mistake at second Valentine's Drumcree came out at the weights 11 superior to Manifesto (-57 compared to his -28 in 1902), 23 better than Detail (-69) and 34 in advance of race debutant Kirkland (-80). Obviously the below average time is a factor in deliberations, plus Drumcree had to be hard ridden as early as the 28th, if not before, and the race clearly rather fell apart. In 1901 I rated Drumcree -51 and last year I awarded Detail circa -73. This form basically held up in 1903, Detail was entitled to have improved now a 7-y-o and cut out the late error he made in 1902 while Drumcree was in career peak form and, it's safe to say, bettered the performance I projected for him in the snowfest. Neither, however, improved all that much. Ambush, theoretically, would have exceeded his previous best (-43 when winning in 1900) by more (than the above pair did theirs) had he stood up. The King's runner, as a 9-y-o, had fully matured and the top weight allotted to him by the handicapper suggests he was now a better horse. Contemporary opinion was that Ambush would not have won the 1903 Grand National and may not have beaten Detail for second, however, this allows that at worse Ambush would've finished a few lengths behind Detail to whom he was giving 36lb and, therefore, may have achieved a rating of -36.                








Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling