Grand National Ultimate History



prev . next


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   Away well. Chased leaders BB 1C. Mid-division ABC 1C. 8th (of 13) WJ. Headway to be very handy CT 2C but mistake VB and hard ridden in 4th at 28th. Renewed progress to dispute lead after 29th and took narrow lead before last where left a bit further ahead. Ran on gamely.
02 2 Detail 7 9-13 C. Payne A. Nightingall 100/14 3 Prominent early but towards rear CS 1C and plum last WJ. Rallied to great effect early 2C and often disputed lead from BB. 2nd ABC. 3rd at 29th. Left 2nd again at last. Vigorous effort before Elbow which flattened out.
95 96 97 99 00 02 3 Manifesto 15 12-03 W. Moore G. Williamson 25/1 20 Jumped well in mid-division, 9th WJ. Became prominent CT 2C. One-paced after 28th. Left a 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 Chased leaders after 12th. 4th WJ. Continued progress and effort to dispute lead CS 2C but had lost position by 28th. Ran on again after last but not quite able to get up for 3rd.
  5 Benvenir 7 9-12   Hayes 100/1   Very prominent from 2nd to BB 1C. Remained fairly handy until after 12th when dropped into mid-division, 10th WJ. No impact 2C. Plugged on inheriting several positions.
01 6 Pawnbroker 8 9-09 J. O'Brien J. O'Brien 100/1   Ran in snatches. Prominent 2nd but rear of mid-division immediately after 12th. Rapid headway to be 2nd WJ, however, 12th & last BB 2C. No danger after. Plodded on inheriting several positions.
01 7 Fanciful 8 11-07 W. Cullen W. Cullen 100/6   Never better than rear of mid-division 1C and generally towards rear, last but one WJ. Brief effort around BB 2C but soon faded and no further threat. Finished tailed off.
99 00 F Ambush 9 12-07 T. Lushington A. Anthony 100/6 30TH Away well & led initially but headed before 1st. Remained fairly prominent, 7th WJ. Handy 2C and headway to lead again 29th. Taken on by eventual winner and 3/4L 2nd, under pressure, when fell heavily last.
02 F Drumree 7 11-04 J. Cannon J. Phillips 25/1 30TH Became prominent after 12th and 6th WJ. Continued progress until disputed lead CS 2C. Led outright after 28th. Headed 29th and looked beaten. Had dropped to 4th when staggered & stumbled through last, falling directly after. Exhausted.
  F Dearslayer 7 10-11 W. Moore E. Piggott 25/1 29TH Well held up in mid-division, 11th WJ. Steady progress 2C. 5th after 28th and going well with every chance when fell 29th.
  F Saxilby 6 9-07 J. Cowap G. Goswell 50/1 29TH Prominent 1C, 3rd from VB to ABC and 5th WJ. Gradually faded 2C and appeared beaten when fell 29th.
02 F Matthew 7 10-07 J. Widger J. Widger 10/1 24TH (CT) Away well & very prominent by 2nd. Led from BB 1C to same place 2C where joined. Still disputing pole position when fell heavily CT.
  F Patlander 7 10-07   M. Walsh 40/1 22ND (BB) Away well & took lead before 1st. Headed BB 1C but remained very prominent, 3rd WJ. Still going well when fell BB 2C.
  F Gillie 11 9-07 Pullen A. Wilkins 100/1 14TH Slowly away. Modest progress into mid-division after 12th. Fell 14th.
  F Marpessa 6 10-11 T. Lushington A. Persse 25/1 14TH Away in midfield but to be found towards rear after 12th. Fell 14th.
01 F Cushendun 8 10-10 H. Batho F. Cole 100/1 3RD (OD) Mid to rear, fell 3rd.
  F 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   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 and the pace collapse that resulted from their tiredness 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 allowed him to place third again. For 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. Matthew (on my ratings weighted to dead heat with 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. And 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 it off. Woodland only came in for the mount because the trainer's son Hugh (who tragically would be killed later in 1903 in a Belgian hurdle race) 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 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). 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 33 between them.

The reader will thus have gathered that I am rating Drumcree -47 for his 1903 National victory. Allowing him 1 for his mistake at second Valentine's Drumcree came out at the weights 10 superior to Manifesto (-57 compared to his -28 in 1902), 22 better than Detail (-69) and 33 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 and the race clearly rather fell apart. In 1901 I rated Drumcree -53 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 likely bettered the mark 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 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