Grand National Ultimate History



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1st/17th - 4' 7" H (was 4' 6"); 3rd/19th (OD) - fence 4' 11" H (4' 10"); 5th/21st - 4' 11" H (4' 10"); 6th/22nd (BB) - fence 4' 9" H (4' 7"), brook 5' W (6'); 11th/27th (OD) - fence 4' 10" H (4' 11"); 13th/29th - 4' 7" H (4' 6"); 14th/30th - 4' 7" H (4' 6"); 15th (Chair, OD) - fence 5' 2" H (5' 3"); 16th (WJ) - fence 3' H (3' 1"), TW 15' 6" (16').


Fr 28 Mar 1919 (3.06) 4m 4f Good to Soft 10.08.40 22 £3,590 G. Peel

  1 Poethlyn 9 12-07 H. Escott E. Piggott 11/4F   Away prominently & tracked leaders, 4th BB 1C & WJ (where 16 remained). Bided time 10L behind front trio BB 2C, joined them VB. Soon ahead and had clear lead by 28th. Easily. 
  2 Ballyboggan 8 11-10 R. Fetherstonhaugh W. Head 9/1 8 Slowly away and towards rear very early stages. Mid-division BB 1C. Made steady further progress to be 2nd WJ, disputed lead soon after. Not decisively headed until after VB 2C. Could not live with winner but kept on well.
  3 Pollen 10 11-04 H. Escott T. Escott 100/7 6 Away well & very prominent. 2nd BB 1C. Had dropped to 7th by WJ but back up to 5th VB 2C. Mistake late CS but kept on determindly to nab 3rd.
  4 Loch Allen 8 10-00 B. Gore J.J. Kelly 33/1 HD Soon became very prominent, 3rd BB 1C. Led from CT 1C until ABC 1C, 3rd again WJ. Vied for lead soon after and until relegated to 4th VB 2C. Kept on fairly well, just caught for 3rd.
  5 Shaun Spadah 8 11-02 G. Poole D. Morgan 33/1   Mid-division. Took closer order towards WJ where 6th. Not helped when saddle began slipping after BB 2C and only able to keep on without ever really threatening.
  6 Fargue 9 9-09 G. Sanday W. Smith 50/1   Away well & very prominent until led 4th. Headed BB 1C and dropped to 6th at one stage but remained prominent and led again ABC 1C & WJ. Contested lead 2C and still a close 2nd VB. Weakened thereafter.
  7 Sergeant Murphy 9 10-07 G. Hyams S. Walkington 25/1   Mid-division to BB 1C then chased leaders until became very prominent 12th. Less so in 5th WJ. Same position but beaten 28th. Faded.
  8 All White 5 9-10 J. Burns T. Williams 66/1   Mid-division. Became prominent by ABC 1C but began to lose ground shortly after (jockey weakened by food poisoning) and only 8th WJ. Unable to make any impact 2C. 
15 9 Ally Sloper 10 11-03 A. Hastings I. Anthony 100/6   Seriously interrupted preparation. Chased leaders, 9th BB 1C. Mid-division ABC 1C, 12th WJ. Unable to make any impact 2C.
  10 Pay Only 9 11-04 F. Hartigan T. Hulme 100/7   No great impression in mid-division 1C, 10th WJ. Faded 2C.
  11 Chang 9 9-08 F. Hunt J. Reardon 50/1   Away well & led 1st. Headed 4th but led again BB 1C. Headed once more CT 1C, faded CS and towards rear WJ. Became tailed off by BB 2C. Lumbered on.
  F Rubinstein 12 11-00 W. Payne W. Payne 50/1 24TH (CT) Towards rear. Jockey suspicious horse sustained injury at VB 1C but continued. Tailed off by BB 2C. Fell CT 2C & collapsed. Dead.
  F Vermouth 9 10-12 J. Bell G. Parfrement 20/1 24TH (CT) Mid-division BB 1C. Rear of same WJ. Tailed off by BB 2C. Fell CT 2C.
14 P Sunloch 13 9-10 T. Tyler E. Driscoll 25/1 MID 2C Prominent, 5th BB 1C. Had dropped to a mid-division 9th by WJ. Tailed off by BB 2C. PU not long after.
  F Schoolmoney 10 9-10 A. Law F. Cullen 33/1 22ND (BB) Chased leaders, 7th BB 1C. Continued to pursue front runners until ABC 1C. Mid-division, in 11th, WJ. Unable to become more closely involved again, fell BB 2C.
  F Abou Ben Adhem 8 12-00 B. Gore A. Stubbs 100/1 20TH Always towards rear. Fell 20th.
  P Picture Saint 7 10-00   F. McCabe 100/1 16TH (WJ) Mid to rear when bad mistake 3rd & dropped to last. Unable to recover and well towards rear when very bad mistake WJ & immediately PU.
  P Irish Dragoon 5 9-13 J. Bell Bryan Bletsoe 100/1 9TH (VB) Away well but soon dropped towards rear and PU VB 1C.
  F Svetoi 9 9-08 W. Payne A. Saxby 40/1 6TH (BB) Mid-division until fell BB 1C.
  F The Turk 9 9-07 A. Hastings P. Roberts 100/1 5TH Chased leaders until fell 5th.
  P Charlbury 11 9-07 William Nightingall P. Woodland 7/1 4TH Horse had not eaten up since arriving at course. Nevertheless away well but stirrup iron broke at 1st & had to be PU 4th.
  B Ballincarroona 11 10-04 F. Hartigan Cpt I. Straker 20/1 4TH Chased leaders until BD by the pulling up & barely controllable Charlbury at the 4th.



Steeplechasing would develop more rapidly between the wars than heretofore (a strong argument can be made that the 1930s was its golden age). The sport would become more competitive with larger fields (certainly this was reflected in the National), training methods would continue to become less crude, and the last vestiges of the big, slow hunter type at the top level would die out.

The return of the Aintree Grand National in 1919 was welcomed by a new record crowd, a tremendous gathering possibly in the region of 150,000. The fences were in a state of disrepair when the Tophams got the course back from the War Office and had to be hastily rebuilt. Overall they were no lower but may well have been less firm on top than in the immediate pre-war years. The renewal attracted a field pretty much as high in quality as any yet seen, one that contained five past, present and future Grand National winners. Against this background Poethlyn (triumphant in the Gatwick substitute race of 1918) put up an outstanding performance, easily becoming the fourth and final horse to win carrying 12st 7lb. In doing so he also became, and may forever remain, the shortest priced victor and gave a second success in the race to both Harry Escott and Ernie Piggott. A tale attached to the 1919 National is that Tommy Williams aboard All White (he wasn't!) temporarily pulled up to vomit towards the Canal Turn on the second circuit. I regard this as utter nonsense and can find no corroborating contemporary evidence. The myth has All White as being the principal threat to Poethlyn at that stage. In fact the winner had not yet shown his hand, Piggott biding his time, and had been ten lengths off of Ballyboggan, Loch Allen and Fargue at second Becher's, therefore, no observer could have known that the favourite was definitely the horse to beat. Furthermore, others were going well, certainly better than All White who had long since lost all semblance of a prominent position (albeit likely in part due to Williams suffering weakness due to food poisoning).

Weak too had been Poethlyn as a foal but the late developer went unbeaten in 1918 and 1919, winning ten races, and now proved he was equally effective at Aintree as on park courses. The manner of his victory in the 1919 Grand National was, if anything, more impressive than that of Jerry M (whom I rated -14) in 1912. However, Ernie Piggott felt his previous successful conveyance was the better horse. Also, some modern sources downgrade Poethlyn on account of the fences being less thick than normal and in fairness the jumping test appeared tougher between 1897-1902 and, particularly, 1910-1913. Those spans contain two of the three most recent renewals for which I have a going description of Good to Soft: 1902, 1904 and 1910. The softest shade of said yielding ground, though, may well have been in 1919 because a snowstorm preceded the race, one that was run at a decent pace yet produced a winning time a little below average for plain Good to Soft. Taking all of the above factors and, of course, weight carried into consideration my raw comparisons leave Poethlyn just over a stone short of my Scroll Of Merit. On the other hand, reiterating that time is only one part of the puzzle, my instinct is that Poethlyn's performance is well worthy of a place on the Scroll. His 1918 triumph in the Gatwick stopgap saw Poethlyn emerge over 40 (pounds/lengths) superior to Ballymacad, the 1917 Gatwick race winner, and about 60 or 70 better than Shaun Spadah and Sergeant Murphy. Both those horses, who had commenced improvement, would go on to win the Aintree spectacular with the former generally coming out roughly a stone superior to the latter. Here in 1919 Shaun Spadah's saddle slipped after second Becher's but even if we imagine that without tack problems he would have finished on the heels of the fourth Loch Allen, Poethlyn would have emerged 34 ahead at the weights. In addition (to these raw computations) Poethlyn won easily and must have had near half a stone in hand. In conclusion, I have no hesitation in placing Poethlyn on the Scroll at, in deference to Piggott, -17 (as a consequence Ballyboggan is rated -42, Pollen (allowed 1 for a late mistake) -53 and Loch Allen -72) and it now reads: -14 Lottery, The Lamb, Disturbance, Seaman, Come Away, Cloister, Jerry M; -17 Poethlyn; -18 Congress, The Liberator; -19 Why Not, Manifesto.              









Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling