Grand National Ultimate History



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Sa 27 Mar 1954 (3.21) 4m 4f Good 9.32.80 29 £8,571 J. Griffin

51 52 1 Royal Tan 10 11-07 V. O'Brien B. Marshall 8/1   Held up. Towards rear 1st where slightly hampered. A last but one 19th BB 1C. Left a rear of mid-division 15th CT 1C, left 13th at 12th, headway to be left in dispute of 8th next, 7th (of 15) WJ. Maintained that position through 19th, further progress to be 4th next & at BB 2C. Bided time, 3L down CT 2C and 6L off the pace 28th. Took 3rd and closed to within 2L on run to 29th at which obstacle came to dispute lead. Ahead outright by 2L last & at Elbow. Kept to inner rail after. All out to hold on.
  2 Tudor Line 9 10-07 B. Renton G. Slack 10/1 NK Mid-division 1st where mistake. Tendency to jump right thereafter. Towards rear in 17th BB 1C where another error. Left a rear of midfield 16th CT 1C. Left 15th at 12th where slightly hampered by the rising Border Luck. Left 14th next, headway to be 9th WJ & 17th. Further, rather rapid, progress to be 6th at 19th and 3rd at 20th. Same position BB & CT 2C, 2L down at latter. Disputed 2nd next (VB), disputed lead by 27th and narrowly ahead 28th. Joined on run to and at 29th. Had dropped to 2nd, 2L behind, by last where jumped markedly right. Nevertheless, still within 2L of leader Elbow. Rallied on outer after but not quite get up.
51 52 53 3 Irish Lizard 11 10-05 F. Nicholson M. Scudamore 15/2F 10 Mid-division 1st where slightly hampered. 11th BB 1C where stumbled. Left in dispute of 10th CT 1C, 9th at 12th, left vying for 8th next, same position outright WJ. Slight mistake 17th where shared 7th, 8th again at 19th, 6th BB 2C. 6L down in 5th when mistake & nearly UR CT 2C. Still 5th but 8L behind leader at 28th. Disputed 4th at 29th. 4th outright, 5L down, last. Took 3rd Elbow. Kept on relatively one-paced.
  4 Churchtown 9 10-03 V. O'Brien T. Taaffe 10/1 6 Fore of mid-division 1st where bad mistake & nearly down. A midfield 12th BB 1C. Left in dispute of 10th CT 1C. Progress to share 4th at 12th & 13th, left 3rd WJ. 2nd at 19th & BB 2C, led narrowly CT 2C. A very close 2nd once more 28th and vied for lead on run to and at 29th where mistake & dropped to 3rd. Same position, 4L down, last. Lost 3rd Elbow. Slightly weakened.
  5 Sanperion 9 10-02 L. Elwell D. Leslie 20/1   Away well & disputed lead 1st where pecked badly. Nevertheless, led outright 3rd. 3rd or 2nd from BB 1C to 12th, disputed 4th at 13th. Left in lead WJ and not headed until after BB 2C, remained a very close 2nd CT. Broke blood vessel late CS and 3L behind leader 28th. 6L down in dispute of 4th at 29th, a 7L 5th last. Weakened further.
  6 Martinique 8 10-01 G. Owen E. Greenway 66/1   Rearmost 1st, becoming tailed off 5th, 20th & last BB 1C. WAS tailed off by 12th where a last but one 17th. The backmarker again, in 15th, WJ and remained so, still tailed off, through BB 2C (where 14th). Persisted and 'only' about 35L behind leader CT. Left 8th & last but one at 28th where did well to negotiate path through mayhem. Lumbered on past fellow beaten horses to finish a distant 6th.
52 53 7 Uncle Barney 11 10-00 H. Clarkson L. McMorrow 50/1   Disputed lead 1st and still very prominent 3rd, however, lacked sustained pace to do other than chase leaders in 8th BB 1C. 6th VB 1C, left 7th at 13th, but had dropped to 13th by WJ. 11th at next (17th), mistake 19th, under pressure 21st and a rear of mid-division 12th BB 2C. 18L down in 10th CT. Beaten when left 7th at 28th where mistake due to chaos around him, finished among distanced group.
  8 Southern Coup 12 10-10 Cpt N. Crump A. Thompson 40/1   Mid-division 1st, rear of same in 16th BB 1C. 17th when erred VB 1C. Left 16th at 12th where adrift of midfield, left 15th next, a last but one 14th WJ. 13th from 17th through BB 2C where mistake in rear of mid-div. 22L down in 11th & last but one CT. Rearmost & beaten by 28th where left 9th, finished among distanced group.
  9 Ontray 6 10-08 Cpt L. Scott Briggs B. Brewis 66/1   Prominent 1st & 3rd but had dropped to a mid-division 14th by BB 1C. Left in dispute of 10th CT 1C. Generally raced in 12th from next (VB) to 17th, 11th at 19th, mistake 21st, a rear of midfield 11th BB 2C. 16L down in 9th CT 2C. Left a beaten 6th at 28th (where slight mistake due to the prone Coneyburrow), same position 29th, weakened.
  F Coneyburrow 8 10-11 J. Osborne P. Taaffe 8/1 28TH Mid-division 1st, very prominent 3rd, led, narrowly, from 5th until dropped hind legs into water at WJ, sprawled and lost all momentum & several places. Dropped to 6th, then 9th at the 19th, before recovering sufficiently to be 5th BB 2C. 6th again, 7L down, CT and same position, circa 12L behind leader, when fell heavily 28th. Broke back. Dead. 
53 R Punchestown Star 10 10-00 J. Lea S. McComb 66/1 28TH Mid-division 1st, improved to be 4th BB 1C and 2nd VB 1C. 6th at 12th but 3rd next and left 4th again WJ. Disputed same position 19th but had dropped back to a midfield 7th by BB 2C. A 12L 7th CT 2C and had just been left a beaten 6th when distracted by a loose horse stopping on his inner, ran down fence to the left & refused 28th. Put to fence again but would have none of it. Reported to have bowed a tendon.
52 R Royal Stuart(1) 11 10-00 G. Owen Jimmy Power 66/1 28TH Mid-division 1st. Disputed 5th BB 1C and vied for 6th CT 1C. 8th from next (VB) to 12th but renewed headway to be 3rd at 13th and left 2nd WJ. Shared lead 17th, however, began to fade before 19th where 3rd again and only a midfield 8th BB 2C. Same position, 15L down, CT 2C. Had just been left a beaten 7th when followed Punchestown Star in running down fence to the left & refusing 28th.
  U Prince Of Arragon 13 10-02 J. O'Donnell J. Gorey 66/1 23RD Mid-division. 13th BB & VB 1C. Left 14th at 12th, left 11th next, 10th from WJ to 19th. A midfield 9th BB 2C. Similar position when mistake & UR next (23rd).
53 U Ordnance 8 10-01 F. Rimell J. Dowdeswell 18/1 23RD Not jump well. Prominent 1st where slight mistake. Chased leaders in 7th BB 1C. Disputed 6th CT 1C where blundered & nearly UR, 7th again next (VB). Headway CS 1C to be 3rd at 12th, left 6th next and left 5th WJ. Same place 17th and vied for 4th at 19th. 9th when another bad error & jockey did well to retain seat 20th. A midfield 10th BB 2C. Similar position when mistake & finally disposed of rider 23rd.
52 P Icy Calm 11 10-05 G. Archibald D. Francis 40/1 19TH (OD) Prominent 1st. A fore of mid-division 10th BB 1C. Left 9th CT 1C, 11th at 12th, mistake but left 10th again next. 11th once more WJ. Losing touch in a last but one 14th at 17th. Becoming tailed off when PU 19th.
  U Triple Torch 8 10-00 J. Hartigan D. Ancil 66/1 15TH (CHAIR) Chased leaders 1st. 2nd BB 1C. Bad mistake next (7th) and had dropped back to 5th CT 1C. 10th at 12th, left 13th at 13th. 15th when misjudged leap, landed on fence & UR Chair.
52 53 CO Hierba 9 10-00 T. Hamey R. Hamey 66/1 15TH (CHAIR) Mid-division 1st. Towards rear in 18th BB 1C. Left 18th & last but one CT 1C. Left 18th & tailed off last 12th. No real change when hampered by loose horses & forced into wing of Chair.
52 F Legal Joy 11 11-03 F. Walwyn D. Dick 33/1 13TH Away well & disputed lead 1st. Still very prominent 3rd and vied for 5th BB 1C. 5th outright VB 1C. Shared 4th at 12th and battling for 6th when fell next (13th). Broke leg. Dead.
52 F Border Luck 9 10-00 J. Bower T. Shone 66/1 12TH Rear of mid-division 1st. A midfield 15th BB 1C. 14th VB 1C. 12th when blundered badly & fell 12th.
  U Statesman 8 10-00 C. Magnier E. Newman 50/1 8TH (CT) Chased leaders, 9th BB 1C. Same position when bad mistake & UR CT 1C.
  F Gay Monarch 8 10-04 F. Rimell T. Brookshaw 50/1 5TH Chased leaders 1st. Very prominent 3rd. Fore of mid-division when fell 5th.
  F Paris New York 7 10-00 Maj B. Powell M. Roberts 66/1 4TH Rear of mid-division 1st where pecked. Had made progress into midfield when fell 4th. Broke leg. Dead.
53 R Baire 8 10-00 M. Marsh J. Foster 66/1 3RD (OD) Rear of mid-division 1st. Last but one when took exception to first ditch & refused.
52 F Dominick's Bar 10 10-07 T. Hyde T. Molony 33/1 2ND Disputed lead 1st and still very prominent when suffered heart failure in mid-air jumping the 2nd & fell. Dead.
  B Minimax 10 10-00 A. Sellar Cpt M. MacEwan 66/1 2ND Towards rear 1st. Last but one when knocked into on take off by a loose horse (Whispering Steel), who had been caused to run down fence to the left by another piloted runner, & BD into 2nd fence, jockey flying over the obstacle.
  U Gentle Moya 8 10-00 V. Bewicke J. Straker 100/6 1ST Fore of mid-division when caught from behind after landing safely over the 1st by the falling Swinton Hero & UR.
  F Swinton Hero 10 10-06 D. Machin C. Harty 66/1 1ST Mid-division, fell 1st.
  F Alberoni 11 10-12 V. O'Brien E. Cousins 66/1 1ST Mid-division, fell 1st.
52 53 U Whispering Steel 9 10-12 A. Kilpatrick B. Morrow 40/1 1ST Rear of mid-division when jarring mistake & UR 1st.



That Royal Tan shouldered the loftiest burden in the 1954 Grand National but that it was a full stone bellow the maximum permitted weight points to the lack of quality in depth of this renewal. Only one other horse (the ill-fated Legal Joy) also carried more than 10st 12lb as the National slipped more deeply into what would be a ten-year period of relatively smaller fields. In fairness, Early Mist had gone wrong before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Mont Tremblant was injured (again!) in one of his last pre-Aintree gallops and Knock Hard, unable to recapture his 1953 form, was withdrawn. All this left the way clearer for Messrs O'Brien, Marshall (who had broken his jaw in five places only three weeks previously) and 'Mincemeat' Joe Griffin (whose canned food business would soon go belly-up!) to claim two in a row. Royal Tan, who had been fired since the 1952 Liverpool Blue Riband, was one, as we know, who preferred not to have his mind made up for him at fences, therefore, Marshall proved adaptable compared to his ride on Early Mist as the partnership just held off the game Tudor Line. The latter, who did not have the smoothest of passages which probably cost him victory, had prior to the 53/54 season had the habit of breaking blood vessels and it was the horse's first run in excess of 2 1/2 miles (although he was fully expected to stay). Irish Lizard had not this year run earlier at the meeting, Sanperion was unfortunate to be the beast to break a blood vessel on this occasion. Four horses departed at the 1st in 1954 and merely two at the 7th/23rd.

Sadly, however, there were a record four fatalities (although none were at the 1st, Becher's or the next) among them Legal Joy, who enthusiastically got up and tried to carry on with his broken leg before colliding with a rail and toppling over, and Coneyburrow whose race was put entirely out of kilter when encountering the Water Jump, they did not have them in Ireland, without any horse to follow and alert him in advance. Inevitably, the deaths and other incidents (which included a loose horse plunging into the landing side ditch at the 28th) provoked a new wave of public antipathy towards the National and a debate in the House of Lords - a lot of both being ignorant hot air that was spurred on by adverse comment in the press. The RSPCA, more reasoned, asked for modification of the troublesome 7th/23rd where 22 noble creatures had exited in the last five renewals combined. The ground around this fence had always formed a bit of a dip and it's possible that the hollow became more pronounced in the early 1950s. The NHC duly obliged.

I sense, from film and the sometimes rapid positional changes, that the pace in the 1954 Grand National wasn't overall as fast as it had been in the preceding two years. The prevailing going was Good with a hint of ease and there had been no surface similar enough with which to make a time comparison since the war, certainly nothing subsequent to the last section of plough being removed for 1951, although the winning time was reasonable enough. At the weights Royal Tan emerged 14 (pounds/lengths) superior to Tudor Line, 26 better than Irish Lizard and 34 in advance of Churchtown. I rated Royal Tan -37 as a 7-y-o in 1951 and estimated (he unseated at the last) -27 for his performance in 1952. He may have achieved a higher rating in the latter year behind Teal (-15) had his jockey remained in the saddle, however, since then Royal Tan had been absent injured and fired, therefore, it's hard to imagine he was a better horse in 1954. On the other hand he did win carrying (albeit a low) top weight. Thus, I feel a final rating of -27 is fair for him. Those in behind suffered various trials and tribulations. I will allow Tudor Line 5 for a final rating of -36, Irish Lizard 3, due to mistakes and being hampered, for -50 (more on this below), and Churchtown 3 also, because of mistakes, for -58. I rated Irish Lizard the same -50 in 1953 when he finished with a rattle just two days after winning the Topham but the way he came home last year hardly suggests that the edge had been taken off of him. Some contemporary observers, and the betting public, fancied he was an improved horse throughout the season, possibly due to a change of diet to one containing a proportion of beans, however, a final spurt failed to materialise this time so I think he was what he was, -50, and the form bears out viz-a-viz Royal Tan.      










Copyright 2017 by Chris Dowling