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28 Jan 2019

Grand National History: Winners, Losers & Those in the Middle

One of the most popular steeplechasers in the world? It has to be the Grand National which takes place at Aintree, Liverpool on Saturday, 6th April 2019. Take advantage of the best odds at 

The National has a history that dates back to the 17th century. There is some uncertainty about winners of earlier races which date to pre-1839. However, the first winner to be acclaimed was named Lottery (1839). Trained by George Dockeray (who won the following year with a horse named Jerry), ridden by Jem Mason. 

This horse led the way for many famous winners and stories that are stranger than fiction. 

Of the most noted winners, we all remember is Red Rum, trained by Ginger McCain. Race fans across the world remember ''Rummy'' being the only horse to taste victory on three occasions: 1973, 1974 &  1977. Such was the jumping skill that he never fell in 100 races on the National Hunt. In fact, he even won [deadheated] over 5f at Aintree when it was open to Flat racing, too. As a fitting tribute, Red Rum is buried at the finishing line at Aintree racecourse. A remarkable horse whose standing as the greatest steeplechaser in the world is unlikely to be challenged. 

As with every good fortune, there is an equal measure of loss. The Grand National is a tough race that has seen just a handful of finishers when the going is very testing. Sometimes even a likely winners ''somehow'' grasps defeat from of the jaws of victory. Even royalty can suffer the misfortune as seen in the Queen Mother's horse Devon Loch, ridden by Dick Francis, who went on to be a famous fictional writer. His real-life tale of Devon Loch still brings much questioning since its running in 1956. 

Devon Lock looked to be the winner when he ''jumped a shadow'' only yards from the finishing line, to land in a muddy heap as E.S.B and his jockey David Dick ran by at odds of 100/7. 

One of the funny stories about finishing in the middle is a jockey rather than a horse. Captain Martin William Becher (1797 - 1864) was a former soldier serving in the Napoleonic Wars and battle of Waterloo. He was also a keen steeplechase jockey taking part in the Grand National on a number of occasions. It was reputed that Becher won the 1836 Grand National but that was later disregarded. However, riding Conrad, a beast of a horse, set his name in the history books for a very different reason. The horse led but upon meeting the first major obstacle - a water jump - refused and Becher went over its head and lay in the brook until all the rivals had thundered over his head. He cursed that he didn't realise how filthy the water tasted without whisky! He remounted and was unseated again at the second water jump. He never rode in the race again but the fence was named after him called Becher's Brook.