The Grand National or the worlds greatest steeplechase as it is often referred to as is a horse race run over steeplechase fences at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool..
The distance run in this race is 4 miles 4 furlongs and is the longest race run in the UK today.
This race is a unique test or horse and rider and the 30 fences that are jumped are a real test of bravery. Unlike most racecourses in the uk the fences are varied in height, width and depth and also the landing side on many of the fences is lower than the take off side and therefore do not offer a view of the landing to the horse.
There are 16 fences and 14 of then are jumped twice, the exceptions being the water and The Chair jumps. This make a total of 30 jumps to be made.
Following the success of the 1836 race the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase
was anticipated with much excitement and the conditions of the race were changed to: -
A Sweepstakes of 10 sovs. each, with 100 added by the Town of Liverpool for horses of all denominations, 4 years 11st.; 5, 11st. 7lbs.; 6 and aged 12st. Over a country not exceeding 5 miles, to be chosen by the umpire or such other persons he may appoint. Winner of one hurdle race of a steeplechase before the day of running to carry 5lbs extra, two 7lbs extra. The second to receive back his stake. The ground to be shown to riders on the morning of the races, and the umpire to have the power of ordering them to start whenever he may think a reasonable time shall have elapsed to allow the to go to the starting post and such horses as do not start to be considered as distanced.
The course on the day was more a selection of field and obstacles and the race was to start in front of the stands and the horses to go into the country. The race was over a turnpike road (The Melling road) whose landing on the road was steep. Then crossing the filed on the other side of the road the only difficult fence was to come next. Before the fence was a large open ditch, with the fence being a type of bank about six feet high, with a thorn hedge on the top. Once this obstacle was jumped there were then a succession of easy fences down the course and back around to the road, this time beside the canal bridge to be negotiated once again before running back to the half mile straight with two hurdles in it. . All of this to be negotiated again on the second circuit.
On the day of the race the weather was fine and conditions good however there were only 4 starters in the race as three of the other declared runners Bilk, Seagull and Polyanthus all being pulled out overnight. That left doc owned and ridden by Mr. Knaresboro, who was the strong favorite. Zanga Owned by Mr. Sharratt and ridden by Mr.Devine. The Disowned owned by Mr. Williamson and The Duke owned by Mr. Sirefield and ridden by Mr. Potts. It would seen that Mr. Potts got the ride on The Duke because Captain Becher was unavailable, the reason for his unavailability is confused but the two accounts were that he was riding in St. Albans the previous day and could not get to the course and the second being that he was taken ill, in any case his place was taken by a family friend of the owner, Mr. Potts.
There was much betting on the run up to the race with doc being a strong favorite and going down to the start it was obvious that the horse was well turned out despite being a small horse and having to carry the stout Mr. Knaresboro who was to ride his own horse.
The others three horses were about evens in the betting as they went to start the race.
As the horses started the first start was called a false one as doc rider broke a stirrup, but this was soon remedied and the horses were restarted.
Doc took the lead and was ridden on and soon got 50 yards ahead of his rivals and at the first fence across the road all jumped the fence without incident, however this was not to be the case at the real fence.
At the fence doc refused to jump the fence and despite much persuasion he would have nothing more to do with this race. The next two at the fence also did not want to jump the fence and refused. Finally The Duke got to the fence and he did at least try and jump the fence and his bravery was rewarded as he did get over the fence if in more of a scramble than a clear jump. The Disowned was then retried at the fence and put his best foot forward and managed to get over the fence then followed by Zanga, however by this time The Duke had taken advantage of his bravery at the fence and opened up a lead of 200yards.
At the next fence The Duke was still well ahead when The Disowned jumped it well, but not so Zanga who threw his jockey and got loose.
So it was that this early in the race we were already down to half the starters.
The Duke ran on well but his lead was cut and as they started on the second circuit hoe was still over 100 yards in front.
The real fence on the second circuit proved no trouble at all to either of the runners and The Disowned continued to cut down the lead of The Duke until they got into the straight run in for the second time. Gaining all the time he was just a little behind and the second last hurdle and was upsides The Duke at the last hurdle but catching up the leader has taken it's toll in the race and after the last The Duke again opened up a gap in the run in to win the race by 30 yards.
1st -- The Duke Ridden by Mr. Potts (seen right)
owned by Mr. Sirdefield
2nd -- The Disowned Ridden by Mr. Mc Donough, owned by Mr. Williamson
0 -- doc Ridden and owned by Mr. Knaresboro.
Fell -- Zanga Ridden by Mr. Devine, owned by Mr. Sharratt.