Richard Pitman, 75, has been involved with the Grand National, in one form or another for over five decades. He is, of course, the erstwhile husband of Jenny Pitman, who became the first woman to train a Grand National winner in 1983. However, Richard had his first ride in the Grand National aboard the 13-year-old Dorimont in 1967. Dorimont had won the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival three years earlier, but was a 100/1 outsider on the day. Replacing the injured William Shand Kydd, the 24-year-old Pitman, by his own admission, “forgot” about the open ditch guarding the third fence and his mount took a crashing fall, long before the mêlée at the twenty-third fence presented Foinavon with the race.
In 1973, Pitman was involved in one of the most famous, and heartbreaking, finishes in Grand National history when Crisp, ridden by Pitman, was caught in the dying strides by Red Rum, ridden by Brian Fletcher, having been 20 lengths ahead jumping Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. “The Black Kangaroo”, as Crisp was affectionately known, was attempting to concede 23lb to Red Rum and, while he may not have won the National, his bold, attacking style won the hearts of the racing public.
Pitman made his first television appearance for the BBC at the Grand National in 1976 and remained part of the team thereafter. He was involved in the coverage of the so-called “National that never was” – in which Esha Ness, trained by Jenny Pitman, was first past the post – in 1993 and the bomb scare, which led to the evacuation of Aintree and the only Monday National, in 1997. In 2018, Pitman featured on a panel of experts on an ITV Grand National Special, which included “The Grand National Race of Champions”; in the virtual race, Crisp finished fourth, behind L’Escargot, Red Rum and Hedgehunter.