Peter Bromley

Peter Bromley  Peter Bromley, who was the voice of racing on BBC Radio for 40 years between 1961 and 2001, had no family background in horse racing. However, at one point in his career, he did harbour the ambition of becoming a jockey. Bromley served as cavalry officer in the 14/20 King’s Hussars, in Catterick, North Yorkshire and later in Fleet, Hampshire, where he became acquainted with the local racehorse trainer, Frank Pullen. He rode work and schooled horses at the now-defunct Tweseldown Racecourse, before joining Pullen as assistant trainer and amateur rider when he left the army.

However, when his riding aspirations were dampened by injury, Bromley sought pastures new and worked for the British Racecourse Amplifying and Recording Company before joining the BBC. He made his first commentary for BBC Radio at Newmarket in 1959 and so began a career in which he would cover 42 Grand Nationals before his retirement.

Renowned for his rich intonation, enthusiasm and creativity, Bromley said that the secret of his success was “to imagine you are talking to someone in a dark room”. He did so with aplomb when describing the dramatic finish to the 1973 National, exclaiming “Red Rum wins it! Crisp is second! And the rest don’t matter. We’ll never see a race like this in a hundred years!” In fact, his favourite commentary also involved Red Rum, when he won an unprecedented third Grand National, as a 12-year-old, in 1977. He reflected, “I believe that commentary gave me more pleasure than any other, perhaps just because Red Rum was such a special horse whose Aintree record will never be matched.” Other memorable Grand National commentaries included the emotional victory of Aldaniti, ridden by Bob Champion, in 1981.

Peter Bromley went out on a high, finally hanging up his microphone after painting a picture of a cracking renewal of the Derby, won by Galileo, in 2001. Sadly, within a year Bromley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in June, 2003, at the age of 74.

Tommy Carberry

Tommy Carberry  Tommy Carberry had the rare distinction of winning the Grand National as a jockey and as a trainer. In fact, he remains one of a select band of just five men – the others being, in chronological order, Algernon Anthony, Aubrey Hastings, Fulke Walwyn and Fred Winter – to have done so since the turn of the twentieth century.

In 1975, Carberry rode L’Escargot – trained by his father-in-law, Dan Moore – on whom he’d finished third in 1973 and second in 1974, to a 15-length win over Red Rum in the Grand National. In so doing, he not only denied the greatest National horse of all time a third consecutive win in the iconic steeplechase, but also became the first jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Grand National and the Irish Grand National in the same season.

Following his retirement as a jockey in 1982, Carberry embarked on a training career and, in 1999, had the satisfaction of saddling Bobbyjo, ridden by his Paul, to win the Grand National again. Despite being 14lb out of the handicap proper, Bobbyjo drew clear on the long run-in to beat Blue Charm by 10 lengths and become the first Irish-trained winner since L’Escargot 24 years earlier.

Following his death, at the age of 75, in 2017, Co. Meath trainer Noel Meade – to whom Paul Carberry was stable jockey during his career – paid tribute to Carberry Snr.. He said, “He was a legend, and a hero of mine from when I was a kid…He was a genius in the saddle, and Paul was very like him.”

John Thorne

John Thorne  The late John Thorne, was tragically killed in a point-to-point fall in 1982, will always be remembered as the amateur rider who, at the age of 54, nearly fulfilled his lifelong ambition of winning the Grand National. Thorne was, of course, the jockey of Spartan Missile, the horse who finished second to Aldaniti in the 1981 Grand National. Champion jockey John Francome offered to take to take the mount in the National, but Thorne declined, opting to come out of retirement to ride Spartan Missile himself, at 3lb overweight.

Whether Francome could have won on Spartan Missile, who was eventually beaten 4 lengths, has been hotly debated over the years. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Thorne bred, owned and trained the horse, not to mention having ridden him to victory in Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree, over the National fences, so had every right to ride him in the National.

Spartan Missile was a big, strong, powerful horse and a good jumper, characteristics which made him the leading hunter chaser of his day and, arguably, of all time. He started 8/1 favourite for the 1981 Grand National, although Thorne insisted that the bookmakers were taking an “exaggerated view” of his chances. In any event, the “old bloke” – as Jenny Pitman derogatorily called Thorne when discussing the race – had the ride of his life in the National.

Although hampered, more than once, and left lying out of his ground from Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit, Spartan Missile gradually crept into the race and jumped the final fence in third place behind Aldaniti and Royal Mail. Halfway up the run-in Thorne conjured a “storming finish” from the nine-year-old but, despite closing to within 2 lengths of Aldaniti at one point, Spartan Missile had to settle for second place.

Marcus Armytage

Marcus Armytage  Nowadays, Old Etonian Marcus Armytage is best known as racing correspondent for The Daily Telegraph but, in his younger days, was a highly accomplished amateur rider. Armytage, 55, rode 100 winners worldwide between 1981 and 2000, but the most famous of them was undoubtedly Mr Frisk in the 1990 Grand National. The unseasonably firm going, made so by a prolonged period of dry weather, was perfect for Mr Frisk and Armytage apparently told his sister, Gee, “If I don’t win this today, I’ll never win it.”

 

The 16/1 chance raced prominently for most of the way and was left in front when the erstwhile leader, Uncle Merlin, fell at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. He held a 10-length lead jumping the fourth last fence, but Durham Edition made relentless progress throughout the last half mile and by the Elbow, halfway up the famously long run-in at Aintree, had just about reached his quarters. However, despite Durham Edition making ground all the time on the stands’ side, Mr Frisk held on to win by three-quarters of a length. His winning time, of 8 minutes 47.80 seconds, smashed the previous course record, of 9 minutes 1.90 seconds, set by Red Rum in 1973, and remains the fastest winning time in National history, despite the overall distance being shortened in 2013.

Armytage became just one of five amateur riders to win the Grand National since World War II, the others being Captain Bobby Petrie on Lovely Cottage in 1946, Tommy Smith on Jay Trump in 1965, Charlie Fenwick on Ben Nevis in 1980 and Dick Saunders on Grittar in 1982. Nowadays, tighter regulations prevent gung-ho “gentleman riders”, such as the legendary Duke of Albuquerque, from risking life and limb in the Grand National, so amateur jockeys are a rarity compared with the days of yesteryear.

Michael Scudamore

Michael Scudamore  The late Michael Scudamore was, of course, the patriarch of a notable racing dynasty. His son, Peter, was National Hunt Champion Jockey eight times between 1981/82 and 1991/92 and is now assistant to Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell, while his grandsons, Tom and Michael Jnr., also maintain the family tradition, as a jockey and trainer, respectively.

However, after a public vote, Michael Scudamore was inducted into the Grand National Hall of Fame at Aintree Racecourse in 2012 by virtue of having ridden in the race 16 times, consecutively, between 1951 and 1966. He won the National just once, on Oxo, an eight-year-old bay gelding owned by John Big and trained by Willie Stephenson, in 1959.

Scudamore recalled that Tim Brookshaw, the jockey of Wyndburgh, shouted across that he’d broken a stirrup leather at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. However, Brookshaw kicked his other foot out of the stirrup and rode the remainder of the race – which still involved negotiating eight more fences, including the Canal Turn and Valentine’s Brook – with no irons at all. The bold move almost paid off because Wyndburgh, who’d looked beaten at the final fence, rallied gamely on the long run-in and was eventually only beaten 1½ lengths.

Scudamore and Oxo, meanwhile, nearly came a cropper at the final fence, with the jockey forced to ride at the buckle end of the reins to keep the partnership intact. Scudamore, though, held Oxo together brilliantly well in the closing stages, despite the sound of thundering hooves creeping closer and closer. He later recalled, “I could hear Tim and Wyndburgh behind me all the time. It seemed a long time from the final fence to the finish.”