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.