Vincent O’Brien

Vincent O’Brien  The late Vincent O’Brien, who died in 2009 at the age of 92, achieved unsurpassed success in horse racing, both National Hunt and Flat. Before he turned his attention to training on the Flat in the late 1950s, he’d already won the Grand National three times in succession, with three different horses.

Impressive though his Grand National record is, O’Brien was arguably unlucky not to have won the world famous steeplechase more often. His first runner in the race, Royal Tan, ridden by his brother, Phonsie, in 1951, finished second to Nickel Coin after nearly unseating his rider at the final fence. In 1952, the same horse unseated Phonsie O’Brien at the same fence when clear third behind Teal and Legal Joy.

In any event, O’Brien recorded is first National win in 1953 with the eight-year-old Early Mist, owned, like Royal Tan, by Joe Griffin and ridden by Bryan Marshall. Early Mist had fallen at the first fence in the 1952 Grand National, when trained by Jimmy Rank, but O’Brien told “Mincemeat Joe”, as his owner was affectionately known, that his horse could win the race in 1953. Griffin backed Early Mist to win £100,000 and duly collected after the 20/1 chance led for most of the second circuit and won by 20 lengths from Mont Tremblant.

Royal Tan, who had been absent during the 1952/53 season with leg trouble, finally came good over the National fences in 1954. Bryan Marshall rode a superb waiting race on the ten-year-old, delaying his challenge until the final fence, and although Tudor Line, ridden by George Slack, closed all the way up the run-in Royal Tan held on to win by a neck.

O’Brien won his third, and final, National in 1955 with Quare Times, owned by Cecily Welman and ridden by Pat Taafe. The nine-year-old had won his first race, the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, in 1954 and was one of four entries from the yard, which also included Early Mist and Royal Tan. However, Quare Times was the only one to appreciate the heavy going, made so by torrential rain – which nearly caused the abandonment of the race – and strode clear in the closing stages to beat the luckless Tudor Line by 12 lengths.

Neville Crump

Neville Crump  Neville Franklin Crump was one of the most successful trainers of staying steeplechasers in the period immediately following World War II. He was National Hunt Champion Trainer twice, in 1951/52 and 1956/57, and, with the notable exception of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, won all the major staying chases in the British National Hunt calendar. When he retired from the training ranks in 1989, he had won the Grand National three times, the Scottish Grand National five times, the Welsh National twice and the Whitbread Gold Cup – now, of course, the Bet365 Gold Cup – three times.

Crump saddled his first National winner, Sheila’s Cottage, in 1948, a little over a decade after first taking out a training licence. Owned by John Procter, Sheila’s Cottage apparently had her own ideas about the game but, on a balmy summer day, was on her best behaviour at Aintree, tackling long-time leader First Of The Dandies on the famously long run-in to win by a length at odds of 50/1. In so doing, she became the first mare to win the National for 46 years.

Crump didn’t have to wait long for his second National victory. In 1952, he saddled Teal, ridden, like Sheila’s Cottage, by Arthur Thompson and Wot No Sun, ridden by Dave Dick. On a wet, foggy day, which made visibility poor, and after a false start, Teal and Legal Joy, ridden by Michael Scudamore, emerged from the gloom stride-for-stride at the final fence. However, it was Teal who asserted on the run-in, eventually winning by 5 lengths, with topically-named stablemate Wot No Sun a distant, and rather lucky, third after the fall of Royal Tan at the final fence.

The 1960 Grand National was the first to be televised by the BBC and the last before the fences were modified, just in time for Neville Crump to saddle his third, and final, winner, Merryman II. Owned by Winifred Wallace and ridden by Gerry Scott, Merryman started 13/2 favourite and duly obliged, galloping all over his rivals from some way out and winning by 15 lengths. Scott later became a Jockey Club starter and has the distinction of being the only man to start the National, as well as riding the winner.

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.”

George Dockeray

George Dockeray  Any Grand National buffs worth their salt can probably tell you that the first “official” Grand National – albeit run as the “Grand Liverpool Steeplechase” – in 1839 was won by the aptly-named Lottery. However, they may not be quite as quick to tell you that Lottery was saddled by former Derby winning jockey-turned-trainer George Dockeray. In fact, Dockeray saddled three more Grand National winners in the next 13 years – Jerry (1840), Gaylad (1842) and Miss Mowbray (1852) – which means that he ranks alongside Fred Rimell and Donald “Ginger” McCain, who also recorded four Grand National wins as trainers.

After retiring from race riding, Dockeray took up training, first at Mickelham, near Dorking and later at nearby Epsom where, in 1839, he received Lottery from owner John Elmore. Elmore, based in Harrow, was also a horse dealer and trainer and had previously campaigned Lottery at the Hippodrome, Bayswater and elsewhere in London. In 1837, Lottery is recorded as winning the “Hippodrome 50 Sovereigns Plate”, over 2 miles, on the first day the Hippodrome, Bayswater was opened.

In any event, Lottery started favourite for the inaugural Grand National and, ridden by James “Jem” Mason, won in a hack canter. According to the Daily Telegraph of the day, “…Lottery was in command as they finally entered the straight, and a prodigious leap at the last left him well clear.” George Dockeray died on May 2, 1857, aged 68, but over a century and a half after his death, after a public vote, he was inducted into the Aintree Hall of Fame in 2012.

Fred Winter

Fred Winter  Frederick Thomas “Fred” Winter CBE was a leading figure in British National Hunt racing for nearly four decades. Despite the fact that he “was not a natural steeplechase jockey”, at least not according to his brother, John, he rode 923 winners and became Champion Jockey four times. On his retirement from the saddle in 1964, Winter turned his attention to training and, in 24 seasons, saddled 1,557 winners and became Champion Trainer eight times. He also has the distinction of being the only man to have both ridden and trained two Grand National winners.

His first success in the National, as a jockey, came in 1957 aboard Sundew, trained by Frank Hudson. Sundew has run in the National in the two previous years, falling at the fourth last fence in 1955 and at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, when ridden by Winter, in 1956. However, on their second attempt, Sundew and Winter made most of the running and drew away in the closing stages to win by 8 lengths.

Winter rode his second National winner, Kilmore, trained by Ryan Price in 1962. Ridden patiently, Kilmore made headway to chase the leader, Gay Navaree, at the fourth last fence. Winter produced the 12-year-old to lead jumping the final fence and he cleared away on the run-in to beat Wyndburgh – who, coincidentally, had also finished second to Sundew five years earlier – by 10 lengths.

Winter didn’t have to wait long to win the Grand National as a trainer. In fact, he did so at the first time of asking, with Jay Trump, ridden by American amateur rider Tommy Smith, in 1965. Amazingly, Winter won the National again in 1966, this time with Anglo, ridden by Tim Norman. The 50/1 chance jumped up into second place on the inside at Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit, took the measure of long-time leader Forest Prince jumping the last and strode right away to win by 20 lengths.

Winter later remarked on his good fortune, saying, “It was almost embarrassing standing in the winners’ enclosure again when you think of all the people who have been training horses for years and always had the luck go against them at Aintree.”

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