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.

Golden Miller

Golden Miller Owned by trainer Basil Briscoe, Philip Carr and, finally, the Honourable Dorothy Paget, Golden Miller has the distinction of being the most successful horse in the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The horse once described by racing journalist Sidney Galtrey as “a god on four legs” won the Blue Riband event at the Cheltenham Festival five years running between 1932 and 1936.

However, fresh from his third Cheltenham Gold Cup win, in 1934, Golden Miller also won the Grand National and remains the only horse ever to have won both races in a single season. Trained by Basil Briscoe and ridden by Gerry Wilson, Golden Miller won the National by 5 lengths from Delaneige in a time of 9 minutes 20.4 seconds. In so doing, he broke the course record, of 9 minutes 30.0 seconds, set by The Huntsman in 1862; his winning time wouldn’t be beaten until 1974, when Red Rum beat Crisp in a time of 9 minutes 1.9 seconds.

It’s often said that the Grand National is the supreme test of horse and rider and, despite winning in 1934, Golden Miller failed to complete the National Course on four other occasions. On his first attempt, as a six-year-old, in 1993, he fell at the Canal Turn on the second circuit. In 1935, he was sent off the shortest-priced favourite in the history of the race, despite carrying 12st 7lb, but unseated rider Gerry Wilson at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit. In 1936, trained by Owen Anthony and ridden by Evan Williams after Dorothy Paget fell out with previous trainer Basil Briscoe, he fell at the Canal Turn on the first circuit and in 1937 he refused at the same fence where he’d unseated Gerry Wilson two years earlier.

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.”