Lord Gyllene

The 1997 Grand National will always be remembered as the one and only “Monday National”, after coded IRA bomb threats caused Aintree Racecourse to be evacuated and the race to be postponed by 48 hours on the previous Saturday. However, Steve Brookshaw – now retired from the training ranks but, at the time, in just his second season as a National Hunt trainer – will always remember the winner of that historic Grand National, Lord Gyllene. In fact, when interviewed 20 years later, Brookshaw said, “It was my 15 minutes of fame; the biggest day of my life.”

Owned by the late Sir Stanley Clarke, Lord Gyllene was a New Zealand-bred gelding who had previously completed a hat-trick at Uttoxeter, including the Singer & Friedland National Trial, and finished second, when favourite, in the Midlands Grand National, also at Uttoxeter. In the Grand National, Lord Gyllene was ridden by Tony Dobbin and, having taken the lead at the second fence, led the field a merry dance for two circuits of the vast course.

The eight-year-old jumped superbly throughout, although only narrowly avoided calamity at the water jump, when nearly carried out by a loose horse. He led by 6 lengths or so approaching the second last fence and in the last half mile pulled further and further clear, eventually winning by 25 lengths. His winning margin was the biggest since Red Rum romped home for his historic third National win in 1977. The gallant topweight, Suny Bay, who’d pursued him vainly for most of the way, finished second with 100/1 outside Camelot Knight third, a further 2 lengths away.

Lord Gyllene ran just twice more for Brookshaw, without distinction, and after two years off the course with injury was eventually retired, as a 13-year-old, in 2001. At the time, new trainer Martin Pipe – for whom Lord Gyllene never ran – said, “Lord Gyllene is not up to full training. His owner Sir Stanley Clarke and I agreed that retirement was the best thing and he will be given a lovely home.”

Brian Fletcher

The late Brian Fletcher owes his place in the annals of Grand National primarily to his association with Red Rum, the most successful horse in the history of the famous race, whom he rode to victory in 1973 and 1974. However, Fletcher had his first ride in the Grand National, as a 19-year-old, in the infamous renewal of 1967, won by Foinavon. At one stage, Fletcher lost his mount, Red Alligator, altogether in the melee at the twenty-third fence, but eventually remounted, jumped the fence at the third attempt and finished a distant third.

Fletcher said later, “…I would have won the race if I had had a clear run.” His comment appeared justified because the following year he rode Red Alligator to a 20-length victory over Moidore’s Token. Fletcher rode Red Alligator in the Grand National again in 1969 and 1970, but failed to complete the course on both occasions. In 1971, Fletcher failed to complete the course again; his mount, The Inventor, refused at the fourth last fence.

The following year, at Stockton Racecourse, sustained a broken arm and a fractured skull in a fall in a novices’ chase. He lay unconscious for ten days and was sidelined for ten months in all but, against medical advice, regained his licence and resumed race-riding.

In the absence of Tommy Stack, who was unavailable, Fletcher was asked to ride Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National by trainer Donald “Ginger” McCain. The footage of Red Rum and Fletcher catching the gallant Crisp, who’d been 30 lengths ahead at one stage, in the shadow of the winning post has been shown over and over again. Red Rum and Fletcher repeated the feat in 1974, with a convincing win over L’Escargot, and went very close to completing a unique treble in 1975, when only giving best to the same horse.

Of course, Red Rum would go on to complete an unprecedented treble in Grand National, but was ridden on that occasion by Tommy Stack. By that time, though, Fletcher had not only lost the ride on Red Rum after an acrimonious falling out with McCain, but actually retired from riding on health grounds.