Rhyme ‘N’ Reason

Rhyme ‘N’ Reason  Owned by Miss Juliet Reed and trained by David Elsworth at Whitsbury Manor Stables near Fordingbridge, Hampshire, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason is best remembered for winning the Grand National, on his first and last appearance, in 1988. However, earlier in his career, when trained by David Murray Smith, he’d won the Mumm Novices’ Chase at the Grand National Meeting and the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse and, two seasons later, remained a force to be reckoned with in staying chases.

Indeed, your correspondent witnessed his first win of the 1987/88 season, in the Lingfield Park Handicap Chase on December 12, 1987. Carrying just 10st 1lb, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was last of the six runners at the end of the first circuit – provoking a snide “never trust a Welshman” from a colleague to whom I’d advised him at 4/1 – but eventually won comfortably by 5 lengths.

Notwithstanding a fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which his jockey, Brendan Powell Snr., maintains he would otherwise have won, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was defeated just twice in six starts en route to Aintree the following April. He was beaten a length by Playschool in the Welsh National at Chepstow and 8 lengths by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Charter Party in the Gainsborough Handicap Chase at Sandown, but nevertheless well fancied for the National at 10/1 joint second favourite.

His cause was aided by the fall of 17/2 favourite Sacred Path at the first fence but, according to Powell, “At Becher’s Rhyme ‘N’ Reason did the splits and sat down and I thought that was our chance gone.” However, the nine-year-old recovered and steadily crept back into contention, taking the lead at Valentine’s Brook. Durham Edition, ridden by Chris Grant, passed him on the run-in, but Rhyme ‘N’ Reason rallied to win by 4 lengths.

Bobbyjo

Bobbyjo  Bobbyjo, who won the Grand National in 1999, became the first Irish-trained winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase for 24 years. In fact, he was saddled by Tommy Carberry – who as a jockey, rode the last winner from the Emerald Isle, L’Escargot, in 1975 – and ridden by his son, Paul.

Bred by Liam Skehan and owned by Robert “Bobby” Burke, Bobbyjo was the subject of a major gamble on the day of the race and was sent off fourth favourite of the 32 runners, at 10/1, despite racing from 14lb out of the handicap. Tommy Carberry said later, “Before the race I knew the horse was a stone wrong in the handicap, but he [jockey Paul Carberry] didn’t know that, and I didn’t tell him.”

In any event, under a typically patient ride from Carberry Jnr., the nine-year-old travelled well throughout the four-and-a-half mile contest, but wasn’t asked for an effort until the fourth last fence. Slightly outpaced with two to jump, he was one of half a dozen horses still in contention at the final fence but, switched right to deliver his challenge, drew clear in the closing stages for an emphatic, 10-length victory. Blue Charm finished second, at 25/1, with Call It A Day, at 7/1, a neck behind in third place.

Bobbyjo ran in the Grand National again in 2000 but, carrying his correct weight of 11st 6lb, weakened from Becher’s Brook on the second circuit to finish eleventh of 17 finishers behind Papillon. He never won again.

Reynoldstown

Reynoldstown  Reynoldstown, owned and trained by Major Noel Furlong, had the distinction of winning two consecutive Grand Nationals, in 1935 and 1936, on his first two attempts. On the first occasion, Golden Miller, the winner in 1934, started 2/1 favourite – the shortest-priced favourite in the history of the Grand National – but, controversially, unseated rider Gerry Wilson at the Canal Turn on the first circuit. In an eventful race, in which only four of the 27 starters finished, with 17 falling before halfway, amateur rider Frank Furlong, the son of the trainer, steered a safe passage on Reynoldstown. The eight-year-old led over Becher’s Brook on the second circuit and remained prominent until taking a definite advantage between the last two fences and staying on well to beat Blue Prince by 3 lengths at odds of 22/1.

The following year, Reynoldstown carried top weight of 12st 2lb and was ridden by Fulke Walwyn, who was still an amateur at the time. Having jumped Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit almost upsides leader Davy Jones, Reynoldstown stumbled at the next fence, losing ground, but the pair remained clear of their pursuers. Coming back onto the racecourse proper, Reynoldstown made headway again and already looked the likely winner when Davy Jones ran out at the final fence with a broken rein. Consequently, Reynoldstwon only had to be pushed out to beat Ego by 12 lengths. In so doing, he not only became the most notable winner of Fulke Walwyn’s riding career, but the first horse to win back-to-back Nationals since Poethlyn 18 years earlier.

Despite winning on his first two attempts, Reynoldstown never ran in the Grand National again. Consequently, of the seven horses who have won two, or more, Grand Nationals, Reynoldstown is the only with a 100% record.

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.

Auroras Encore

Auroras Encore  Auroras Encore won the Grand National in 2013 – the first year in which the race was broadcast on Channel 4 – and, in so doing, became the first Yorkshire-trained winner of the iconic steeplechase since Merryman II, trained by Neville Crump, in 1960. His trainer, Sue Smith, also became only the third woman to saddle a National winner, after Jenny Pitman, with Corbiere in 1983 and Royal Athlete in 1995, and Venetia Williams, with Mon Mome in 2009.

Having failed to trouble the judge on his first five starts of the 2012/13 National Hunt season, including a fall in a veterans’ handicap chase at Doncaster on his fourth start, he was allotted just 10st 3lb for the Grand National and, understandably, sent off as a 66/1 outsider. However, having survived mistakes at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit and the fence after that on the second, he tackled the leader, Teaforthree, at the final fence and was driven out to beat Cappa Bleu by nine lengths.

His jockey, 23-year-old Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the National, later reflected on his victory, saying, “There are no words to describe it. I got a dream ride round. I couldn’t believe my luck.”

A fortnight later Auroras Encore tried, but failed, to become the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National and the Scottish Grand National, at Ayr, in the same season. He was badly hampered at the second fence and, after a couple of subsequent mistakes, was tailed off when pulled up with five fences to jump.

Auroras Encore ran his last race in the Sky Bet Chase, formerly the Great Yorkshire Chase, over 3 miles at Doncaster in January, 2014. At 50/1, he finished last of nine finishers, beaten 62 lengths, behind The Rainbow Hunter, but was subsequently found to have fractured his off foreleg in the process. After an operation to insert screws into the injured leg, it was announced that he would not race again.