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.