Favourite Horses 1946-1989

Having spent hours and hours watching and re-watching Grand Nationals you start to get your own personal favourites so this page celebrates my top ten favourite horses from each decade.

The 40s & 50s

 1.    ROYAL TAN - for being one of those tough as old boots - they don't make them like that anymore type - he ran in the National six times in a seven year period, he won it in 1954, he was second in 1951, he was third in 1956, he finished in 1955 and was in a clear third place when he fell at the last in 1952.

 2.   FREEBOOTER - for holding the record for the most wins over the National course - five times - only won the National once, it should have been more.

 3.   DEVON LOCH - for being the unluckiest loser of all time, for giving us a mystery as fiendish as many of his riders Dick Francis hugely successful thrillers. (and for being trained just up the road from where I live)

 4.   WYNDBURGH - for holding the record for the most second places - three , a great Aintree stalwart who also finished on two other occassions and won a Grand Sefton and a race over the Mildmay fences. Honoured with a plaque in the old winners enclosure runners up spot

 5.    CLONCARRIG - for running in the National six times and for falling - six times

   

 6.    SUNDEW - For making nearly all the running and making lots of mistakes but still winning in 1957

 7.    LITTLE Y** - for having possibly the worst name of any National runner and I am not sure I can even write it here without committing a hate crime - wan't up to the task in the National itself but pretty good over the shorter distances winning four times.

 8.   OVERSHADOW - for being a lovely grey, almost white who completed the course twice

 9.   ELSICH - for being the worst National runner of all time

10.   ORDNANCE - for treating the National like it was a five furlong sprint in 1953, stretching the field so far out that only a handful following him had any chance by the twentieth fence when his race ended. 

The 60s

1.   FOREST PRINCE - for nearly making all the running in 1966, it was his only every appearance but what a race he ran

2.   FOINAVON - for proving that the impossible is possible

3.   POPHAM DOWN - for having the most appropriate name of all time - he certainly did in 1967

4.   RONDETTO - for being an Aintree perennial who never enjoyed that much luck

5.   THE FOSSA - for being another Aintree perennial who had better luck winning the last Grand Sefton and running a number of good races over the big fences. I have no idea though what a "Fossa" is.

6    GRIFEL & RELJEF - for travelling the furthest to take part, from the depths of the Soviet Union - a mission doomed to failure but at least they gave it a go

7    HIGHLAND WEDDING - for winning the first colour National and for sporting a Maple Leaf on his silks in 1966. 

8   MERRYMAN II - for probably being the best winner of the decade and for being Sir Peter O'Sullevan's favourite National winner

9    SEA KNIGHT - for plodding on in splendid isolation miles from the rest of the field in 1964, totally oblivious to the horse race that was going on ahead of him

10   ANGLO - for loving it one year and absolutely hating it the next 

The lovely Zetas Son (right) - he deserved better

The 70s

1     HIGH KEN - for being my first equine hero. Yes he was a crap jumper, yes he brought down Pendil in the 1974 Gold Cup (a race in which he no right to be in by the way but he actually ran in it twice). I don't think I ever saw him win a race (his 1974 win in the Mildmay Memorial Chase at Sandown is number one on my " please upload this onto Youtube" list) but he was tough as old boots and between 1974 and 1976 seemed to run every week and was a staple on the ITV Seven in those years when horse racing was a magical world inhabited only on a small black and white television. What a seven year old was doing obsessing over horse racing is anyone's guess but horses like High Ken fuelled my love of this wonderful sport and I am always greatful whenever a picture of the 1975 Grand National (arguably his finest hour judged by his magnificent leap at the nineteenth - he took off before the wings) is posted on Facebook

2.   RED RUM - for being quite simply the best we have ever seen or ever will see - I am grateful that I was around to watch him

3.   CRISP - for putting up the most magnificent display of jumping and for being the most gallant loser of all time - such a shame he was not able to run in the race again.

4.   BOOM DOCKER - for being further ahead than any other horse at half way (he was further ahead than Crisp) before he got frightened at the seventeenth - well he was probably getting lonely. His rider John Wlliams later rode in a Derby. My musician father had no interest whatsoever in racing but this was the only year he ever drew a horse in his office sweepstake - he drew Boom Docker and his interest in horse racing lasted for exactly half a Grand National.

5.   HUPERADE - for being a two time first fence faller but hIs gallant amateur rider John Carden was a bit of a hero of mine as he was a solicitor (which is what I ended up being). Mr Carden rarely got past the first fence but in 1974 Huperade took him as far as the first Canal Turn. 

6.   SPANISH STEPS - Like his mum Tiberetta he was as strong as they came and his record of two fourth placed and a third from four attempts (he got round in his final National as well) is about as good as it gets

7    ZETAS SON - for being another early equine hero who by 1977 was in the form of his life having won an ultra competitive Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and the Mildmay Memorial at Sandown. Sadly at AIntree it went horribly wrong - I have never seen footage of his fall at second Valentines - he was a long way behind but I did stumble across some Movietone out-takes showing his final moments. Tragic.

8   GAY TRIP  - for being the best of Fred Rimells four National winners and after Red Rum the best National winner of the decade. Perpetuated the myth that the National was a race for two and half mile horses.

9   THE PILGARLIC - for being that rarest of things in the decade an Aintree specialist, four Nationals, one Topham and a Foxhunters, he never touched a twig and jumped more National fences than Red Rum.

10   NEREO - for providing his eccentric Spanish owners lifelong ambition of carrying him to eighth place i 1974 - the one year the Duque did not wake up in Walton hospital

The 80s

1.     RHYME 'N' REASON - For winning my favourite National of all time and for being one of the classiest horses to ever line up in a National

2.     ESSEX - For making the long journey from behind the depths of the Iron Curtain and then running like it was a sprint before the petrol tank emptied after thirteen fences.

3.     ROYAL MAIL - For being a big strong chaser of the type they don't make any more

4.     LITTLE POLVEIR - For the redemption of winning in 1989 when he was so unlucky the year before

 

5.     DOOR LATCH - For being one of my favourites of the decade, he should have loved it - he didn't.

 

6.     DOUBLEUAGAIN - For being a hopeless outsider who, in 1986, blazed the trail for a circuit before being unluckily knocked out of the race and who never showed any form at Aintree thereafter

 

7.      CORBIERE - For being a true Aintree warrior

8.      LOVING WORDS - For reaching a place after being brought down - no horse has ever made up so much ground at the end of the race

9.      DELMOSS - For blazing the trail three times - not bad for a terrible jumper

10.     BROWN TRIX - For putting up the best performance by a loose horse in this or in any decade - he fared so much better without a rider than with one - he deserved better

Two Aintree heroes, Delmoss and Corbiere in 1983