Aintree fixtures 1946 - 1989 and developments to the National meeting from 1976
Aintree opens its doors on 4th April for the first time since the Second World War. Aintree had been requisitioned during the war and had been used as a storage depot with hundreds of American serviceman being stationed there. That Mrs Topham was able to get the racecourse ready for the National meeting when the last troops had left the course in February is nothing short of a miracle and her efforts in getting the racecourse and facilities in a race-worthy condition this year was probably her greatest achievement. The three day meeting as usual was a mixed affair with the Coronation & Liverpool Hurdles being run on the Thursday, the Grand National on the Friday and the Lancashire Hurdle, Stanley & Becher Chases on the Saturday. This is the one and only time that the National is the first race of the meeting to be run over the famous fences. The Becher Chase is a surprise addition as the race was traditionally run at the Autumn meeting. The first post war Autumn meeting takes place between 6th-9th November. As before the war it is a four day mixed fixture with a race over the National fences on each day. The Champion Chase which had normally been run on the day after the National is run on the Wednesday with the Molyneux, Valentine and Grand Sefton Chases run thereafter.
For the first time the National is run on a Saturday. The Foxhunters is re-introduced, and the Becher Chase which is run on the Thursday of the National meeting makes a surprise return to the first day of the Autumn meeting. This replaces the Champion Chase which means that this year we have two Becher Chases and no Champion Chase. The Becher Chase remains part of the Autumn meeting and whilst the order of the four races on the National course during this meeting changes frequently the programme for the four days remains the same for the next four years.
After a year away the Champion Chase returns to the Friday of the National meeting.
In celebration of Messrs Tophams Ltd buying the racecourse from Lord Sefton the National meeting is extended to four days. A new steeplechase over the National fences, the Topham Trophy is run over 2 miles & 6 furlongs becoming the centrepiece of the first day. This is the first new race over the National fences since the Molyneux Chase was introduced in 1929. The Foxhunters is run over the full National course & distance for the last time.
The Champion Chase first run in 1881 is run for the fifty-ninth and final time on the Thursday of the meeting. The Foxhunters is run over 2 miles 7 1/2 furlongs for the first time.
The Autumn meeting is reduced to three days. The Valentine Chase & Molyneux Chase are run on the Thursday. For the Valentine Chase, a race first run in 1885 this is the final edition. The race was run fifty four times.
The notorious Stanley Chase, a race for novices is run for fifty second & final time. A controversial race where it was not unusual for the whole field to fall, it is now considered obsolete with the construction of the new Mildmay course underway. This new course will be designed as an introduction for new horses to the National course with smaller versions of the National fences. The Abbeystead Hurdle, a race for three year olds over the now defunct distance of 1 mile & 5 furlongs is run for the last time at the Autumn meeting. This leaves just two hurdle races at meeting, the November & Prospect Hurdles. The first meeting on the new Mildmay course scheduled for 3rd & 4th December is abandoned due to frost.
The Mildmay course is belatedly opened with a two day fixture in December. This is the first all National Hunt meeting ever staged at Aintree. The Grand National meeting is reduced to three days.
The Mildmay Chase is run for the first time. It will become the main attraction of the Friday of the National meeting and will remain until 1975 the only steeplechase run over the Mildmay course during this meeting. The race is now run on Grand National day as the Maghull Novices Chase and has Grade One status.
The Grand National reverts to a Friday with the Topham & Foxhunters Chase switched to a Saturday. The move which was made in an attempt to halt dwindling attendances is not a success and the race is switched back the following year. Mrs Topham reintroduces the Liverpool Summer Cup, run at Aintrees first evening meeting. This two day flat only fixture is not a success and there will be no more summer fixtures until 1975. Interestingly flat fixtures continued to be advertised in the racecard until 1964.
The first New Year fixture is run over the Mildmay course. The two day meeting extends the number of National Hunt days at the course to four.
The Abbeystead Hurdle is re-introduced to the November meeting. It is now run over two miles and is open to horses of all ages.
Having sponsored the Grand National in 1961, drinks company Schweppes unveiled a new two mile handicap hurdle to be run on the first day of the meeting. The inaugural Schweppes Gold Trophy worth nearly £8,000 to the winner attracted a staggering forty one runners crammed into the tight hurdle course. It is a miracle that only three horses fell during the race. I have never seen a copy of the race and it remains one of the races from the archive that I most want to see. Unfortunately unimpressed by Mrs Tophams attitude to the sponsors (extremely unwelcoming, they were not even provided with free entry !). Mrs Topham missed a trick here, Schweppes up sticks and moved the race to Newbury where it grew from strength to strength during the sixties and seventies. Apart from this interesting diversion the meeting continues with the same monotonous format until the first Ladbrokes run meeting in 1976.
JULY 1964 MRS TOPHAM ANNOUNCES THAT SHE IS SELLING THE RACECOURSE TO CAPITAL & COUNTIES PROPERTY DEVELOPERS WITH A VIEW TO THE RACECOURSE BEING REDEVELOPED FOR HOUSING. THIS STARTS THE ERA OF THE "LAST NATIONAL" AND A CLOUD HANGS OVER AINTREE FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS.
A sign of things to come the Yuletide fixture is held for the last time on 2nd & 3rd December.
The Autumn meeting is run for the final time. The meeting reduced this year to two days is staged earlier than usual on the 29th & 30th October. The thirty third Molyneux Chase is run on the Friday and the eighty-eighth Grand Sefton and fifty second Becher Chases on the Saturday. Forest Prince who will later wow Aintree with his front running display in the National wins the last steeplechase at this popular meeting. The New Year meeting is also staged for the final time.
The three day Grand National meeting is staged but it will remain (with a couple of brief exceptions) the only meeting run at Aintree for twenty five years. The jumps races remain the same until 1975 with the Topham & Foxhunters run on the Thursday, the Lancashire Hurdle, Mildmay Chase (now the only race run on the Mildmay course) and two divisions of the novices Coronation Hurdle on the Friday and the Liverpool Hurdle and National on the Saturday.
To great delight and surprise a one day Autumn meeting is run on 28th October "by popular demand" as announced by Mrs Topham. The Saturday fixture sees a version of the old Grand Sefton under the guise of the "William Hill Grand National Trial". It attracts a strong field of eleven including the 1971 National winner Specify, twice placed Black Secret and the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner L`Escargot. Also on the card is the Waterloo Hurdle (a race name revived from the New Year meeting) and also a two mile five furlong event over the National fences, the BP Chase which attracts a five runner field including 1970 National winner Gay Trip. The three flat races include a one off renewal of the Liverpool Autumn Cup. Sadly whilst the meeting attracts a good crowd the venture is not repeated.
THE LAST NATIONAL MEETING IS STAGED UNDER THE MANAGEMENT OF THE TOPHAM FAMILY WITH THE SALE OF THE RACECOURSE TO LOCAL PROPERTY DEVELOPER BILL DAVIES.
The Coronation, Lancashire & Liverpool Hurdles are run for the final time. Despite Aintrees long standing association with jumping, Bill Davies turns his attentions to the flat and stages two flat meetings in June and July. The first two days run on a Wednesday & Thursday are very mediocre affairs with the first day having races named after Shakesperian characters. Run on hard going field sizes are small with the first days card including one race with just three runners and another with two. The second meeting on a Friday & Saturday sees the re-introduction of the Aintree Summer Cup over one mile & five furlongs. All races are started by flag. By all accounts attendances are dire, field sizes are small (of the twenty four races only four attracted double figure fields) and the meetings are not held again.
New events for 1976
The final flat races are staged on the first day of the National meeting, April 1st. The card comprises the Foxhunters (run this year before the Topham), the Topham and four flat races. The Liverpool Spring Cup is run for the final time. The last race run under jockey Club rules at Aintree, the Knowsley Stakes over one mile and five furlongs is won by Royal Fanfare ridden by Brian Taylor.
April 2nd sees the beginning of a new era as the National becomes part of an all National Hunt programme.
All the old hurdle races were scrapped and whilst the Alpen sponsored Mildmay Chase remained the feature event of the second day five new events were added to Fridays card.
Maghull Novices Hurdle 2 miles 5 1/2 furlongs - Still run today as the Mersey Novices Hurdle over 2 & a half miles. It now the second event on Grand National day.
George Novices Hurdle 2 miles - The popular Beacon Light won the inaugural running of the race. As the last flat race run the previous year had been the Knowsley Stakes it seems fitting that the race was renamed as the Knowsley Novices Hurdle in 1977 when it was moved to the Thursday to open the new look programme. It was staged in 2019 as the Betway Top Novices Hurdle and is the second race on the Friday.
Weetabix Hurdle 2 miles - An event for four year olds the race became the most prestigious juvenile hurdle after the Triumph Hurdle. Run over a variety of sponsored guises over the years the race is now known as the Anniversary Hurdle and is currently sponsored by Doom Bar and in 2019 was the second event on the Thursday
Burton Latimer Novices Handicap Chase 3 miles - This race was only staged once and was won by the useful Prince Rock who ran in two Nationals in 1977 & 1980.
Merseyside Handicap Hurdle 2 miles 5 1/2 furlongs - A handicap hurdle which continued to close the first day until 1980. In 1979 future Gold Cup winner Little Owl was unplaced in the race.
There were also five new events for the Saturday
Sun Ratings Chase 2 miles - The inaugural running attracted the winner of the Two Mile Champion Chase Skymas, the legendary Tingle Creek and a horse who would later put up one of the best displays of jumping ever seen over the National fences (in the 1980 Topham) the popular Uncle Bing in a ten strong field. None of these however got close and the race went to a surprise winner with the 25-1 outsider Menehall prevailing by five lengths. In the races early days it was not unusual to see the top two mile chasers run but only Skymas in 1977 managed to win the Champion Chase at the Festival and this race in the same year. In 1997 the race was renamed in honour of Aintrees greatest champion and became the Red Rum Chase. It was moved to the Thursday of the meeting in 2001 and has had something of a change of identity. When it was run on the Saturday it always attracted a small select field of the top two mile chasers. On a Thursday it is a competitive handicap but the top two milers tend to be aimed at the Melling Chase instead
Templegate Hurdle 2 miles 5 1/2 furlongs - Until this race appeared in the calender there was no championship event for top hurdlers at this distance and Aintree was rewarded with another stunning field which included dual Champion Hurdler winner Comedy of Errors and the great Grand Canyon who fought out a desperate struggle with the champion hurdler just prevailing by a short head. A year later the race produced one of the greatest hurdle races of all time when two giants of the hurdling world Night Nurse and Monksfield dead heated for first place. When News International stopped sponsoring the meeting in 1984 the race became the Aintree Hurdle and its role of honour over the years has included Champion Hurdlers Dawn Run, Beech Road, Morley Street and Istabraq. The legendary Danoli is also on the honours board.
George Whigg Chase 3 miles - A very good idea this. Make the race after the National open only to conditional jockeys and amateurs to enable the top professionals time to catch their breath after their exploits in the National. In 1977 the race became synonymous with its sponsors when it became known as the Page Three Chase. It was staged until 1983 when it was replaced with a similar race for conditional jockeys only.
Jay Trump Handicap Hurdle 2 miles - A race for amateur riders the race title only lasted one year before it was known by a variety of sponsored guises before the race was dropped from the programme in 1990 to be replaced by an amateur riders novice chase. In 1985 it was won by future Grand National winner Seagram.
Tarporley Junior Novices Hurdle 2 miles - Another race for four year olds to complete the programme. Extended to two and a half furlongs in 1983 it was last staged in 1984.
Added for 1977
Having dropped the flat racing the 1977 National meeting was for the first time an all jumping affair and we saw more new races. The first day also saw a record number of runners for a National Hunt meeting at Aintree which to my knowledge has never been surpassed. 121 horses competed in the six races.
Sporting Chronicle Handicap Chase 2 1/2 miles - The Peter Cundell trained Bachelors Hall won the first edition of this race. We didn`t know too much about him then but by the end of the year he had won the Mackeson Gold Cup, Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and King George Vi Chase. The David Barons trained King or Country won this race three times in the eighties. It was last run in 1994.
The Allied Manufacturing Handicap Hurdle 2 miles - Dual champion hurdler Sea Pigeon carried an incredible twelve stone six to victory in a twenty runner field in what was possibly his best weight carrying performance over timber. Known for most of its life as the Holiday Inn Handicap Hurdle this two mile handicap hurdle was staged on the first day until 1985.
Three new events were added to the second day
George Hurdle 2 miles - Rather confusingly a new race for four year olds and up was given the same name as the novices hurdle that had been staged on the corresponding day the previous year. However despite the racecard stating that this was the same race that Beacon Light had won in 1976 this was a completely new event. Beacon Light very nearly won this inaugural event too but he crashed out at the last when holding a commanding lead. The race was gifted to the Irish trained Cooch Behar who gained his second success over the course and distance having won the inaugural Juvenile Hurdle the year before. The race was replaced by a selling hurdle in 1980.
Weetabix Chase 3 miles 1 furlong - Another race that has survived in a variety of guises to the present day and as the Betway Handicap Chase it is now the race before the National.
Red Rum Novices Handicap Chase 2 miles - Not to be confused with the Red Rum Chase, Aintrees greatest son became probably the one of a select band of horses to have a race named in their honour when still in training. It was first run on the eve of his finest hour as it closed the second days programme. Extended in distance to two and a half miles the race was staged until 1985.
The National Meeting 1980-89
Thursday, the first day of the National meeting
1980 - 1989
Between 1980-87 the Grand National meeting opened with a two mile novices hurdle. Run as the Knowsley Novices Hurdle the 1981 renewal was won by the Peter Easterby trained BURNS with future National runner up THE TSAREVICH and future top chaser COOMBS HILL both unplaced. The 1982 winner BRIGHT OASIS would five years later finish second over the National fences in the Topham. David Nicholsons popular chaser VERY PROMISING won the 1983 renewal while the 1984 winner BROWNES GAZETTE (probably the best hurdler of the eighties not to win a Champion Hurdle) was winning his sixth hurdle race of a stunning novice campaign. Whilst BROWNES GAZETTE had managed to win at both Cheltenham & Aintree festivals the 1986 Supreme Novices Hurdle winner RIVER CERIOG failed by three quarters of a length when headed near the line by the Jenny Pitman trained I BIN ZAIDOON. The race was sponsored by National sponsers Seagram in 1988 and moved to become the third race of the card where it remained until the end of the decade. The race is still run now as the Top Novices Hurdle and in 2019 this Grade 1 event is run as the second event on Friday.
Until 1985 the focus of day one was the National fences with both supporting races, the Topham and Foxhunters run on the same day to enable the National course to be rested on the Friday before the main event. Run as the second race the Topham Trophy provided racegoers with a first glimpse as to how the National fences were riding. The race is analysed elsewhere on this site.
In 1980 race three was a two and a half mile chase run in 1980 as the Holiday Inn Handicap Chase and won by future National stalwart the incredibly tough Irish trained CARROW BOY. BACHELORS HALL a former Hennessy, Mackeson & King George winner finished third. In 1981 it was moved to the final race of the day and was run in a variety of sponsored guises. Notable winners included Mildmay specialist KiNG OR COUNTRY who landed the 1983 renewal and GEE-A providing top lady rider Gee Armytage with her first Aintree winner in 1987. The race was subsequently moved to the Friday and became known rather unimaginatively as the Tote Seventh Race. It only attracted just four runners for its final running in 1994.
Race four in 1980 was a handicap hurdle which between 1980-1984 was run over two miles. SEA PIGEON had landed the inaugural race in 1977 and it always attracted a competitive field. The Fulke Walwyn trained GAY GEORGE twice won this in 1981 & 1982 whilst BURNS won a second hurdle at the meeting when landing the race in 1984. In 1985 a new handicap over a further five and a half furlongs replaced the two mile event. The new format lasted three years (1991 National winner SEAGRAM finished ninth in the final renewal in 1987). In 1988 a new event over three miles, the Oddbins Handicap Hurdle opened proceedings. The race was won by the Jimmy Fitzgerald trained RAPIER THRUST with future Grand National third BROWN WINDSOR finishing fourth. The race remains and in 2019 run as the Gaskells Handicap Hurdle opened proceedings on Grand National day.
In 1980 race five was the Foxhunters until it was moved to the Friday in 1985.
In 1980 the Monksfield Handicap Hurdle run over 2 miles, 5 & a half furlongs closed proceedings. It was won by the brilliant but unpredictable DERRING ROSE for John Francome and trainer Fred Winter. The race disappeared thereafter (Monksfield continued to be honoured with a novice hurdle run in his name to open Fridays card in 1981) to be replaced in 1981 by a cracking novice chase run over three miles, one furlong. Now known as the Mildmay Novices Chase and run as race three it was initially called the very uncatchy Siematic Kitchens Novices Chase and was won by future Gold Cup winner BREGAWN. The following year it was won by anther future Gold Cup winner BURROUGH HILL LAD whilst two other future Gold Cup winners FORGIVE `n` FORGET and COOL GROUND both finished unplaced in the race in 1984 and 1988 respectively. It was won by future National winner RHYME`N`REASON in 1985 whilst other notable runners in the eighties included WEST TIP, DIXTON HOUSE, STEARSBY, PLAYSCHOOL and TOBY TOBIAS. The race is currently run on the Friday of the meeting and has Grade 1 status.
When the Foxhunters was moved to the Friday in 1985 the Martell Cup now in its second year was moved to the first day becoming the second race. Now run as the Betway Bowl it remains the highlight of the first day of the meeting.
Friday 1980 - 1989
There was considerable change to the Friday programme during the decade. Up until 1985 there would have been a slight feeling of anti-climax around the racecourse as none of the action on day two of the National meeting featured any racing over the National fences.
In 1980 proceedings were opened by the Maghull Novices Hurdle over two miles and five and a half furlongs. The first winner of the decade was a horse who would become one of the stars of the era, WAYWARD LAD who amongst other triumphs would win two Betway Bowls on future visits to Aintree. That race also featured a future National stalwart FETHARD FRIEND who was unplaced. The following year the race was named after dual champion hurdler Monksfield and the race continued to open proceedings until 1984 when it was moved to close the day. In 1983 another future National runner BALLINACURRA LAD won in a renewal that included not one, but two future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners FORGIVE`N` FORGET and CHARTER PARTY. The following year the race was moved to the Saturday. The race is now known as the Mersey Novices Hurdle and with Grade 1 status it is run as the second event of Grand National day.
Bearing in mind the status the National meeting now enjoys as a festival to rival Cheltenham it seems incredulous that race two in 1980 was a Juvenile selling hurdle run over two miles. True it was the most valulable selling hurdle in the calender but it was completely out of place at such a prestigious meeting. Perhaps it was no great surprise that it only lasted three runnings.
Race three was a competitive three mile handicap chase run over a variety of sponsored guises over the decade with the name changing almost yearly. (My personal favourite was its 1982 guise as the "Kelvinator Domestic Appliances Handicap Chase"). Notable winners included future National runners SILENT VALLEY (1982), GAINSAY (1987) and RINUS (1988) and in 1982 HALLO DANDY and GREASEPAINT took part. The race remained as part of the programme throughout the decade although it was moved about in the race order. It remains to this day and now run as the Betway Handicap Chase it is the race that precedes the National itself.
Before the meeting became an all jumping affair in 1976 the highlight of day two was the Mildmay Chase. In the late seventies it had seen the likes of NIGHT NURSE compete (and win) in it but by the eighties the race was a pale shadow of its former self. Run with a variety of sponsors it was race four for one year in 1980 before being moved about the day ultimately to its opening slot in 1985. Two notable horses were added to its roll of honour, the brilliant but ill-fated NODDY`S RYDE who blazed the trail in 1984 and dual Queen Mother winner PEARLYMAN in 1986. In 1985 it provided one of the meetings biggest shocks away from the National fences when 100-1 outsider PAN ARCTIC landed the spoils in what for one year was run as the "Riding for the Disabled Association Novices Chase" Gradually over the nineties the race was restored to its former glory and run now as the Grade 1 Maghull Novices Chase it is one of the top novice chases in the calender and in 2019 was the third event on Grand National day.
When the Foxhunters was added to the Friday programme it became the fourth event on the card.
Whilst it is now firmly fixed as a feature of the opening day of the meeting the Anniversary four year old hurdle (the phrase was introduced for the 1988 running) was a staple of day two during the eighties. In 1980 it was the fifth event although from 1983 onwards it was race three. After the Triumph this was the second most prestigious juvenile hurdle in the calendar and always attracted a competitive field. In 1981 the leading juvenile BROADSWORD turned the tables on his Cheltenham conqueror BARON BLAKENEY. Another Triumph champion SOLAR CLOUD could only finish sixth in 1986.
In 1980 the first day ended with a two and half mile novice chase named in honour of RED RUM. First run in 1977 this is not to be confused with the Red Rum Chase this event was staged for the last time in 1985. Amongst its winners in the eighties were future National runner DEER MOUNT in 1980, LITTLE BAY (1981) and FIFTY DOLLARS MORE who beat the useful COMBS DITCH in 1982.
In 1987 a seventh race was added and Aintrees first ever bumper was run. The Curragh Bloodstock Supreme National Hunt Flat Race was won by the Robert Waley Cohen owned RUSTLE who would go on to enjoy considerable success as a long distance hurdler. That first edition saw future National winner ROYAL ATHLETE and winner of the National that wasn`t ESHA NESS both finish unplaced and another horse making up the numbers that day was a dual Irish Hennessy Gold Cup winner NICK THE BRIEF. In 1988 the winner was the mare AUNTIE DOT who would finish third in SEAGRAMS National in 1991. Although the race was not run in 1989 it was revived the following year. It is still run today and as the Wetherbys Racing Bank Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race closes proceedings on the second day.
In 1989 another new event was added to proceedings, a two and a half mile handicap hurdle. Run initially as the Martell Handicap Hurdle it remains to this day and in 2019 was run as the Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle opening proceedings on day two.
Some races come and go without anyone remembering them but those that featured in the National meeting are all worthy of a mention in my sites.
In 1983 the fourth event in the card was a handicap hurdle run over two miles five and a half furlongs and as the Page Three Handicap Hurdle this was the last event at Aintree to be sponsored by News International who had sponsored the National before Seagram. It was won by the Irish mare DAWN RUN who remarkably turned out again twenty four hours later and finished a close second to reigning champion hurdler GAYE BRIEF in the Aintree Hurdle. (Dawn Run - I wonder what happened to her ?) The race was replaced in 1984 with the inaugural Betway Bowl a consolation race for Gold Cup runners. With the Foxhunters moving to the Friday the race was transferred to the Thursday where it remains to this day.
In 1985 for one year only the meeting staged the final of a novice hurdle series. The Malden Timber Novice Hurdle series saw qualifiers run throughout the season. It was the first year of sponsorship but the series had been run before with a final held at Newcastle. It was only staged at Aintree once and the following year the series moved its final to the Cheltenham April meeting.
In 1986 & 1987 race two was the Tattersalls Mares Only Novices Chase Final which enjoyed two competitive renewals before the final moved (I believe to Uttoxeter)
In 1986 and 1987 race six was a Novices Handicap Hurdle run over two miles, five and a half furlongs. Sponsored both times by BBC Radio Merseyside the race was won in 1987 by BROWN WINDSOR . It was replaced in 1988 by a novice event over three miles and one furlongs which became known as the Sefton Novices Hurdle which now enjoys Grade 1 status.
Saturday - 1980 - 1989
Unlike the previous two days Grand National day followed pretty much the same format during the decade. The Aintree Chase and Aintree Hurdle to open proceedings followed by the Grand National off at 3.20. Then the BBC switched off and there were two hurdles a steeplechase over the Mildmay course which were of course a massive anti-climax (although a lot more interesting than the three flat races that had gone before)
Race four was a chase for conditional jockeys and amateur riders, race five an amateur riders hurdle and race six a novice hurdle to end the meeting. This format had been introduced in 1976 and remained pretty much the same throughout the eighties.
Race four in 1980 was named after the iconic "Page Three" of the Sun newspaper and was confined to amateur riders and conditional jockeys. In 1983 it was replaced by a new race specifically for Conditional Jockeys and sponsored by MFI. Attracting a small but select field the winner was the popular Josh Gifford trained APPROACHING a former Hennessy winner who had finished placed in a Gold Cup. He narrowly held on by a neck from future National runner WHY FORGET with former King George hero GAY SPARTAN two lengths back in third place. The latter was widely considered to be one of the most talented chasers of the late seventies but was notoriously fragile and his numerous injuries had twice forced his last minute withdrawal from the Gold Cup when he had been favourite. The race only lasted one year in this particular format and reverted back to an amateur riders contest the following year but professionals who had ridden less than thirty winners were also eligible to take part. Known as the Chivas Regal Chase and dropped in distance to two and half miles, the role of honour included Arthur Stephensons NEWLIFE CONNECTION who won this twice in 1987 & 1988 and the Gee Armytage ridden GEE-A successful in 1989.
With an amateur riders event following as race five the race planners allowed the professionals and those that had ridden in the National time to get over their exertions and for the winning rider to complete any media commitments. First run as the Jay Trump Handicap Hurdle by 1981 the race was called the Lucky Jim Handicap Hurdle and by the end of the decade the race was sponsored by Chivas Regal. Last run in 1989 the event had one notable winner in 1985 when the David Barons SEGRAM triumphed. Six years later he would win a handicap chase on the same card.
The final event of the National meeting in 1980 was a four year old juvenile hurdle run over two miles, five and a half furlongs. Known under a variety of sponsored guises it was won in 1983 by SABIN DU LOIR who would become one the leading two mile chasers of the decade. In 1984 the race was discontinued and the novices hurdle over the same distance which had started proceedings on day one was moved to the finale slot. OUT OF THE GLOOM who would go on to win several good hurdles won the first running on a Saturday and dual Cheltenham Festival winner THE WEST AWAKE would triumph in 1987. In 1988 Juliet Lewis and trainer David Ellsworth enjoyed a spectacular double when SIR BLAKE won just over an hour after RHYME 'N' REASON had taken the National. The decade ended with future Champion Hurdler MORLEY STREET gaining his first of four course wins in the race. The race survives to this day as the Mersey Novices Hurdle and in 2019 was race two on Grand National day.