How many jockeys have been killed in the Grand National?
The first ‘official’ Grand National was run at Aintree Racecourse in 1839 and, in 172 runnings since, the celebrated steeplechase has claimed the life of one jockey. The tragedy occurred on March 12, 1862, long before safety equipment, such as helmets and body protection, became compulsory and in the absence of adequate medical care.
The ill-fated horseman was Joseph Wynne, the son of former Grand National-winning jockey Denis ‘Denny’ Wynne, who suffered fatal injuries when parting company with his mount, O’Connell, at The Chair. The Chair, at a height of 5’3” and preceded by a 6’ open ditch, was, and still is, a formidable obstacle. However, the villain of the piece was one of his rivals, Playmate, who overjumped and fell, causing a ‘concertina’ effect, as a result of which O’Connell and another rival, Willoughby, both came to grief. To make matters worse, Playmate stumbled and fell, riderless, on top of Wynne, who was lying unconscious on the ground.
Wynne was still alive, albeit with a crushed sternum, or breastbone, when carried to the Sefton Arms Inn – now the Red Rum Bar & Grill – near the entrance to Aintree Racecourse, but died at eight o’clock that evening without ever regaining consciousness. He undoubtedly died of his injuries but, at the subsequent inquest in his cause of death, pulmonary tuberculosis, a.k.a. ‘consumption’, was identified as a contributory factor.