Was Outsider Caughoo’s Grand National win legitimate?

Nowadays, the Grand National at Aintree attracts an estimated television audience of 500 million, worldwide, so the idea of anyone ‘cheating’ in plain view of dozens of television cameras is, frankly, ludicrous. However, in the days before regular television coverage of the National, which began in 1960, that was the accusation levelled against the 1947 winner Caughoo or, more particularly, his jockey Edward ‘Eddie’ Dempsey.

The 1947 Grand National has the distinction of being the first to be run on a Saturday, but heavy rain, followed by thick fog, rendered Aintree almost unraceable and limited visibility from the grandstands to the final two obstacles. Nevertheless, the second largest field in Grand National history, 57, set off and, ten minutes later, Caughoo, an unconsidered 100/1 outsider, emerged from the gloom twenty lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer.

Daniel McCann, jockey of the second horse home, Lough Conn, later accused Dempsey of having concealed Caughoo in the fog, near the twelfth fence, after which the runners cross the Melling Road, near the Anchor Bridge, and only rejoining the race as the remainder of the field re-entered the ‘racecourse proper’ on the second circuit. Dempsey flatly denied any such notion and successfully defended legal action by McCann, by his victory was dogged by suspicion for decades afterwards.

Long after his retirement from the saddle in 1950, Dempsey ‘confessed’ to a tabloid newspaper that he had, in fact, hidden Caughoo behind a haystack and rejoined the field on the second circuit, as McCann had alleged. However, in the absence of any haystacks at Aintree that day, it is easy to dismiss his later account as whimsical. Furthermore, in 1999, the ‘Irish Mirror’ claimed to have photographs in its possession that clearly showed Becher’s Brook – which is the sixth and twenty-second fence on the National Course – on two separate occasions, thereby disproving any allegations of skulduggery.

Did a stone wall used to be an obstacle in the Grand National?

Although still known, at the time, as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the first ‘official’ running of the race that would become the Grand National is generally accepted to have taken place at Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside, North West England on February 26, 1839. In the earliest, pioneering days of the race, runners really did go ‘out into the country’, where they encountered an assortment of natural obstacles, including banks, ditches and watercourses. On their return to the ‘racecourse proper’, they did, indeed, face a 16′ wide stone wall, which is immortalised in a painting by contemporary British artist Charles Hunt.

The stone wall fell in, and out, of favour over the next few years before it was finally replaced, permanently, by the Water Jump – which remains the final fence on the first circuit and is jumped only once during the Grand National – in 1847. In 1840, Lottery, who had won the inaugural Grand National the previous year, took a terrible fall at the stone wall, bringing down the favourite, The Nun, and two other horses. The stone wall was replaced, temporarily, by an artificial brook, in 1841, but was reintroduced in 1843, at the behest of Irish participants. It was replaced by an artificial brush hurdle in 1844, before being reinstated in 1845 and being replaced, once again, by the same obstacle in 1846.

Which trainer and jockey combination was placed in seven consecutive renewals of the Grand National?

Despite numerous safety improvements down the years, the Grand National at Aintree can still, justifiably, be called ‘the ultimate test for horse and rider’. Indeed, many jockeys and trainers spend their whole careers attempting to win, or at least be placed in, the celebrated steeplechase. Of course, some jockeys and trainers are luckier than others, but to be placed in seven consecutive renewals, with three different horses, is no mean feat. That was the achievement of Vale of Glamorgan trainer Evan Williams and his erstwhile – now retired – stable jockey between 2009 and 2014 inclusive.

Interestingly, all three horses carried the blue and pink colours of Worcestershire owners Mr. & Mrs. William Rucker. State Of Play started the extraordinary run of good fortune for his connections by finishing fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and fourth again in 2011. Next into the Aintree unsaddling enclosure was Cappa Bleu, who finished fourth behind Neptune Collonges in 2012 and went one better when third behind Auroras Encore in 2013. Finally, completing the unlikely septet came Alvarado, who filled fourth place behind Pineau De Re in 2014 and occupied the same position behind Many Clouds in 2015.

Will Tiger Roll run in the 2021 Grand National?

At the time of writing, the 2021 Grand National is still over twelve months away so, frankly, whether or not Tiger Roll will attempt to become the first horse to record a hat-trick in the Aintree marathon in 2021 is anybody’s guess. Of course, Tiger Roll was ante-post favourite, at 8/1 or thereabouts, for the 2020 Grand National prior to its cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, but can be backed at 20/1 for the 2021 renewal.

Nevertheless, trainer Gordon Elliott has already said that there is ‘every chance’ of Tiger Roll running in the Grand National in 2021. He is, after all, still only a ten-year-old – which means that he will be the same age as recent National winners Pineau De Re, Auroras Encore and Neptune Collonges by the time next April rolls around – and, granted that he has been restricted to just eleven starts in the last three National Hunt seasons, has hardly been overraced.

Of course, owner Michael O’Leary announced, shortly after winning the Grand National for a second time with Tiger Roll, and the third time in all, in 2019, that he would be winding down his Gigginstown House Stud operation over the next four or five years. Even so, Tiger Roll has time on his side so, who knows, he may yet attempt to achieve racing immortality.

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