In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, amateur, or ‘gentleman’, riders regularly participated in, and won, the Grand National. However, throughout the twentieth century, as National Hunt racing became more commercialised, amateur participation in the Grand National dwindled. In fact, nowadays, amateur riders in the Grand National are very few and far between.
Amateur Katie Walsh, who retired from race riding in April, 2018, went close to winning the Grand National at her first attempt in 2012, when her mount, Seabass, led from the second-last fence until the Elbow, halfway up the run-in, before fading to finish third. The last amateur rider to win the National, though, was Marcus Armytage who, in 1990, partnered Mr. Frisk to a three-quarters-of-a-length victory over Durham Edition. In the last ever National run on going officially described as ‘firm’ – nowadays, the National Course is routinely watered to prevent going faster than ‘good to soft’ – Mr. Frisk set a course record time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. Armytage, nowadays racing correspondent for ‘The Telegraph’, later wrote that his ‘first emotion was relief at not having cocked up’.