The most successful jockey in the history of the Grand National was George Stevens, who rode five winners of the renowned steeplechase during the nineteenth century. Stevens opened his account in 1856, aboard 25/1 chance Freetrader, trained by William Holman; the lightly-weighted seven-year-old took advantage of a mistake by his nearest rival, Minerva, at the final obstacle – in those days an artificial hurdle – to surge ahead and win by a length.
In the 1863 renewal of the Grand National, Stevens’ mount, Emblem, a 10/1 chance trained by Edwin Weever, knocked down the final hurdle, but was so far in front at the time that the mistake had little effect on the result. The seven-year-old eventually won by 20 lengths from Arbury, who would also finish second in the 1864 Grand National, behind 100/7 chance Emblematic – a six-year-old full sister to Emblem – also ridden by Stevens for the same connections. Emblematic and Arbury jumped the final flight upsides, but the former drew away in the closing stages to win easily by 3 lengths.
Stevens also recorded back-to-back victories in the Grand National in 1869 and 1870, aboard The Colonel, trained by R. Roberts. In 1869, as a six-year-old, The Colonel carried 10st 7lb to an easy, 3-length victory over Hall Court at odds of 100/7; the following year, despite the welter burden of 11st 12lb, he was sent off 7/2 favourite and prevailed by a neck from Primrose in a driving finish.