Grand National 1988: Rhyme ‘N’ Reason

History records that Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, at the time a nine-year-old, trained by David Elsworth and owned by Miss Juliet Reed, won the 1988 Grand National by 4 lengths from Durham Edition. However, as is often the case, the form book fails to reveal the full drama of the world famous steeplechase. 

Rhyme ‘N’ Reason had beaten Lean Ar Aghaidh and Mr Frisk in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton the previous February, but had come to grief at the fourth last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – a race that his jockey, Brendan Powell Snr., maintains he would have won, but for the fall – on his final outing prior to the Grand National. Consequently, he was a leading contender for the National and was sent off 10/1 second favourite, alongside Lean Ar Aghaidh, who had finished third to Maori Venture the previous year. 

The drama began as early as the first fence, where the 17/2 favourite Sacred Path, trained by Oliver Sherwood, fell, but Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, himself, was almost out of the race five fences later. Following the notoriously steep drop on the landing side of Becher’s Brook, Powell had to haul Rhyme ‘N’ Reason up off his haunches to keep the partnership intact. Even he later admitted, “At Becher’s Rhyme ‘N’ Reason did the splits and sat down and I thought that was our chance gone.” 

At that point, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason had been relegated to the rear of the field and looked out of contention, but made steady headway towards the end of the first circuit of the unique two-and-a-quarter-mile course. He made significant progress on the outside crossing the Melling Road for the second time and jumped up into second place at Becher’s Brook second time around. He was left in the lead when Little Polveir fell at the fence after Valentine’s Brook, five fences and – for a horse on whom, according to his jockey, “you didn’t want to be in front for too long” – plenty far enough from the winning post. 

Rhyme ‘N’ Reason led by 3 lengths on the run to the second last, looked a “sitting duck” as Durham Edition, ridden by Chris Grant, arrived on the scene apparently full of running. Indeed, Durham Edition went clear on the run-in, but Rhyme ‘N’ Reason rallied to challenge again approaching the “Elbow”, retaking the lead in the final hundred yards to win, going away, by 4 lengths.






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