Friday 27 July 2018

Grand National 1991: Seagram

The 1991 Grand National was the last of seven to be sponsored by the former Canadian corporation Seagram and was won, coincidentally, by a horse called Seagram. Coincidentally, because the horse wasn’t owned by the sponsors, but by industrialist Sir Eric Parker. Seagram, the corporation, was apparently offered the opportunity to buy the New Zealand-bred gelding before the Grand National, but declined.

Trained by David Barons, Seagram had won the Ritz Club Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by 5 lengths on his previous start so, off a handicap mark just 2lb higher, was sent off as 12/1 fifth favourite at Aintree. Despite his lack of stature and the inexperience of his jockey, Nigel Hawke, who was having his first ride in the National, Seagram jumped adequately for most of the way. Having survived a blunder at the twelfth fence, he made headway to race prominently early on the second circuit and delivered his challenge as the field approached the Melling Road for the final time. 

He was outpaced between the last two fences and looked booked for minor honours when Garrison Savannah – bidding to become the first horse since Golden Miller, in 1934, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season – jumped the final fence with a clear lead. Coming to the “Elbow”, halfway up the run-in, Garrison Savannah was still 4 lengths in front, but Nigel Hawke conjured a renewed effort from Seagram. The ten-year-old came with a tremendous run in the closing stages, sweeping past his tiring rival in the last hundred yards to win, going away, by 5 lengths. Auntie Dot finished third, a further 8 lengths away.

Hawke later said, “I was just in the right place at the right time. We jumped the last behind Garrison Savannah and I’d settled for second.” In fact, the journeyman jockey, who was just 25 at the time, took refuge in the gents’ toilet for ten minutes to escape the clamour of his National victory. Seagram returned to Aintree for the 1992 Grand National, but was tailed off when pulled up three fences from home. In fact, he never won another race and, following his retirement in 1994, spent the rest of his life at Crimbourne Stud in Billingshurst, West Sussex, which was owned by Sir Eric Parker, and was regularly hunted. Seagram died in 1997, at the age of 17.

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