Friday 27 July 2018

Grand National 1996: Rough Quest

Rough Quest had the distinction of being the first favourite to win the Grand National since Grittar, famously ridden by 48-year-old amateur Dick Saunders, in 1982. Rough Quest was found in Ireland as a four-year-old by the chairman of Kempton Park, Andrew Wates, in whose distinctive blue and green colours he ran, and trained by the late Terry Casey at Wates’ home in Beare Green, Surrey. 

The ten-year-old had previously finished second, beaten just 4 lengths, behind Imperial Call in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but had had such a hard race that Casey had reservations about running him in the National just 16 days later. However, his relatively low weight, of just 10st 7lb, at Aintree proved to be the deciding factor and he was allowed to take his chance. 

Ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, who was having just his second ride in the National, Rough Quest was held up in the early stages of the race, but made steady headway, on the wide outside, throughout the second circuit. At the third last, the son of Crash Course moved into fourth place, behind clear leaders Three Brownies, Encore Un Peu and Young Hustler. He made further headway into second place on the run to the final fence and tackled leader Encore Un Peu at the “Elbow”, halfway up the run-in. It soon became clear that Rough Quest was finishing the stronger and he passed the post 1¼ lengths ahead of Encore Un Peu, with Superior Finish a further 16 lengths back in third. 

However, in the closing stages Rough Quest hung left towards the inside rail, causing David Bridgwater, jockey of Encore Un Peu, to momentarily stop riding. The incident inevitably led – for just the second time in National history – to a stewards’ inquiry into the possibility of interference and left connections of Rough Quest with an anxious ten-minute wait before the result was allowed to stand. A relieved Terry Casey said afterwards, “We won it out there on the course and we had to win it all over again in the stewards’ room.” Winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald was a little more forward in his summing up, cheekily saying, “I’ve not enjoyed twelve minutes for as long in a long time. I think sex is an anti-climax after that!” 

Rough Quest was eventually retired from racing in 1999 and, having spent three years in the hunting field, enjoyed a long, happy retirement in the same yard at Henfold House where he’d spent most of his life. He was eventually put to sleep, after struggling to overcome an infection, at the age of 30 in 2016.

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