Tuesday 14 August 2018

Grand National 1972 Winner: Well To Do Shines for Tim Forster 

Well To Do had the distinction of being the first of three Grand National winners for Tim Forster, a.k.a. “The Captain”, but nearly didn’t run in the race at all. It was only on the closing date for the National, in January, that the 9-year-old finished third in a four-mile steeplechase at Cheltenham, leading to an anxious, last-minute acceptance telegram from his trainer.

Well To Do was originally bought by Forster on behalf of Heather Sumner, one of his principal owners, in 1966, but was bequeathed back to him following her death from cancer in 1971. A 33/1 chance when the weights were published, Well To Do was the subject of sustained support after it was confirmed that the reigning champion jockey, 23-year-old Graham Thorner, would take the ride. Consequently, he started 14/1 joint-fourth choice for the National behind L’Escargot at 17/2 and Gay Trip and Cardinal Error at 12/1. 

L’Escargot had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1970 and 1971 and, although only fourth behind Glencaraig Lady in the 1972 renewal, was nonetheless the first winner of the Blue Riband event to attempt the Grand National since Mont Tremblant in 1953. L’Escargot made an inauspicious start to his Aintree career, unseating jockey Tommy Carberry after being hampered at the first open ditch. Carberry later recalled, “He didn’t seem to like the place. We didn’t last very long – something got in his way at the third fence and he dropped me.” 

Conversely, in a rough-and-tumble contest, run in driving rain, Well To Do was one of half a dozen horses still in contention at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. He nosed ahead approaching the final fence, and although topweight Gay Trip – controversially steered wide towards the stands’ side by Terry Biddlecombe, in search of better ground – closed on the run-in, he stayed on well to win by 2 lengths. Black Secret and General Symons dead-heated for third place a further 3 lengths away and just nine of the 44 starters completed the course.

Afterwards, winning jockey Graham Thorner said, unselfishly, “the horse helped me a lot”. Well To Do never ran in the Grand National again, but his victory on his one and only attempt made Tim Forster the first owner-trainer to win the race since World War II.

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