Monday 27 August 2018

Grand National 1974 Winner: Red Rum Does the Double

Following his “smash-and-grab” victory over Crisp in the 1973 Grand National, Red Rum met his old rival again, on 23lb worse terms, in a match race at Doncaster the following autumn. Crisp made all to win, comfortably, by 8 lengths on that occasion, but Red Rum continued in excellent form, only just being denied in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and winning at Ayr, Newcastle, Catterick and Carlisle en route to the 1974 Grand National. 

He had, however, blotted his copybook by unseating his rider, albeit after being hampered, at the first fence in the Greenall Breweries Chase at Haydock on his final outing before the National. In the absence of the injured Crisp, Red Rum was allotted top weight of 12st 0lb – or, in other words, 23lb more than the previous year – in the National as he attempted to become the first horse since Reynoldstown, in 1936, to win the race in successive years. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Red Rum started only third favourite, at 11/1. Favourite at the “off” was Scout, a progressive 8-year-old trained by Arthur Stephenson and ridden by Tommy Stack, who was receiving 28lb from Red Rum and chasing a four-timer after victories Ayr, Doncaster and Wetherby, at 7/1. He was closely attended in the betting by L’Escargot, who had finished third, beaten 25 ¾ lengths, behind Red Rum in 1973, but re-opposed on 24lb better terms and was equipped with blinkers for the first time – “just to keep his concentration steady”, according to jockey Tommy Carberry – at 17/2. 

As things transpired, L’Escargot fared the better of the pair and finished closer to Red Rum than he had the previous year but, having been within 3 lengths at the second last, could find no extra in the closing stages and, ultimately, only held on to second place by a short head from 50/1 chance Charles Dickens. Meanwhile, Red Rum, who’d taken the lead at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, strode clear on the run-in to win by 7 lengths, with jockey Brian Fletcher acknowledging the cheers of the crowd in the final hundred yards. Scout, who’d held every chance with half a mile to run, faded to finish eleventh of the seventeen finishers. 

After his dominant display in the Grand National, Red Rum made the headlines again just three weeks later when winning the Scottish Grand National at Ayr under 11st 13lb. He remains the only horse ever to win both races in the same season.

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