Sunday 19 August 2018

Grand National 1978 Winner: Lucius Trained by Gordon Richards

The 1978 Grand National was the first in five years not to feature Red Rum who, as a 13-year-old, pulled up slightly lame in his last piece of work, the day before the race, and was immediately retired. In his absence, Rag Trade – the 1976 winner, and one of just two horses to beat Red Rum in the National – started favourite. 

Rag Trade was just one of 23 of the 37 starters who, for one reason or another, failed to complete the course. In fact, he was pulled up at the fence before Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, having broken down, and was humanely euthanised. Other notable departees included Tied Cottage, the principal hope of Ireland, who fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit when in a clear lead and Master H, who unseated rider Reg Crank two fences later, at the Canal Turn, after his saddle slipped. 

Lucius was trained by Gordon W. Richards – not to be confused with Sir Gordon Richards, 26 times champion jockey between 1921 and 1954 – at Greystoke, near Penrith, Cumbria. In the Grand National, he was ridden by Bob Davies, deputising for his regular jockey, David Mould, who had injured his back in a fall at Wetherby five days previously. 

Richards told Davies, having just his fourth ride in the race, not to hit the front too soon, so, having led, or disputed the lead, from Valentine’s Brook until the Chair, the Shropshire jockey allowed Lucius to drift back in the field at the end of the first circuit. He tracked the leader, Sebastian, for most of the second circuit and was travelling best of the five or six horses still in contention approaching the second last fence, with Bob Davies looking behind, and to his inside, for likely dangers. Lucius was outjumped by Sebastian at the penultimate fence, but drew upsides at the Elbow, took a fractional advantage in the final furlong and held on, in a driving finish, to beat Sebastian by half a length, with the fast-finishing Drumroan just a neck further back in third place.

Lucius’ victory – dubbed “one of the best spare rides in history” – was a first in the Grand National for Gordon W. Richards, who would later saddle Hallo Dandy to a 4-length win over Greasepaint in the 1984 renewal of the Aintree marathon.

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