1969 Highland Wedding Wins Grand National for Toby Balding

1969 Highland Wedding Wins Grand National for Toby Balding
The 1969 Grand National marked the 123rd vibrant unveiling of the Grand National equestrian racing competition that happened at the timeless Aintree Racecourse, close to Liverpool in England. The event took place on 29 March that year and was won by Highland Wedding. 

The overall winner was a fairly less-known contender who was participating in the international meet for the third consecutive round. Rather coincidentally, the actually twelve-year-old runner triumphed by a 12-length distance! 

The title-winning horse was ridden by jockey Eddie Harty and had been trained by Toby Balding. Prior to Harty’s clincher performance, all eyes had been on Red Alligator - the big day’s prime favourite at the beginning of the monumental tourney. The top-rated pick’s hitherto shiny prospects, however, took an abrupt nosedive when he suffered an irreparable fall at the 9th fence. 

The champion gelding had come a long way. His first participation in the historical clash was during the 1967 gaming season. Nevertheless, that initial trial did not prove very fruitful for the then hardly seasoned rookie – he only managed position eight. 

The following year’s National attempt would become the gradually-improving contester’s second effort, this time marking a slight step-up by finishing seventh. The up-to-that-time-uncelebrated vanquisher surprised many with his amazing victory when he came out first, barely three years into the nationwide sporting extravaganza. 

Highland Wedding was bred by John Caldwell of Ayrshire; formerly acquired from Canadian and American equine gaming enthusiasts Charles Burns and Thomas McCoy. Paying honourable tribute to his former owners, the gelding ran the first race donning Canada’s colours. And, upon that maiden plunge proving chiefly unsuccessful, he in 1968 tried redeeming missed fortunes by wearing Canadian tints again…which, sadly, proved only slightly more rewarding than the preceding shot. 

With these shades harbingering possible further losses, Burns thoughtfully shifted to the more captivating United States colours and registered resounding success herein described. The 1969 Grand National triumph has however been mainly attributed to the starring jockey’s huge dashing finesse. 

Trainer Toby Balding’s colossal coaching experience has on the other hand not escaped the kudos of reasoned views worldwide. They assert that it’s the evenly shared input of both the masterful rider and the astute instructor that birthed that epoch-shaping Aintree victory. 

Yet, a positively persuading number of on-looking fans rest out-and-out convinced that the brilliant racing skill of the riding ace must have brought evidently much more into the day’s eye-dazzling showing. 

The expectedly happy Mr. Balding could be seen hugging and patting on the back his partners immediately Harty put a seal to the animated chase. And a swift media briefing came up few minutes after the exemplary feat…with both thankful supporters and kin huddled close to the all-smiling champion. 

He confided feeling extremely elated at the excellent performance by a horse he highly appreciated as a “total product” of the larger “system”. 

As the interview carried on into those usual privy details descriptive of such victories, Balding explained that the jackpot-clinching contestant caught his fancy on television. He’d later obtain him for a friend and client Peter Calver, who doubled up as an amiable neighbour back at his main residence. 

Little did he know – or he so movingly confessed to media interrogators – that the ordinary-looking acquisition would wrap up such terrific honours a short time later. 

Highland Wedding seems to be one of the very few National titleholders with particularly long and tremendously dappled pre-winning histories. Prior to his being sold to Burns and McCoy, he’d done incredibly well in the Eider Race…during which noteworthy Newcastle tournament he’d emerged first. 

Upon this 1966 proof of spotless talent, the not-yet-well-known runner’s prospects began to brighten progressively and finally inched into the top three Aintree favourites. 

Harty and his indomitable charge had had it all apparently well-planned, even the two preceding editions in which he didn’t exactly impress as much…only that luck seemed to have twice eschewed him at the second Belcher’s Brook. 

This is the jinxed spot where the future hero’s erstwhile impressive momentum eased into inexplicably fizzled out in both 1967 and 1968. He, even so, seized the following version’s more favourable occasion to salvage the gleaming glory that had eluded him before. 

Prominent English and Irish equine racing opinion leaders have since especially applauded the 1969 victorious team’s sheer optimism. With the same horse having lost two consecutive battles at the same venue, it should have looked practically useless fronting him a third time. But that what the Balding-led bunch did, and easily prevailed against real insurmountable odds! 

It’s also worth pointing out the main fact that both Eddie Harty and his indomitable mount displayed a cleverly pre-calculated mix of resilience and restraint in the opening circuit. They only started to loom ever constantly larger on the leading group a minute or so into the second circuit. 

Then a rare shaming faux pas occurred, as the booming commentator’s voice erroneously declared that Harty and galloper had fallen. But he’d soon find himself outright stunned when the reportedly fate-trapped pair commanded an increasingly widening gap beginning from the Canal Turn.


In the end, the stark contrast ultimately happened – Eddie Harty (a past Olympic rider) and Highland Wedding pulled off an indelible 12-length victory!


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