Wednesday 27 November 2019

Merryman II Wows Aintree with a Resounding 1960 Grand National Win

Marking the 114th unveiling of the annual Grand National horse race, the 1960 version was held at Aintree Racecourse, close to Liverpool(England) on 26 March 1960. The hotly-contested title went to Merryman II, a 9-year-old runner who had joined the famous chase at the impressive odds of 13-2...becoming the first top favorite to carry the ultimate jackpot in 33 years. 

There was yet another historical first: the winning jockey was only 22 years then - one unstoppable Gerry Scott. Despite the great odds, few sports pundits expected the young rider to come out thus victorious, having suffered serious collarbone injuries a mere fortnight earlier. 

The largest weight was officially brought down from 12 stone 7 lbs to 12 stone, albeit no horse had borne that particularly hefty load over the past decade. The second place was claimed by Badaloch, steered by Stan Mellor, a striking feat for the initially poorly-rated pair who run at the dismal odds of 100-7. 

Coming hot on Badaloch's agile heels was Clear Profit, excellently ridden by Jumbo Wilkinson...a predictably fine showing for a sturdy runner entering the tough clash as a 20-1 favorite. Tea Fiend commanded the fourth position, not-so-badly piloted by the hard-fighting Gerry Madden. The 1960 meet made an indelible record as the first National to be televised live. The undoubtedly talented guy in studio was the irreplaceable David Coleman. He's best remembered for announcing to an emotion-stirred worldwide viewership that they were the proud witnesses of a rare broadcast phenomenon. 

To fittingly immortalise the epoch-making affair, the BBC dispatched a record 16 cameras to the ecstatic field. The thoroughly equipped media crew was headed by the media giant's Peter O'Sullevan. Having severally brought the activity-packed proceedings to millions of attentive ears on the radio before, none suited this historical juncture better than the accomplished commentating doyen. 

Completely unknown to the extensively accredited journalist, this would turn out to be his first of 37 televisions of the once-a-year event. He'd later open up on the inevitable nervousness that characterized that maiden once admitting that his tetchy nerves got all the more worsened by a sometimes faltering monitor and limited view. All in all so confessed the legendary screen ace, the first-of-its-kind journalistic experiment went on fine. 

Assisting commentator Peter Bromley remembered the staggering tower erected in the middle of the people-packed field. Despite the restricted view blamed by the leading voice at his side, he recalled that the lofty elevation still gave them a fairly enlarged view of the frenzied goings-on in the main arena. 

The only problem was that the seemingly unstable thing kept wobbling with every fresh foot-thrust, making him feel a little unsafe up there. He nevertheless got quite encouraged to see a few of his close chums on the same staggering platform. These included late Ryan's wife Dorothy and Fred Winters's wife Di, both special guests at the big event. 

Fred Winter had enrolled for the year's tourney, steering Dandy Scot for Ryan; and so the anxious women decided to occupy an advantageous position so as follow the unfolding scenes below as keenly as possible. And Mr. Bromley quickly lauded them for taking that bold climb to the very brink of the slightly swaying scaffolding. 

The chief cause of the two excited ladies' adventurous efforts would nonetheless soon fizzle out at the Canal Turn. The uneasy Bromley's action-hungry binoculars almost fell, as unfortunate Fred joined them on the shaky dais, giving him an unsettling tap on the hand to announce his unexpected presence, yelling "Watcha Cock!" 

Even more riveting than the lively accounts of the first televised Grand National was tender Merryman II's clearly laudable masterstroke. Well, most of us will say that the eventual winner's excellent performance had been largely harbingered by his shiny starting odds. 

That could be chiefly true...the victorious horse appeared to have what it took to beat the rest. But the emphatic success acquires a totally new face once you consider the whole fact that young Gerry Scott run bandage-strapped from the neck all the way down to the waist. He had broken his collarbone just 12 days to that momentous race! 

Also notable, the winning duo's odds-beating performance gave Neville Trump(Merryman II's trainer) his third National win. 

As a final shocker to the already surprised reader, it would further be shocking to realize that the leading horse would not have taken part in the 1960 Aintree race, save for another fluke-like coincidence. He was but an impulse purchase on behalf of the Marquess of Linlithgow, former Viceroy of India.