1993: The Grand National That Never Was

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post in my Horse Racing History series! Today’s is a very exciting one, just two weeks before my older brother was born, the 147th running of the Grand National took place but as always with my history stories… It didn’t quite go to plan! Let’s get straight into it…

On April 3rd 1993, the 147th running of the Grand National was scheduled to take place at it’s regular home of Aintree Racecourse, the day started off as it always did, then things suddenly took a turn. Before the Grand National could take place, fifteen animal rights protesters invaded the course near to the first fence, the second time in 3 years, a repeat of the 1991 Grand National 2 years prior, this caused the start to be delayed. However, that isn’t the biggest turn of events that happened that day.

When the race was finally ready to start the horses lined up as they normally would, however a false start was called when several riders became tangled in the starting tape. The starter was a gentleman called Keith Brown who was officiating his last ever Grand National before his retirement, he waved his red flag, then the second official Ken Evans who was 100 yards down the track signalled to the runners to turn around.

So they go again, on the second attempt, the tape became tangled again, this time around the neck of Richard Dunwoody, again causing a false start. However, this time his recall flag didn’t unfold itself as he waved it, which in turn meant that 30 of the 39 runners set off around the track, oblivious to the false start and the recall.

Officials, trainers and the crowd tried to halt the race, however the majority of the field continued on. By the 6th fence, Becher’s Brook only 1 of the 30 starters still competing had fallen. The BBC’s commentary team at the time were Peter O’Sullevan, John Hanmer and Jim McGrath and they continued to describe proceedings all whilst reminding viewers that ‘it’s got to be a void race’.

It wasn’t until the water jump, the final fence of the first circuit, that many of the jockeys became aware of the situation and pulled up, this included Champion Jockey Peter Scudamore on Captain Dibble and most of the horses to the rear pulled up also. Peter Scudamore pulled up due to seeing trainer Martin Pipe waving at him near the water jump to stop.

However, 14 horses continued to race into the second circuit. In the end, it was 50/1 shot Esha Ness ridden by John White and trained by Jenny Pitman who crossed the line first in the second fastes time in Grand National history. Only 7 horses finished the race.

Immediately after the race finished there was a lot of confusion as to what would happen next. Starter, Keith Brown was interviewed by BBC and hinted that there was a possibility that the nine jockeys who noticed and obeyed his recall could be eligible to take part in a re-run. A short time later several jockeys said that they though the officials attempting to stop them were actually something to do with the protestors from before the race. Esha Ness’ jockey, who unofficially won the race, John White, said that towards the end of the race “I could see there were only a few horses around, but I thought the others had fallen or something”.

The Jockey Club later declared the race void, ruling out any re-running of it and they subsequently launched an inquiry. At this stage bookmakers were forced collectively to refund an estimated £75 million in bets staked.

An inquiry was later conducted, headed up by High Court judge Sir Michael Connell, the deputy senior steward of the Jockey Club since 1988. His report portioned some of the blame to starter Keith Brown for allowing the horses to get too close to the tape in the first place, however most of the blame was aimed towards the second official Ken Evans for failing to notice the second false start. Later that year Keith Brown retired stating “it was very sad for all concerned, whatever could go wrong that day, did.”

Following the official inquiry, a 34 page report with recommendations was approved by the Jockey Club. Public discussion had included the possibility of introducing electronic devices, however the use of modern technology was dismissed on the basis of a lack of total success overseas and being open to sabotage or technical failure. The tape at the start line was made more sturdy, consisting of 3 strands instead of 1 with a more distinctive pattern and the width of the start was also reduced.

It was decided that when a false start is called, two official who are in constant contact with the starter via radio, will have fluorescent yellow flags that they wave at the jockeys, further up the course there will also be a third official who is positioned to stop those who fail to notice the two initial flags. If necessary, the third official can follow the field in a car to stop them.

This was the first and so far, the only time that the Grand National has been declared void and hopefully it will never happen again!

I hope you enjoyed this one, I feel like my history posts are sometimes a little short, but they’re also very interesting and I love doing the research into them. I hope to continue this series with plenty more stories. I have created a Google Form which you can access and input any ideas you may have that you would like to see me cover, this can be any historical stories, people to interview as well as any original ideas of content you may like to see me put out onto my site. I appreciate all of the feedback I get weekly from my readers so it is only fair I create content which best suits my audience and that my readers want to see! You can access the form right here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScg5vZg8Xonpg8l-3S6gVSwS3FPx8wiGFUcmkPX9qXiSW9QQQ/viewform

Thank you again for reading! I will see you all in my next post!

Running Rein: The Disqualified Epsom Derby Winner

Hi Guys!

Welcome to a new post in my Horse Racing History series. Today’s is a shorter post, however I found it very interesting so thought I would share!

On July 1st 1844, The Epsom Derby was run as normal, or so everybody thought… Let’s get straight into it.

For some context, the Derby is a race held every year, starting in 1780 and as continued up until today. The race itself is a race that is run over one mile, four furlongs and 6 yards and is open to three year old colts and fillies and is classed as one of the Classics of the flat racing season.

In the weeks leading up to the 1844 running of The Derby, rumours had started circling in regards to two attempts to substitute three year old horses with similar horses who were four years old and much stronger and mature. At the time Lord George Bentinck who was a well known gambler and owner as well as owning his own stables, sent formal objections to the Epsom Stewards alongside multiple other racehorse owners. However the Jockey Club refused to act.

Nevertheless, The Derby was run as normal. Running Rein owned by Abraham Levi Goodman won The Derby, beating Orlando. However, all was not as it seemed. When returning to the paddock, suspicion was raised by idol gossip of those in attendance, so severe were these suspicions that the horse and jockey were both greeted with catcalls and jeers when returning to the winners circle.

Following the on-going rumours, Lord George Bentinck filed suit on behalf of the runner up, Orlando’s, owners. They declared that they believed the winner, ‘Running Rein’ was not in fact 3 years old and further than that, that ‘Running Rein’ was not even ‘Running Rein’, he was in fact a four year old horse named Maccabeus.

A little later on, a London courtroom was packed out by horse racing enthusiasts who sat through hours and hours of testimony as to the vetting of ‘Running Rein’. This included a local hairdresser who sold hair dye to disguise tell-tale markings on the horse in question. The owner of the horse Abraham Levi Goodman, was told to show the horse to the court. His lawyers at this point admitted that ‘Running Rein’ had vanished and that their client had, for the first time, conceded that ‘some fraud had been practiced’.

It was described by the Solicitor General as ‘a gross and scandalous fraud’. At this point it was deemed that Abraham Levi Goodman was so desperate to win The Derby that he had brought four year old Maccabeus to run in the place of Running Rein. Previous to Goodman buying this horse he had been entered to run in races under his own name, so to keep the lie under wraps, he brought a five year old horse to compete as Maccabeaus. As Maccabeaus was four years old and there had been a massive case of fraud, ‘Running Rein’ was disqualified and the race was awarded to the original runner up, Orlando.

It was later found that this was done, not only to win The Derby, but also due to a monstrous betting ring who had plans to defraud bookmakers. Following one of the biggest scandals in racing, even to today, Lord George Bentinck made strenuous efforts to eliminate fraud within the sport. He proposed a set of rules to cover racing to limit the corruption involved in making and settlement of bets. Another interesting fact is that he is credited with inventing the flag start at race meetings, when introducing this at a race meeting at Goodwood. Prior to this, races were always started by the starter shouting. Just two years after the incident happened, he committed himself to his political career due to his father reportedly disapproving of his activity within racing and gambling, so he sold his entire stable and racing team for just £10,000Reportedly this was a very very low price for the facilities he had at the time.

I tried to research into what had actually happened to the real Running Rein, however I could not find any information whatsoever as to where he was or what had happened to him.


A little bit shorter than my regular posts, but I found this one interesting and thought I would share. Racing has come a long way since back then and there is no way that this would happen in today’s day and age. I hope you all enjoyed this story as much as I did!

1928: The Record Breaking Grand National

Hiya!

Welcome to a new post in my Horse Racing History series! Today’s is another interesting story which I felt I needed to share!

The 1928 Grand National was the 87th renewal that took place at Aintree Racecourse on the 30th of March and to this day, it still holds a record, can you guess what record that is? Let’s get straight into it!

On March 30th 1928 it was very misty in Liverpool and the going for the Grand National was heavy, being unofficially described as ‘very heavy’. With 42 horses declared to run, it started off a very normal race. That was until the field approached the Canal Turn of the first circuit.

At the Canal Turn, Easter Hero took a fall which then ended up causing a pile up of fallers including the starting price favourite Master Billie who went off at 5/1. Out of the 42 starting horses, only seven emerged from that pile up with their jockeys still seated.

The race continued with the seven remaining contenders, however when coming to the penultimate fence, there were only three horses left standing, Great Span who was 33/1 and currently leading ahead of Billy Barton who was also a 33/1 shot and closely followed by Tipperary Tim who had a starting price of 100/1.

Great Span’s saddle then slipped, which left Billy Barton in the lead who also ended up falling. Which left 100/1 shot Tipperary Tim as the last remaining horse. With baited breath, he did manage to jump the final fence safely and complete the course. The only horse to finish the race. Interestingly though, Billy Barton’s jockey Tommy Cullinan managed to remount and eventually complete the race. So the finishing order was Tipperary Tim at 100/1 winning for amateur jockey Mr William Dutton, trainer Joseph Dodd and owner Harold Kenyon. With Billy Barton eventually finishing the race in second place at 33/1 for jockey Tommy Cullinan. Due to the excessive distance between the two horses, the winning distance was officially declared as ‘a distance’.

With only two horses completing the course, to this day the 1928 Grand National set the record and holds the record for the fewest finishers in a Grand National.

Ironically, before the race Tipperary Tim’s amateur jockey Mr William Dutton’s friend had told him “Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall” – Little did they know that this would be the eventual outcome only a few minutes later.

So there we have it, a record breaking Grand National that still stands to this day and in my opinion will probably never be broken. With jockeys continuously improving, horses continuously improving and the safety of both jockeys and horses improving within the sport, I don’t feel like we will ever have another occasion where there is a mass pile-up or so many horses not completing the course – touch wood.

I feel as though most of my history series are short posts, but I love sharing them as I find them interesting even when there isn’t a lot to write other than the facts. Thank you for reading and I shall see you all in my next post!

1913: The Forgotten Epsom Derby Winner

Hiya guys!

Today’s post is another part of my Horse Racing History series. It is a little bit of a shorter story but one I found interesting and wanted to share.

On the 4th of June 1913, it was the 134th running of the Epsom Derby. And in a massive twist of events, Aboyeur won at 100/1 for jockey Edwin Piper and trainer Alan Cunliffe. However his win was very much overshadowed by other events that happened at Epsom on that day.

The race is now regarded as one of the world’s most famous horse races of all time, but it isn’t for the performance of the horses on the track. Let’s jump straight into why this 1913 Derby is so highly remembered.

The day starting off pretty normally with no major issues. When the Derby started – again no major issues, until there was an interference. Craganour, ridden by Johnny Reiff, hung left bumping into Aboyeur who then veered towards the railing and by doing so badly hampered Shogun, Louvois and Day Comet. Aboyeur’s jockey Edwin Piper then struck him with his whip in his left hand, which caused him to hang sharply back into the centre of the track again colliding with Craganour and attempting to bite him.

Into the final furlong Reiff had his whip in his right hand and Piper had his whip in his left hand which lead to the horses continuously bumping into each other, eventually Craganour crossed the line first just ahead of Aboyeur.

After a brief pause, Mr Robinson, the judge for the race announced the result stating that Craganour was first with Aboyeur second and Louvois third, controversially missing Day Comet who was on the inside who had been obscured by the other runners. However the result was not made official until the Stewards announced they were happy with the race and everything was okay.

After a short delay, as expected, the result was withdrawn. It was announced that an official objection had been made against the winner, however not by a rival jockey, but by the Stewards themselves. Which led to a very lengthy Stewards enquiry.

Finally, after interviewing the jockeys and the judge, the Stewards disqualified Craganour on the grounds that he had failed to keep a straight course and therefore ‘jostled’, ‘bumped and bored’ and ‘interfered’ with other runners. Therefore it was announced that Aboyeur would be awarded the race, winning at 100/1.

Even though the race itself was full of drama during and after, that was not the reason that the race was remembered, it was something far more sinister. It was due to the death of suffragette Emily Davison.

So, who was Emily Davison? Born on the October 11th 1872, Emily Wilding Davison was an English suffragette who fought for women’s rights to vote. Before this incident she had been arrested on nine occasions, went on hunger strike seven times and was force fed on forty nine occasions. She grew up in a middle-class family and studied at the Royal Holloway College in London and the St Hugh’s College in Oxford before becoming a teacher and governess. In 1906 aged 34 she joined the Woman’s Social and Political Union also known as the WSPU and pretty soon she became an officer of the organisation and a chief steward during marches. She was known within the organisation for her daring militant action, with her tactics including breaking windows, throwing stones, setting fire to postboxes and on three occasions, hiding overnight in the Palace of Westminster.

So, why did her death cause the Derby to be overshadowed? Well, that’s because her death was directly caused by the race, at the race course, by a horse in the race.

Emily Davison was stood at the Tattenham Corner, the bend before the home straight. Some horses passed her and at this point she ducked under the guard rail and ran onto the course. She reached up and grabbed the reins of Anmer – King George V’s horse who was being ridden by Herbert Jones. She was hit by the horse who would have been travelling at around 35mph within four seconds of her stepping onto the track. Anmer fell during this collision and rolled over his jockey who’s foot had got caught in the stirrup. Emily was knocked to the ground and reportedly kicked in the head, however a surgeon who later operated on her said that:

I could find no trace of her having been kicked by a horse.”

The whole event was captured by three news cameras, being broadcast to thousands as well as an estimated 500,000 people in attendance including the King and Queen. It is still unclear to this day as to what her purpose in attending the Derby and walking onto the course was, she had not discussed her plan with anyone or left a note. However several theories have been raised, these include, she was intending to cross the track and believed all of the hoses had passed or she wanted to simply pull the King’s horse down or she was trying to attach a WSPU flag to a horse or that she just intended to throw herself in front of a horse.

Bystanders rushed onto the track and attempted to help jockey Herbert Jones as well as Emily Davison and they were both taken to the Epsom Cottage Hospital. Whilst in hospital she received a large amount of hate mail from the thousands who had witnessed the whole event either in person or via the news.

Two days later on the June 6th she was operated on in hospital however she never regained consciousness and subsequently, four days later on June 8th at just 40 years old Emily’s injuries proved fatal as she died in hospital.

The only belongings found with Davison were two suffragette flags, the return stub of her railway ticket to London, her race card, a ticket to a suffragette dance later that evening and a diary with appointments for the following week. These belongings alone suggest that whatever her intentions were on this day, she did not plan on her life being ended.

As I previously mentioned, King George V and Queen Mary were both present at the race and it was in fact the King’s horse that Emily grabbed onto. They both enquired about the health of both Emily and Herbert whilst they were in hospital. As we know, Emily died, however Herbert luckily got away with mild concussion and other minor injuries, he spent one night in hospital before returning home on June 5th. He later said he could only recall a very small part of the event stating:

She seemed to clutch at my horse and I felt it strike her.”

Luckily he recovered pretty quickly and was able to ride Anmer at Ascot two weeks later. Anmer luckily remained uninjured in the whole event.

Interestingly, the King and Queen also both had opinions of the event that they recorded in their own personal journals. With the King stating it was:

A most regrettable and scandalous proceeding.”

With the Queen simply stating that Emily Davison was a:

Horrid woman.”

On June 10th there was an inquest held into Emily Davison’s death, Herbert Jones was not in attendance due to his health not permitting him to be fit enough to do so. Many spoke at the inquest including Captain Henry Davison – Emily’s half brother. The coroner said that in the absence of any evidence to prove so, Emily Davison did not commit suicide, instead the final verdict of the inquest was read as follows:

Miss Emily Wilding Davison died of a fracture of the base of the skull, caused by being accidentally knocked down by a horse through wilfully rushing on to the racecourse on Epsom Downs during the progress of the race for the Derby; death was due to misadventure.”

On June 14th Davison’s body was taken from Epsom to London where a service was held at St George’s in Bloomsbury, before being taken by train to Newcastle upon Tyne to the St Mary the Virgin church for her funeral which was watched by thousands.

This race is now known as the world’s most famous horse race due to the death of Emily Davison and not for the very controversial events in the race that day. Aboyeur, the eventual winner won at 100/1 which is something pretty special, but unfortunately his win is completely forgotten.

Personally, I have read so many articles about Emily and this day in particular and I have no idea why she did what she did. Of course, any life lost is horrible, but I don’t think people really ever looked into why. For an inquest to come back with a verdict of ‘misadventure’ I think is a little disappointing. I think if this had happened in today’s world, they would have had psychiatrists speak up about the event and potentially understand why or how this was allowed to happen. Aside from that, I do think it’s a real shame that Aboyeur managed to win at 100/1 in what sounds like a very action packed race but this was all overlooked.

I do just want to add that if you choose to do your own research into this story please please be careful as there are pictures and videos of the incident, they are really poor quality, however this may still be distressing for some.

I found this such an interesting story to research as it is one I have never heard of, so I hope you all enjoyed. See you all very very soon!