It was quite a dramatic few weeks after Christmas back in 1829. The body snatcher-come murderer William Burke put his head in an Edinburgh noose, whilst his whistle blowing accomplice William Hare was released in the ultimate betrayal. Meanwhile, down myriad cobbled roads some 220 Miles away in a Lancashire suburb (now Merseyside), another William, William Lynn, the Syndicate Head of The Waterloo Hotel had his 'Eureka Moment', this time he wanted to do some digging. This time for good reasons.
He had previously leased some land from the 2nd Earl Of Sefton, yet another William, William Molyneaux. Lynn had a vision. A vision every horse racing fan will be thankful for. A racecourse and a Grand National.
If the five top Grand National Historians were to gather around a dinner table, sip room temperature claret and dine on the finest cut of beef, then conjecture would fill the room. Nobody is certain when the very first Grand National was run. The consensus of valued opinion is that the first one was in 1836 and was won by The Duke. The Duke, incidentally was ridden by a Martin Becher, The Fence 'Becher's Brook' is named after him and is where he fell the very next year. BUT and its a BIG BUT, some will say that 1836 race and the 1838 version, won by a Sir 'William', were actually run in Maghull. Now anyone who knows Liverpool will know that Maghull is a good three miles away, at least. The rest as they say is history, and what a history!
Every single year headline writers and story makers cast their eyes over Aintree on Grand National Weekend. Every single year there's a great story and every single year there's great drama. The list of winning owners comprises of a veritable feast of 'Celebrity Who's Who'. Teasy Weasy Raymond (real name Raimondo Pietro Carlo Bessone) who owned Rag Trade, winner in 1976 is a great example, he was also part owner of Ayala, winner in 1963. He was a hugely colourful character. A hairdresser to the stars (he was once flown to the States to give actress Diana Dors a Shampoo & Set at a cost of £2,500: equivalent of £60,000 these days) but his life was marred by tragedy. Just 3 years after Rag Trade's victory, his pregnant daughter (28) was killed when she crossed a section of the M4 motorway guard rail in the car she was in, and ploughed straight into an oncoming Porche. One of the male passengers killed in the Porche turned out to be Brian Field, one of the Great Train Robbery Masterminds. (Field had since become Brian Carleton) Tragedy indeed.
You see there's always drama, there's a always a story. In the year TVF Promotions was formed (please read our 'Bosses Blog') Last Suspect won the Grand National. He was owned by none other than Lady Anne, Duchess of Westminster, who also owned Arkle, one of the most famous steeplechasers of all time! That was 1985. Freddie Starr has owned a National Winner, King Edward V11 has owned a Grand National winner, although he was the Prince of Wales at the time (Ambush II in 1900), Fred Pontin has owned one, (1971 Specify) Dorothy Paget has also owned one, in 1934 with Golden Miller. Nat Cohen was another, his Kilmore in 1962 won it, Cohen was a celebrated Silver Screen producer.
There's the Aldaniti story and Bob Champion, there's the race that never was, poor old Esha Ness and John White, and there's Trevor Hemmings, who apart from owning Blackpool Tower has owned 3 Grand National Winners in just 11 years, including Many Clouds in this year's renewal, a horse he also bred. (Our bosses two daughters actually branded the winning horsebox for his triumphant return to Lambourn)
It's a race that captures the public's imagination like no other, and it's run just half a mile from our office. We are so proud to be involved with Crabbies, the wonderful sponsors of the event, they won it themselves with Amberleigh House in 2004, and each year we dress it up for them. We love belong involved. There's only one Grand National, it's all about Aintree, so an Aintree company dressing it up ? That's a winner!