The First Grand National?
The first Aintree steeplechase, run on 29 February 1836, under the title,
The Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, was won by The Duke (see below)
and ridden by the famous Captain Martin Becher.
The same year saw the inaugural hare coursing classic, the Waterloo Cup, run at Altcar, both events being organised by a local landlord, William Lynn of the Waterloo Hotel. Lynn having previously introduced Flat Racing to Aintree in 1829, on land leased from the 2nd Earl of Sefton.
The 1837 and 1838 renewals of The Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, were until recent years, thought to be run at the then nearby, Maghull racecourse. However, records taken from Chris Pitt’s authoritative book, A Long Time Gone, show that racecourse ran its final meeting on 16 May 1834. Further evidence found, suggest that the 1837 race, won again by The Duke, and the 1838 race, won by Sir William, were both run over the original Aintree course and as such were credited as Grand National’s well into the 1860s.
Latterly, however, due to the races supposedly run at Maghull, together with the 1839 renewal, renamed The Grand National, the authorities proclaimed the first race as 1839, with the aptly named winner, Lottery.
Recent requests from published historians (including the famous Aintree historian, John Pinfold), to restore the earlier races to the record books have so far been declined.
For my part, in parallel, may I remind both historians and the Aintree authorities, that the so called St Leger Stakes, was run at Cantley Common as
“a sweepstakes” from 1776-1777, before becoming the St Leger. And those two earlier races have long been accepted as St Leger’s, thus making it the oldest of our five Classic races.
Putting that aside, in a few days time, in every street, in every village and in every town, people will be looking at the runners for their annual each way bet on the greatest steeplechase in the world – a race watched on TV, around the world, by over 500 million people in 140 countries.
Let us enjoy this and play our part in continuing its wonderful history.