The Grand National and Aintree 1960-1969


1960 - Merryman II`s year


Leading Fancies 

Following the growing number of voices alleging that the race was "cruel" home secretary R.A.B Butler came to Aintree as a guest of Mrs Topham to inspect the fences for himself. He appeared relatively impressed. The meeting did not start well as far as horse welfare was concerned though with two fatalities in the Topham Trophy (one of whom was the favourite Suirvale) and one in the Mildmay Chase the following day. There was a feeling however, that with a smaller than usual field of twenty six they would create less of a hazard. Certainly Aintree and the National was under the microscope as for the first time the BBC cameras had been allowed into Aintree to film the race, introducing the race to a whole new audience of once a year armchair racegoers. Favourite on the basis of his victory in the 1959 Foxhunters was MERRYMAN II although he was without a win all season and had fallen over the Mildmay fences in December. Next in the betting was Aintree perennial WYNDBURGH who had performed such heroics for Tim Brookshaw when finishing second for a second time in 1959, having lost both his irons. Ironically with Brookshaw injured it was Michael Scudamore, who had ridden the winner Oxo that day who took the ride. TEAM SPIRIT was the hope of Ireland with three victories to his credit this season including the Hurst Park Grand National Trial over four miles and the Mildmay Memorial at Sandown. The form horse in the field was Aintree debutant  DANDY SCOT a winner of all four completed starts including the Coventry Chase at Kempton. There was also support for Grand Sefton third CANNOBIE LEE and BADANLOCH, a winner of small races at Haydock and Wolverhampton before he had finished ahead of MERRYMAN II at Manchester.

 The field

 To follow when I get hold of the racecard. 

SP :  13-2 MERRYMAN II, 8-1 Wynburgh, 9-1 Team Spirit, 10-1 Dandy Scot, 100-9 Cannobie Lee, 100-7 Badanloch, 18-1 mr What, 20-1 Clear Profit, Clover Bud, 33-1 Green Drill, Tea Fiend, 40-1 Pendle Lady, 45-1 Aliform, Arles, Eagle Lodge, Knoxtown, 50-1 Clanyon, Holly Bank, Jonjo, Uncle Whiskers, 66-1 Belsize II, Irish Coffee, Lotoray, Sabaria, Skatealong, Skipper Jack

Aintree debutants (* denotes that this was the horses only visit to Aintree)

Aliform* , Arles, Clear Profit, Clover Bud, Dandy Scot*, Holly Bank*, Irish Coffee, Jonjo, Knoxtown*, Lotoray*, Sabaria, Skatealong*, Skipper Jack*, Team Spirit

Winners at Aintree

EAGLE LODGE1959 Molyneux Chase 
MERRYMAN II 1959 Foxhunters 
MR WHAT1958 Grand National 
WYNBURGH 1957 Grand Sefton Chase


 1st MERRYMAN II Gerry Scott 
 2nd BADENLOCH Stan Mellor 
 3rd CLEAR PROFIT B.Wilkinson 
 4th TEA FIEND P G Madden 
 5th SABARIA M.Roberts 
 6th GREEN DRILL G.Milburn 
 7thARLES Mr A Moule 
 8th SKATEALONG R R Harrison 

Time: 9 minutes, 26 1/5 seconds. Distances : Fifteen lengths & twelve lengths

Owned by Mrs Winifred Wallace. Trained by Neville Crump at Middleham 

The winner

Merryman II proved he was an above average National winner (in my opinion after Jay Trump he was the best of the decade) the following season with victory in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal debut. He then ran another superb race at Aintree when partnered by Derek Ancil he survived a kick at the start from rival Jimuru and was looking all over the winner on the second circuit before he failed to repel one final challenge from Nicolaus Silver. Still, first and second in successive Nationals isn`t bad. In 1962 on heavy going that was not to his liking he was never looking happy under Dave Dick (three Nationals - three different riders) and toiled home a distant thirteenth. He was retired to the hunting field where he died suddenly in 1966. 

 Did You Know

A year before he was to become the centre of attention 1961 hero Nicolaus Silver, on Grand National day 1960 was winning a small steeplechase at Naas.

In 1997 legendary commentator Peter O`Sullevan was invited to name his top five Nationals by the Racing Post. His favourite was not Red Rum or Aldaniti  but Merryman II.

1961- Nicolaus Silvers year


 Leading Fancies

Unveiled this year were the new style "sloped" fences. Whilst there had been some minor modifications over the years, most notably some tinkerings with the landing side at Bechers these in comparison were major improvements. There were just two fallers in the Topham (where nine of the thirteen runners had completed the course) and the changes were warmly received. Incidentally Bechers had accounted for all but two of the fallers in both the Topham and Foxhunters. 1961 is also famous for the participation of two horses from the Soviet Union. Three horses Epigraf, RELJEF and GRIFEL had been sent from behind the depths of the Iron Curtain to take part in the National. Unfortunately their brightest propsect, three times Velka Pardubicka winner Epigraf sustained a slight setback and was unable to run so it was left to the 1960 Velka Pardubicka winner GRIFEL and runner up RELJEF to fly the flag for the Soviets. It has to be said that compared to the British and Irish runners, they looked a little on the scrawny side and burdened with automatic top weight of twelve stone (neither had a prep race in the UK) their chances seemed very remote indeed. It was a strong lineup. Heading the market was the Irish trained JONJO, a faller at Valentines the year before he had won the valuable Leopardstown Chase on his last start.  He had also won over the National fences at the Autumn meeting when landing the Molyneux Chase by ten lengths. Next in the betting was last years hero MERRYMAN II, restricted to just two starts this year he had won the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal debut before finishing unplaced in the Great Yorkshire Chase. Regular partner Gerry Scott was injured so Derek Ancil took the ride in what was to be his only National ride. Another Irish challenger HUNTER`S BREEZE was in fine form having won four chases in the winter including the Thyestes Chase whilst there was strong support for SIRACUSA who had won at Manchester and Wetherby, O`MALLEY POINT who had finished fourth in the King George VI Chase and finished ahead of MERRYMAN II in the Great Yorkshire and SCOTTISH FLIGHT II who had won a small race at Lingfield and finished fourth in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup.

The field  

  The Grand National Steeplechase  (74 entries) £8,270 to the winner, 2nd : £2,208, 3rd : £1,104, 4th : £552:

 1            2RELJEF  7, 12-0 USSR B.Ponomarenko 
 2             1GRIFEL  8, 12-0 USSR V.Prakhov 
 3 f031-10MERRYMAN II  10, 11-12   N.Crump D.Ancil 
 4  020034MR WHAT  11, 11-9 D J Morgan - IRE D V Dick 
 5 0-3p323OXO  10, 11-8 W.Stephenson M.Scudamore 
 6  1f3202 WYNDBURGH  11, 11-5 J.Oliver T.Brookshaw 
 7 3-p3pp3TAXIDERMIST  9, 11-4 F T Walwyn Mr J Lawrence 
 8  144231O`MALLEY POINT  10, 11-4 W A Stephenson P A Farrell 
 9  321400KILMORE  11, 11-0 H Price F.Winter 
10  b1111fHUNTER`S BREEZE  10, 10-13 Bryce-Smith - IRE F.Carroll 
11 f00040IMPOSANT  9, 10-13 J O`Donoghue Mr R Couetil 
12 -010033TEAM SPIRIT  9, 10-13 D L Moore - IRE G W Robinson 
13  413412FLOATER  8, 10-11 T F Rimell E P Harty 
14 2-13221BADENLOCH  10, 10-11 G R Owen S.Mellor 
15 200000FRESH WINDS  10, 10-10 W.Whiston R.Edwards 
16  044440 BRIAN OGUE  10, 10-10 F.Pullen J.Guest 
17  0p0240CLOVER BUD  11, 10-10 G.LLewellin D.Mould 
18  000000DOUBLE CREST  9, 10-7 T W Dreaper - IRE A.Irvine 
19 12-4231BANTRY BAY  10, 10-7 H.Dufosse Sir W Pigott-Brown 
20-221301JONJO  11, 10-7 J W Osborne - IRE P.Taaffe 
21  -fpf022IRISH COFFEE  11, 10-6 F D Farmer - IRE J.Magee 
22  0-04122SCOTTISH FLIGHT II  9, 10-6 P.Cazalet W.Rees 
23  042144 WILY ORIENTAL  9, 10-6 C.Nesfield P G Madden 
24 2-00002OSCAR WILDE  11, 10-4 W.Wightman R E Jenkins 
25   2f4011JIMURU  10, 10-4 Lord Leigh Mr J Leigh 
26   400041CARRASCO  9, 10-3 B.Marshall P.Pickford 
27  0p-101pERNEST  9, 10-1 R.Renton H J East 
29  2-23001NICOLAUS SILVER  9, 10-1 T F Rimell H R Beasley 
30   100f40PENNY FEATHER  8, 10-1 N.Hall J.Lehane 
31 -301201SIRACUSA  8, 10-1 R.Renton B.Wilkinson 
32    /u3f0f-SABARIA  10, 10-2 R.Turnell M.Roberts 
33    -00323KINGSTEL  9, 10-0 J.Dennissoun G.Slack 
34  4-u1144VIVANT  8, 10-6 W.Stephenson D.Nicholson 
35   4pp2u3TEA FIEND  12, 10-0 G R Owen R R Harrison 
36 130-004 APRIL QUEEN  10, 10-2 H.Payne A.Biddlecombe

Non Runner : 28 Cannobie Lee (D.Nicholson) 

S P : 7-1 Jonjo, 8-1 Merryman II, 100-7 Hunter`s Breeze, Siracusa, 100-6 O`Malley Point, Scottish Flight II, 20-1 Badanloch, Mr What, Oxo, Team Spirit, 28-1 NICOLAUS SILVER, 33-1 Ernest, Jimuru, Kilmore, Wynburgh, 40-1 Bantry Bay, Carrasco, Taxidermist, Tea Fiend, Wily Oriental, 45-1 Oscar Wilde, 50-1 Clover Bud, Double Crest, Floater, Irish Coffee, Kingstel, Vivant, 66-1 Fresh Winds, Penny Feather, 100-1April Queen, Brian Ogue, Grifel, Imposant, Reljef, Sabaria

Aintree debutants

Bantry Bay, Brian Ogue*, Carrasco*, Double Crest, Floater*, Grifel*, Hunter`s Breeze*, Imposant*, Kingstel*, Nicolaus Silver, O`Malley Point, Penny Feather*, Reljef*, Taxidermist, Wily Oriental*

Winners at Aintree 

APRIL QUEEN1960 Foxhunters 
FRESH WINDS1960 Topham 
ERNEST1960 Grand Sefton Chase
JONJO1960 Molyneux Chase 
MERRYMAN II1959 Foxhunters, 1960 Grand National 
MR WHAT1958 Grand National 
OXO1959 Grand National 
WYNBURGH 1957 Grand Sefton Chase 


 1stNICOLAUS SILVERBobby Beasley 
 2nd MERRYMAN II Derek Ancil 
 3rd O`MALLEY POINT Paddy Farrell 
 5th KILMORE Fred Winter  
 6th WYNDBURGH Tim Brookshaw 
 7th JONJO Pat Taaffe 
 8th  BADENLOCH Stan Mellor 
 9th TEAM SPIRIT Willie Robinson 
10th SIRACUSA B.Wilkinson 
11th MR WHAT Dave Dick 
12th ERNEST H J East 
13th SABARIA M.Roberts 
14th IRISH COFFEE J.Magee 

Time : 9 minutes, 22 3/5 seconds. Distances : Five lengths and a neck

Owned by Mr C.Vaughan. Trained by Fred Rimell in Kinnersley, Worcestershire

The winner

 NICOLAUS SILVER showed that he was an above average National winner when he became the first  to add the Grand Sefton Chase in the same year. That autumn triumph proved to be his swansong. As a top of the ground specialist he was unlucky not to have conditions to his liking in the next two Nationals where he finished unplaced in both 1962 and 1963 (when equipped with blinkers).  He last ran over hurdles in the autumn of 1963.

 Did You Know

The 1961 Grand National featured three past winners MR WHAT (1958), OXO (1958) and MERRYMAN II (1960) and two future winners KILMORE (1962) and TEAM SPIRIT (1964) .With five other runners with winning form over the National fences this was probably the best National field on record.

Nineteenth fence casualty FRESH WINDS was the last faller in the race. This is a record. In 1989 Smart Tar unseated Carl Llewellyn at the twentieth fence which is the only other time that the last faller in the National has happened before the field has reached Bechers second time. (Yes I know there were no fallers after Beau at the twentieth in 2001 but when only seven are left standing at half way it doesn`t really seem appropriate to highlight that particular fact here)