The Grand National and Aintree 1960-1969

The Autumn Meeting

Run over three days in late October/early November, the Autumn meeting was a mixed affair with flat races providing most of the "entertainment" (used in the loosest sense of the word although the Liverpool Autumn Cup was a fairly competitive end of season handicap). Three hurdle races were staged at the meeting, the Prospect, November and Abbeystead Hurdles (the latter for three year olds was re-introduced in 1962 having been dropped from the programme during the fifties). These events, however paled into insignificance when compared to the three races run over the National course. The Molyneux Chase was run on the Thurday, the Becher Chase on the Friday and the Grand Sefton on the Saturday. Following Mrs Tophams announcement in July 1964 that she was to sell the course for development the meeting was on borrowed time. It was staged as planned as part of Aintrees final season in 1964-65 and as the legal challenges to the sale by Lord Sefton kept Aintree open, Mrs Topham as a "goodwill gesture" (her words not mine) staged a truncated two day meeting in 1965. All six National Hunt races were kept with the Becher being run after the Grand Sefton on the Saturday. Sadly, despite Aintree lurching from one "last" National to another during the remainder of the decade the fixture was not run again and with a couple of brief exceptions the National meeting remained Aintrees sole fixture until 1992.

The Molyneux Chase

Run over two and a half miles with the Chair as the second fence this was seen in the sixties as more of a Topham rather than a Grand National Trial and no National winners contested the race during this period. 1964 National third PEACETOWN made his Aintree debut in the race in 1962 as did National fourth from 1967 GREEK SCHOLAR in the last ever Molyneux in 1965. The race provided Aintree regular EAGLE LODGE with his sole success over the National fences in 1959. 

1959EAGLE LODGE M.Feakes A.Oughton 12 
1960 JONJO Ireland P.Taaffe 10 
1961 CUPID`S CHANCE P.Cazalet W.Rees  8 
1962 DOMACILE L.Colville P.Taaffe 14 
1963 SIRACUSA R.Renton D.Mould 10 
1964 LESLIE A.Kilpatrick P.Jones  8 
1965 VALOUIS Ireland E.Prendergast  9 

The Becher Chase

Run over two miles & five furlongs and like the Molyneux with the Chair as the second fence, this heat always attracted a small but select field. 1959 National winner OXO, having been sidleined for most of the 1959-60 season made his return to Aintree in this race in 1960 and was just touched off on the flat by CLEAR PROFIT. KILMORE made an inauspicous Aintree debut a year later falling at the sixth fence. 1965 National third MR JONES won this in 1962 whilst Gold Cup winner Fortria finished second in 1963. In 1964 the race provided Her Majesty the Queen Mother with her first victory over the Aintree fences when Silver Dome triumphed. The last running was won impressively by FOREST PRINCE who made all the running to win by twelve lengths. He was later to put in one of Nationals greatest front running displays of all time in the 1966 National. Incidentally, eight of the nine runners completed the course that year and in total thirty eight of the fifty seven runners during the decade completed the course.

1959HEADWAVE Ireland H Beasley 10 
1960CLEAR PROFIT R.Newton B.Wilkinson  6 
1961CASTLE PERILOUS Ireland P.Taaffe   8 
1962 MR JONES W A Stephenson C.Stobbs  4 
1963 LIZAWAKE P.Moore G.Hartigan  6 
1964 SILVER DOME P.Cazalet W.Rees 14 
1965 FOREST PRINCE N.Crmp G.Scott  9 

The Grand Sefton Chase

The highight of the old autumn meeting, run over two miles, seven and a half furlongs. The course comprised the same number of fences that are jumped today in the Topham and Foxhunters. A genuine Grand National Trial as of the seventy two runners who ran in the race during this decade sixty one ran in the National itself and of the winners only Polished Steel (this was his only Aintree appearance) did not. NICOLAUS SILVER in 1961 remains the only horse to win the Grand Sefton in the same year as his National triumph while TEAM SPIRIT managed to win both races in the same season. In 1962 all ten runners completed the course without mishap. 

1959POLISHED STEELR.Curran J.Fitzgerald 12 
1960 ERNEST R.Renton B.Wilkinson  8 
1961 NICOLAUS SILVER T F Rimell H.Beasley 11 
1962 ETERNAL R Fenwick-Palmer T.Brookshaw 10 
1963 TEAM SPIRIT F.Walwyn G W Robinson  9 
1964 RED THORN T F Rimell T.Biddlecombe 14 
1965 THE FOSSA T F Rimell S.Mellor  8 

The race was revived for one year only in 1972 when it was run as the William Hill Grand National Trial providing Ginger McCain and Noel le Mare with their first success over the Aintree fences with GLENKILN. The race name was revived in 2003 but the new Grand Sefton is in my view a pale imitation of its predecessor and is more of a Topham Trial. For me the spiritual successor to the Grand Sefton is the Becher Chase first run in 1992 over a new distance of three miles and three furlongs.

The Spring Meeting

Apart from one brief moment the Spring meeting followed the same programme throughout the decade, meaningless, past their sell by date flat races, the Lancashire Hurdle, Topham Trophy and Foxhunters on day one, the Mildmay Chase and two divisions of the Coronation Hurdle on day two and the Liverpool Hurdle and Grand National on the Saturday. The one exception was in 1963, when, having sponsored the Grand National in 1961, drinks company Schweppes unveiled a new two mile handicap hurdle to be run on the first day of the meeting. The inaugural Schweppes Gold Trophy worth nearly £8,000 to the winner attracted a staggering forty one runners crammed into the tight hurdle course. It is a miracle that only three horses fell during the race. I have never seen a copy of the race and it remains (amongst with any event over the old style Mildmay fences) the race from the archive that I most want to see. Unfortunately unimpressed by Mrs Tophams attitude to the sponsors (extremely unwelcoming, they were not even provided with free entry !) Schweppes up sticks and moved the race to Newbury where it grew from strength to strength during the sixties and seventies.  Apart from this interesting diversion the meeting took the same monotonous format until the first Ladbrokes run meeting in 1976.

The Topham Trophy

1960FRESH WINDS W.Whiston S.Mellor 21 
1961 CUPID`S CHARGE P.Cazalet W.Rees 13 
1962 DAGMAR GITTELL R.Renton J.Gifford 22 
1963 BARBERYN W.Stephenson M.Scudamore 20 
1964 RED TIDE R.Turnell J.King 14 
1965 HOPKISS A.Kilpatrick E.Harty 13 
1966 WALPOLE H R Price J.Gifford 24 
1967GEORGETOWN N.Kubisch P.Mahoney 23 
1968 SURCHARGE J.Barclay S.Davenport 16 
1969 DOZO G B Balding E.Harty 20 

Not much of a National trial during the sixties, FRESH WINDS blazed the trail until the nineteenth fence in the 1961 National while DAGMAR GITTELL, BARBERYN and RED TIDE, the only other Topham winners to compete in the National all failed to finish. DOZO was to finish fourth in Gay Trips National in 1970

 The Foxhunters Chase

1960APRIL QUEEN M.Fear Mr J Daniel  8 
1961 COLLEDGE MASTER L.Morgan Mr L Morgan    8 
1962 DOMINION K.Beston Mr C Foulkes 12 
1963 SEA KNIGHT W A Stephenson Mr P Nicholson 15 
1964 AERIAL III M.Fear Mr J Daniel  8 
1965SEA KNIGHT W A Stephenson Mr P NIcholson 14 
1966 SUBALTERN C.Alexander Mr J Lawrence 13 
1967 MINTO BURN Miss B Johnson Mr B Surtees 10 
1968 JUAN P.Wills Mr P Wills  8 
1969 BITTER LEMON V.Rowe Mr V Rowe 15 

COLLEDGE MASTER (a very distant fourteenth in 1962) and SEA KNIGHT (an even further behind last in 1964) are the only Foxhunters winner to complete the course in a National, APRIL ROSEAERIAL III & JUAN both failed to finish in their one National attempt after their Foxhunters victory. None of the others on the roll of honour took part.