Thus did Time Magazine (April 15, 1946) title their sports recap of that year’s English Grand National steeplechase. This horse race has special relevance to the family for reasons you will learn. But first here is Time’s rundown:
The English bookies, loaded down with big bets on the favorite in the Grand National, stood to lose up to $20 million if he won. The favorite: Prince Regent. In the 103rd running of the famed steeplechase at Aintree, one of the bookies’ best hopes was Symbole, a big French horse. But Symbole fell at dreaded Becher’s Brook, and had to be killed. With two fences still to go, only six of the 34 starters in the world’s toughest jumping course were still in the raceâ€”and Prince Regent was ten lengths ahead. The bookies were sweating.
At that point, a redheaded amateur jockey on a bay Irish gelding, running second, saw the favorite tiring. Jockey Bobby Petre, an ex-major in the Scots Guards and a veteran of Normandy and Italy, gave Lovely Cottage a crack of the whip (“He’s dead lazy, you know!”). At the final fence, Lovely Cottage was only two lengths behind. Then lazy Lovely Cottageâ€”bred in County Cork and bought four months ago for $8,000 through a newspaper adâ€”spurted ahead, won by four lengths. Prince Regent came in third. The win was worth $35,320 to his owner, John Morant, a well-to-do ex-captain of artillery. Lovely Cottage paid off at 25 to 1, and the bookies wiped their brows.
Winning jockey Capt Bobby Petre was husband to Delphine Chambers Chichester and thus was a clansman by marriage.
For those of us not familiar with English horse racing some background is in order. The Grand National is considered by many the world’s most famous National Hunt handicap horse race. It has been run in April each year at Aintree in England since 1839. From the Grand National World site:
Often called the world’s greatest steeplechase, The Grand National is one of the most famous steeplechases in the world. It is a unique test of horsemanship for the rider and also a test of a great significance for a horse….Horses and riders have to contend with drop fences that is to say that the landing side of the fence is lower than the take off side and this means the horse approaching the fence is unaware of this fact until in the air. There are also fences where the landing side is higher than the take off side and this is an extra test of ability for the horses that run in the race.
Halfway through the course is a fence with a 90 degree turn after the jump which is another chance to test a horse and riders ability to stay balanced and at the end of four and a half miles there is a long run in to the finish line which when tired can take a lot of getting.
All this adds up to a true test for horse and jockey and that is why The Grand National is the race that most jockeys owners and trainers want to win.
Tersh Skinner alerted us to the existence of this incredible YouTube footage of the Grand National of 1946. Here is the video – the amazing courage of these riders is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
For those interested, Wikipedia has an excellent article on this illustrious race and its history.
Many thanks to Tersh Skinner for notifying us about this video.