Grand National And Its Critics, Daily Racing Form, 1922-06-08


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GRAND NATIONAL AND ITS CRITICS He was born five minutes since and knows it all was the caustic description which a huntsman friend of mine gave of an ac ¬ quaintance of his who was a loquacious critic of everything under the sun and to judge of what one hears and sees talent in this direc ¬ tion seems spreading spreadingThe The Grand National fiasco as I have heard it called time after time by people who never saw a horse ridden over a country in their lives has called forth a lot of criticism the bulk of which is as absurd as anything well can be We are told all sorts of absurd tilings about the height of the fences Not very long ago we were told wonderful things about Bechers Brook We were told that the fence in front of it was as high as a man and any amount of nonsense has been talked about the severity of the course Be ¬ fore proceeding to that part of the subject however let us go back to the steeplechasing of the days before 1SG3 when tho National Hunt Committee was established Steeple chasing had degenerated into something like a circus show Fences were cut down to a ridiculous extent Now if you go round a steeplechase course in the country you find the stiffest part of the fence is where the horses will have to jump it sixty years ago the reverse was the case No ditches were ta be found and clerics of the course actually advertised the easiness of their courses when they wore touting for entries To such an extent was the cutting down of the fences carried in those days that steeplechasing became a veritable farce farceREASON REASON FOR SOME FALLS FALLSBut But were there no falls in those days Certainly there were as mnay and perhaps more than there are now For owners or to be exact a certain class of owners sent indifferent jumpers who could gallop a bit to run in steeplechases in the hope that they would scramble through somehow and this they by no means always did Even the fairly well schooled horse would take liberties with an easy fence at times and with the usual result I would ask the hunting man who has been a consistent hard rider whether a considerable percentage of his falls have not taken place at comparatively easy fences fencesThe The National Hunt Committee undoubtedly saved crosscountry sport from degenerating into a very thirdrate business indeed and not the least important amongst the many reforms they brought about was that respect ¬ ing the size of the fences and the official in ¬ spection of courses to see that the rules laid down were literally obeyed obeyedWe We hear a good deal of idle talk about the great saverUy of the Grand National course The course is four miles and 856 yards in length and it is admittedly a severe one The fences are big and they cannot be taken liber ¬ ties with But it has to be remembered that the Grand National is the greatest race in the world that it is the test of stamina and as such it is of the greatest importance But big as are the obstacles in the Grand National they are no bigger than those which every hunting man who rides to hounds has to encounter many times if his lot should be cast in a big country Take Bechers Brook for example We are told that the fence is as high as a man as I have already mentioned It is 4 feet 6 inches high with a rail 2 feet C inches high in front of it and at the landing side a natural brook 9 feet C inches wide A horse that cannot clear that when he is jump ¬ ing off sound ground cannot lay much claim to being a good performer performerTALUE TALUE OF THOIOi FENCE FENCEOr Or take the water jump opposite the stand which is 15 feet wide There is a perpendic ¬ ular thorn fence in front of it a foot thick about which I have heard much nonsense talked If it were not for that thorn fence many of the horses would undoubtedly gallop through the water without attempting to jump jumpLet Let us just make a comparison between an ¬ other steeplechase which took place at Aintree and the Grand National The race to which reference was made is the Stanley Steeple ¬ chase in which there were nine runners Of these six finished and four did not fal Roughly speaking if the came average had taken place in the Grand National there would have been twenty horses finished and thirteen would have got the course without coming to grief Now if comparatively speaking moderate horses got over the course how was it that the better class of horses running in the big race did not do so There are several reasons for this In the first place the large field causes a lot o crowding at the first few fences horses get interfered with and a very little interference brings a horse down at the pace they go in the Grand National Many years ago a gen ¬ tleman whose experience was certainly not a wide one came up to me when I was talk ¬ ing with George Williamson just after Wild Man From Borneos victory and commenced a very unnecessary criticism of several jock ¬ eys riding in the great race When he paused at last for want of breath George Williamson said to me When that gentleman has ridden over as many fences as you and I have sir hell know that there is a good deal more room on the floor than there is in the saddle saddleThe The Grand National is always a fast race and it is always run from end to end There is the natural desire to get a good place at the early fences If a horse gets shut out there his chance of victory is handicapped and there is consequently an eager struggle to get a good place at them Then as has al ¬ ready been intimated at the pace at which they are going the least interference will j bring a horse down and one horse falling in j a crowd sometimes nay generally means two or three or even more It should be borne in mind when criticizing the Grand National that it is the supreme test of the pace and stamina of the thoroughbred horse which is a far more important matter than the sapient man in the streets boots of and any tampering with the course would have a serious effect And again it must be borne in mind that the Grand National course is beyond all doubts a fair one It is level and all on grass and the grass is gen erally good going Under the worst condi tions it is not a heavy course i Is it then that our horses have deteriorated j i a great deal that we have no longer the higli class of horse for which we were fa j mous I would not go as far as that though 1 it would be impossible for the stoppage and confusion caused in all racing establishments y the war not to have had some effect upon the quality and character of the horses run j ning and it is more than likely that some ew years will pass before we quite recover ic position we were in in 1914 A word about j he 1914 race may be interesting There were twenty runners of which eight finished and l nine fell Sunloch it will be remembered was wasic ic winner When Lutteur II won in 130 there were thirtytwo runners of which nineteen finished and there were a dozen dozenalls alls This is certainly a better record than this year when there was the same number of starters and only five finished finishedIt It is however practically impossible to compare the results of one years race with anothers so as to derive accurate information j jrom rom the research There are so many little i things little in themselves but fraught with i J i so many important consequences constantly i taking place In fact it is impossible to reckon up all the factors which go to the making of a race raceKNOWLEDGE KNOWLEDGE OF PACE LOST LOSTThe The critics say that there is more grief in the great race now than there used to be Certainly this appears on the face of it correct But I do not think the reason is so ar to seek Racing is carried on under very Jfferent conditions now to what it was in he old days After Tod Sloan came over and j ntroduced the forward seat there came in what may be called the bad hurry school of racing With the forward seat as we see t on the fiat all proper control over the lorse is lost Knowledge of pace as it was I mown in the days of Fordham Chaloner Osbornc Alfcroft Tom Cannon and other famous jockeys has become a thing of the past and the loose rein and bloody spur of Macaulays postboys is the motto of the new school schoolIn In course of time the crosscountry jockeys have come to sit just a little bit more for ¬ ward Consequently they have not the power over their horses they had A horse trips and if his rider is close to his shoulder he s bound to get a little forward and then the inevitable follows The horses too are not so well in hand when they are galloping Tills is evident to anyone who watches the movements of a big field closely closelyI I would just go back once more into the past history of the race viz to the year 1913 when disaster came much more freely than in the recent race and when there was not so much hysterical nonsense talked as there Is now In 1913 Covertcoats year twenty two horses started and only three finished All the others were out of it a long way Troni home and Carsey who was third was beaten a distance having unseated his jockey two fences from home The forward seat was very prominent on this occasion and seventeen horses fell without including Car ¬ ney An incident in connection with the race I remember well I was standing beside Cov ertcoat as he was being saddled and when the saddle was put on the trainer I dont remember now whether it was Gore himself or his head lad somewhat significantly lengthened the stirrup leathers and probably thereby won the race raceBLAME BLAME O2f LARGE FIELDS FIELDSThe The large fields no doubt have something to do with the grief early on in the race and the first fence is at rather an awkward I angle a fact which no doubt brings many a horse down especially after the wild scram ¬ ble which takes place on the fall of the flag It would certainly be better if something could be done here hereIt It has been suggested that the course could perhaps be widened and it would certainly be better if it were wider notwithstanding the fact that where a big field of horses is racing they naturally hang together espe ¬ cially over fences fencesMr Mr Whittakers suggestion that the race j should be run in twice and that the 9 stone 3 7 pounds division should run by themselves has something to commend it But how if t none of the 9 stone 7 pounds division ran There was no horse carrying that weight in i this years field though there were plenty r carrying 10 stone But after all I think it t would be a mistake to change the conditions 3 even in this way Let the Grand National remain the Grand National which it could not do if conditions were changed in any but the most trivial matters and let the pessi ¬ mists who have had so much to say about 1921 and 1922 remember the disastrous 1913 Bailys Magazine

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