1840 Grand National

1840 Grand National
Grand National
Location Aintree
Date 5 March 1840
Winning horse Jerry
SP 12/1
Jockey Mr Bartholomew Bretherton
Trainer George Dockeray
Owner Henry Villebois

The 1840 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase was the second official annual running of a steeplechase, later to become known as the Grand National Steeplechase handicap horse race, which took place at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool on Thursday 5 March 1840 and attracted a then smallest ever field of 13 runners.

Although recorded by the press at the time as the fifth running of the Grand Liverpool, which was renamed the Grand National in 1847, the first three runnings were poorly organised affairs.

The race was not run as a handicap chase and therefore all the runners were declared to carry 12 stone.


The race

The course remained unchanged from the previous year with the runners starting from a position beyond the modern Melling Road. The competitors then negotiated four small gorse topped banks before reaching the newly named Becher's Brook. All thirteen runners cleared these banks without incident but at the brook Cruickshank stumbled on landing and was cannoned into by Weathercock with both falling. The former was remounted by his jockey, Guy, albeit with a severely bloodied nose while the latter's rider, Barker was carried unconscious to Seed's farmhouse nearby.

Valentine had established a good lead at this stage in his owner's bid to secure a bet that his mount would be first to complete a circuit of the course. Upon reaching the second brook beyond the Canal Turn, Valentine made to refuse but his momentum was such that the horse corkscrewed, almost backwards over the obstacle. His rider remained in the saddle and despite his rivals gaining much ground, the pairing continued intact to complete the circuit in the lead and secure the bet while behind him Hasty fell and was quickly remounted.

Last year's champion Lottery reached the stone wall in front of the stands in second place but clipped the top of the obstacle, falling amid a flurry of dismantled masonry. All three horses following immediately behind were caught in the melee and were brought down, the three being Columbine, favourite The Nun and Seventy-four. Powell remounted the favourite but was forced to pull up before setting off on the second circuit when she was found to be lame while Olliver was taken to the stands with a broken collar bone and concussion.

The pileup allowed Valentine to re-establish a lead of many lengths over the rest of the field but he was caught shortly before reaching Becher's for the second time by Jerry and Arthur with the remaining competitors too far behind to be able to issue a challenge. Arthur fell heavily at the brook, leaving Jerry to canter home over the remaining fences to win as he liked. Arthur was quickly remounted and although he caught Valentine before jumping the final hurdle he was unable to make up the ground on Jerry and finished second by four lengths with Valentine the same distance behind in third. The remaining runners had not reached the distance chair situated beside the wall fence by the time the third horse had passed the post, thus these runners were officially declared as non finishers. Those who did pass the post were, in order, Cruickshank, Hasty, The Sea and Spolasco. The last horse had fallen during the second circuit and was remounted while The Augean also fell at some point during the second circuit.

Despite winning in a very comfortable manner, and slowing to a canter a long way before the finish, Jerry still finished in a time of twelve minutes and thirty seconds, shattering the course record by a minute and a half.


Again the press were very critical of the race, especially noting the incident at the wall where many spectators had thought Tom Olliver had been killed by his fall, so bad was his state when being carried away to the stands. Furthermore it was later discovered that Barker had been left unattended in a barn near Seed's farm where none of the connections of his mount had made any enquiry as to his state. As a result the wall was replaced with a water jump in time for the next running.

Historical inaccuracies

Later historical accounts of the Grand National are notorious for carrying factual errors. The official history of the race written in the 1980s recorded Cruickshank as a non runner and The Sea as an official finisher in fourth place.

Finishing order

Position Name Rider Age Weight Starting Price Distance or Fate
Winner Jerry Bartholomew Bretherton 10 12-00 16/1
Second {remounted} Arthur Alan McDonough 6 12-00 8/1 Fell at Becher's 2nd time round
Third Valentine John Power 12-00 100/4
Fourth (remounted at least twice) The Sea Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford 12-00 30/1
Non finishers
Cruickshank E Guy 12-00 100/5 Passed the post fourth but may not have jumped the entire course
Hasty Mr Rigg 12-00 30/1 Passed the post fifth but may not have jumped the entire course
Spolasco W A Rose 12-00 30/1 Passed the post seventh but may not have jumped the entire course
The Nun A Powell 12-00 3/1 favourite Fell at the wall
Lottery Jem Mason 10 12-00 4/1 Fell at the wall
Seventy-Four Tom Olliver 7 12-00 6/1 Fell at the wall
Columbine Mr Won 6 12-00 30/1 Fell at the wall
The Augean Charles Christian 7 12-00 30/1 Fell on the second circuit
Weathercock P Barker 8 12-00 30/1 Fell at Becher's on the first circuit



  1. Prices, runners and riders as listed in Liverpool Mail newspaper dated 6 March 1840
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