Ben de Haan is a name that some people will remember from racing in the 1980s, though it is fair to say that he never really made the big time. He was briefly in the spotlight, though, and that came in 1983 when de Haan rode Corbiere to victory in the Grand National.
Born on July 9th, 1959, de Haan was quickly into racing at a young age. He rode a winner with his very first public ride, something that few jockeys manage to do, and this came in 1980, when Ben was 20 years old, the start of his partnership on course with Fred Winter.
His biggest day was, without a doubt, the Grand National success he claimed in 1983 and what he will be remembered for. After quitting the saddle, de Haan turned his hand to training, where he would run a yard from Lambourn, though an accident on the gallops that would cause him to have a broken neck put an end to that, with his two boys taking over the running of the yard.
Ben de Haan Grand National Wins
- 1983 - Corbiere trained by Jenny Pitman
|1993||Royal Athlete||Fence 10 - Fell||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1992||Team Challenge||21||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1991||Team Challenge||Fence 19 - Refused||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1990||Team Challenge||11||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1988||Insure||Fence 20 - Unseated Rider||-||Frederick Thomas Winter|
|1986||Corbiere||Fence 4 - Fell||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1982||Monty Python||Fence 22 - Refused||-||Jenny Pitman|
|1981||Royal Exile||6||-||Frederick Thomas Winter|
Winning The 1983 Grand National On Corbiere
Corbiere went into the Grand National of 1983 looking like a serious contender for the race and was sent off as one of the favourites at 13/1. He’d won the Welsh National a few months earlier, added a staying handicap at Doncaster and then finished second at the Cheltenham Festival in his final run before Aintree, which set him up perfectly.
Jenny Pitman, trainer of the horse, was beginning to really target the Grand National, it was a race she really wanted to win, and Corbiere went in with the perfect prep. Ben de Haan gave him a great ride, this was just his third attempt at the race, he had finished sixth on debut in 1981 when riding Royal Exile before exiting at the 22nd fence on Monty Python a year later.
When speaking after the race, de Haan puts a lot of his Grand National victory down to information he took from Fred Winter, who was his retained trainer at the time and gave de Haan his first big race winner at the Cheltenham Festival in 1980.
Ben would follow the inner course around Aintree, something that Winter had taught him after two winners in the race, and this paid off in great style, going the shortest way around and, crucially, staying out of trouble.
If you want to know how impressive the ride was, then you only need to look at what happened next between de Haan and Pitman. Soon after being impressed by de Haan in the race, Jenny Pitman offered him the job to be her stable jockey, which would be a step up for de Haan, as Pitman was really starting to make headway in racing.
However, he was a loyal man and loyal to Fred Winter, so de Haan turned down the job, opting to stay with Winter. There was no bad blood, though, de Haan continued to ride for Pitman when available, and that included some big race rides, he rode a total of 11 Grand National horses during his career, and nine of those came for Pitman, with Corbiere accounting for four of the nine.
He didn’t manage to win another Grand National but did finish third on Corbiere in 1984, a year after his success. The horse would go on to finish third again in 1985, but de Haan was ruled out of the ride due to injury.
His final Grand National ride would come in 1993, again for Pitman, where he rode Royal Athlete, who fell at the 10th fence.