The United States is not a country you generally associate with the Grand National, but one of the few people from the US to be involved with a winner was Charlie Fenwick. When he crossed the line on board Ben Nevis to win the 1980 Grand National, he became the second American amateur rider to win the race and considering his dedication and the miles he travelled for the horse, it was certainly a victory he deserved.
Fenwick had most of his success in the USA, only coming over to the UK to ride Ben Nevis. He won big races, including the Maryland Hunt Cup five times, the Grand National point-to-point ten times and the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup five times.
But it was at Aintree racecourse, in Liverpool, England, where Fenwick would have the biggest win of his riding career, doing it on the other side of the world from where he was based.
Mr Charlie Fenwick Grand National Wins
- 1980 - Ben Nevis trained by Tim A Forster
|1980||Ben Nevis||1||£68,225||Tim A Forster|
|1979||Ben Nevis||Fence 16 - Pulled Up||-||Tim A Forster|
Winning The 1980 Grand National On Ben Nevis
A year before his Grand National win, Ben Nevis was fancied to go well in the 1979 edition of the race. He’d been sent over to the UK specifically for the race, and Charlie Fenwick had been asked to travel over and ride him, which he did.
However, the horse fell at the 15th fence, and although Fenwick remounted the horse, he then pulled him up a fence later, sensing that something was not quite right. Before that race and after, Fenwick continued to travel to the UK and ride the horse, he had clearly not lost faith.
Before the 1980 race, few others thought the horse had a chance. He was sent off with an SP of 40/1, in part due to the bad ground at Aintree but also because the horse hadn’t been able to win a race in Europe, failing to live up to his American hype.
In dreadful conditions, where the ground was as bad as anything we’ve seen in recent years, Ben Nevis and Charlie Fenwick dispelled all of those who had doubted their talent. The horse won by 20 lengths, clear of his nearest challenger, Rough and Tumble, and for the final few fences, this race was merely a procession.
At Becher’s Brook, fallers left Ben Nevis well clear, all Fenwick needed to do was simply keep him on his feet and get to the line, which the pair did with ease. Only four horses managed to finish out of 30 this day to give you an indication of just how tough the race was.
The day was all about keeping things as simple as possible, ensuring horses weren’t going too quick or using up any needless energy, and in terms of his ride, Fenwick was perfect with this. He made sure Ben Nevis got home to win and kept him out of any trouble around them.
This was a great boost for the pair after the disappointment of their first visit to Aintree 12 months earlier. This time they had arrived and shown what they were really capable of doing, and that resulted in a big-priced win.
Dedication To Travel From America For Rides
While talking about Charlie Fenwick and his Grand National win, we must mention the dedication that he showed as a rider and the obvious love he had for riding Ben Nevis. When the horse was sent across to the UK to campaign, it was expected that Fenwick would lose the ride and a UK-based jockey would take over.
But Fenwick decided to keep going and would travel across to the UK from Baltimore to ride his favourite horse. This wasn’t just in big races either, he came across for minor events too, keeping the partnership intact.
When they won the Grand National in 1980, that was the last we saw of both of them in the UK. Fenwick returned home to continue riding in the USA while Ben Nevis was retired. For the pair of them, it was certainly mission complete, they were tasked with winning the Aintree Grand National and did precisely that.
Alongside being a Grand National-winning jockey, Charlie Fenwick should also be seen as a loyal, dedicated jockey who flew halfway around the world to keep up a partnership with a horse he loved.