Marcus Armytage was a jockey in the amateur ranks, never turning professional during his time riding. He had a strong career compared to many other amateurs, winning not only the Grand National but also landing three winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
Armytage retired from racing in the year 2000, after he won his 100th race, which came on a horse called Dubai. He came from a very horse-orientated family, his father was a racehorse trainer, his sister was also a jockey, and his mother was an international showjumper, so there was a lot of focus on horses throughout Marcus’ time as a child and later in life.
As an amateur, Armytage had another job while he rode, but that was also connected to horse racing. He was a racing journalist, spending time with the Newbury Weekly News, Racing Post and Daily Telegraph. At the time of his Grand National win, he was working for the Racing Post, who, of course, went to town with their coverage due to having the jockey as part of their journalists.
Mr Marcus Armytage Grand National Wins
- 1990 - Mr Frisk trained by Kim Bailey
|1996||Bishops Hall||Fence 1 - Unseated Rider||-||R H Alner|
|1995||Romany King||6||-||Kim Bailey|
|1993||Travel Over||Fence 2 - Pulled Up||-||Richard Lee|
|1991||Mr Frisk||Fence 22 - Pulled Up||-||Kim Bailey|
|1990||Mr Frisk||1||£70,871||Kim Bailey|
|1987||Brown Veil||Fence 23 - Pulled Up||-||Roddy C Armytage|
Winning The 1990 Grand National On Mr Frisk
The biggest day of Marcus Armytage’s career came when he landed the 1990 Grand National on Mr Frisk. While amateur jockeys were more common in those days, this is not an easy race to win, especially for an amateur. Armytage was the most recent amateur to win the race until Sam Waley-Cohen won the 2022 Grand National on Noble Yeats as an amateur.
Not only did Armytage land the race, but the pair crossed the line in what would be a record time for the distance. This was previously held by Red Rum when he won the race in 1973, but Mr Frisk and amateur jockey Marcus Armytage took that title away. In 2013, the Grand National was shortened in distance, no one broke the record time before then, and now no one will have a chance to do it again, so that record will remain with Armytage.
The jockey deserves a lot of credit for the ride he gave Mr Frisk, which began by putting him in a good, prominent position from the outset. At the start of the second circuit, on a horse that stayed strongly, Armytage decided to try and take the race on, moving forward with one rival and these two quickly built up a nice lead over the chasing pack.
The rival with Mr Frisk, Uncle Merlin, unseated his rider at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, leaving Mr Frisk clear in the lead by 15 lengths. The pack closed as Armytage gave his mount a breather but then kicked again as they came to the final flight.
Just one challenger came from the pack, that was Durham Edition, but Armytage had judged the ride perfectly, and although pressured, Mr Frisk managed to keep ahead of his challenger, always keeping him at bay. Armytage and his ride crossed the line as winners, with a distance of three-quarters of a length back to the second placed horse, and these two were miles clear of the rest.
Cheltenham Festival Success
While the Grand National will go down as being the biggest success of his career, Marcus Armytage was also lucky enough to have success elsewhere on the big stage. He won three races at the Cheltenham Festival during his career, and those included a Cheltenham double in 1992, winning both the Faulke Walwyn Kim Muir and the National Hunt Chase, two races that are in place for amateur riders.
His third Cheltenham Festival success was again in the National Hunt Chase, and this came in 1994.
Marcus Armytage ended his racing career in 2000 after riding a horse called Dubai to victory. This was a special one, being his 100th winner as a jockey, and after that, he decided to call it a day.
Life As A Racing Journalist
While having an amateur jockey win a big race is not too uncommon, especially in years gone by, the victory for Armytage had a bigger story surrounding it because his regular job was also in racing. Armytage was a longstanding horse racing journalist during his riding career, and afterwards, and at the time he won the Grand National, he was also a racing correspondent for the Racing Post.
Of course, being both his publication and the daily horse racing paper, they went to town with the fact they also employed the Grand National winning jockey and did many reaction pieces and interviews with Armytage in the days and weeks that followed his big race win.
We heard many stories thanks to this, including the long-told story of Armytage believing that Uncle Merlin would have won the race had he stood up. He didn’t, though, allowing Marcus Armytage to become a Grand National winning rider.