The 1979 Grand National saw a new country add their name to the list of winners, and this time it was the turn of Scotland. A country that had seen many Grand National hopefuls head to Aintree in the past but never tasted success.
The horse Rubstic changed that, trained by John Leadbetter, ridden by Maurice Barnes and owned by John Douglas. It was a close finish, and we saw three horses in contention heading into the final furlong. However, it was Rubstic that stayed on much the better, to come out on top.
A total of 34 runners went to post, and just seven of those were able to complete the course. A combination of slightly tough ground called good to soft on the day, and a big collision at The Chair, towards the end of the first circuit, where eight runners departed the race, made for a low number of finishers.
|Result||Horse||Starting Price||Age||Handicap||Prize Money||Jockey||Trainer|
|1||Rubstic||25/1||10||10-00||£30,204||Maurice Barnes||John Leadbetter|
|2||Zongalero||20/1||9||10-5||£10,446||Bob Davies||Nicky Henderson|
|3||Rough And Tumble||14/1||9||10-7||£5,123||John Francome||Frederick Thomas Winter|
|4||The Pilgarlic||16/1||11||10-1||£2,461||Richard Evans||Thomas Frederic Rimell|
|5||Wagner||50/1||9||10-00||-||Ridley Lamb||William Arthur Stephenson|
|6||Royal Frolic||25/1||10||11-10||-||John Burke||Thomas Frederic Rimell|
|7||Prime Justice||200/1||9||10-00||-||Keith Taylor||W D Francis|
What Happened In The 1979 Grand National?
Going into the race, the talk was all about Alverton. Ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, he was all the rage and went into the National on the back of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Could he do the famous double? Punters certainly thought so, he was sent off as the 6/1 favourite to repeat a feat that hadn’t been done since Golden Miller won the double in 1934.
Unfortunately, he fell at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, the 22nd fence, and sadly during his fall, he broke his neck and died on the course. It was a tough watch because he was travelling so strongly at the time and appeared to have a great chance of winning the race. Just as people saw how well he was doing, the fall happened, and he was out of the contest.
Further forward, runners kept slowly dropping out of the contest and would leave a total of seven after jumping the 29th fence. These separated themselves, and when we went into the final furlong, just three horses remained in contention.
Rough And Tumble was struggling as they headed into the final furlong and just didn’t manage to stay the full distance. That left Rubstic and Zongalero to battle it out in the closing stages, and it was Rubstic that stayed on the best to take home the prize. It was guts and staying power that won the day for him, bringing home the victory for Scotland.
Both trainer Leadbetter and jockey Barnes were having their first attempts at winning the Grand National, bagging a winner in a race on their first try, something that many other people had been trying to do for years. The horse would come back a further twice without success, and these three races in total would be the only Grand National attempts for jockey and trainer too.
Alverton Fails In Bid To Make History
While it was Rubstic that won the race, and he was a popular winner with fans, there is no doubt that many of the general public wanted to see Alverton win so that they could witness history. The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Grand National stand out as being the two biggest races on the national hunt calendar.
To win one of these is usually the highlight of a horse’s career, to win both is something that dreams are made of, and to win both in the same year, is completely unheard of. You have to go back to 1934, when Golden Millar won both, to find the last time this was done.
A nice winner of the Gold Cup, he was travelling exceptionally well when coming down on the second circuit at Becher’s Brook. There was every chance he could have gone on to win this race but sadly hit the deck.
To make things worse, not only did Alverton fall, but he also died as a result of the fall, breaking his neck. This meant we never got the chance to see him try and win the Grand National a year later, and he was never able to defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown.
Standing up at Becher’s Brook and winning the race would have put Alverton into the history books, showing just how fine the margins are in racing.
Moments Of Note
- The 1979 win for Rubstic was the first time that Scotland had won the Grand National
- Jockey Maurice Barnes and trainer John Leadbetter were both having their first runs in the race
- Alverton was trying to complete a historic Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Grand National double but fell at Becher’s Brook when travelling well, and he sadly died on the course after breaking his neck
- The going was testing and combined with eight runners departing at The Chair, just seven were able to complete the course