The 1984 Grand National was the first race we saw take place with the new maximum field limit in place. No more than 40 runners would be able to compete in the Grand National from this race onwards, a ruling put in place due to safety concerns.
The race was won by Hallo Dandy, trained by Gordon Richards and ridden by Neale Doughty. He was well backed in the antepost markets, most of which came after the handicapper had allotted the weights, many believe he had been underestimated after finishing fourth a year earlier.
Corbiere, winner in 1983, and Grittar, winner in 1982, both returned here looking to win another National title, both ran with credit but were not good enough to overhaul Hallo Dandy, who relished better conditions and landed the win.
What Happened In The 1984 Grand National?
The first element of the 1984 race to touch on is a big positive, and that is regarding the number of finishers. In the first year, where we saw the field limited to a maximum of 40, we also saw the record number of finishers end the race, at the time, with 23 completing the course.
Those who were behind the maximum will have certainly seen this as an early positive for their move, even though the big number was also down to good ground on the day, which favoured everyone and made the test a little easier.
At the head of the market, we saw plenty of runners with previous experience in the race, including winners and those that had previously run well, this was a very strong renewal of the race.
In a wide-open betting heat, greasepaint was sent off as the 9/1 favourite for the race. Many punters bet on horse racing just once a year, and those who did so 12 months prior to this contest, will have remembered Greasepaint getting beaten narrowly into second place. On top of that, those who study the form will have seen the fact that he had 2lb less to carry in weight this time around, further enhancing his claims.
Broomy Bank was a very intriguing runner, lacking experience but arriving with a 66% strike rate and on the back of winning the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival just weeks before the Grand National, and attracted support because of that.
Lucky Vane arrived on the back of three wins during the season, including the Eider Chase, a well-known Grand National trial, while previous winners Grittar from 1982 and Corbiere from 1983 were also fancied by many.
Hallo Dandy was a 33/1 shot a few months before the race after pulling up in the Hennessy Gold Cup. However, he was up just 1lb in the weights after his good run last year, ran really well at Ayr in his prep run, and had the ideal good ground for him to really showcase his talents after struggling on the heavy ground a year prior to that. This horse was the biggest gamble of them all and was sent off at 14/1, with plenty of money coming during race week and on the day of the race.
While the field bunched together during the first circuit, a few began to struggle and drop out as we went onto the second circuit. The main contenders remained, though, although, at the Canal Turn on the second circuit, two horses took over.
The first was Greasepaint, who went home early, trying to use his stamina to his advantage and run the others out of the race. It worked with some, Broomy Bank and Grittar went first, followed by Lucky Vane, two fences from home. Hallo Dandy was the one who managed to stay with Greasepaint, pushing him all the way, and the pair of them had an excellent race to the finish.
At the final fence, Hallo Dandy took a one-length lead, but both horses were battling hard, and this race certainly wasn’t over. To the credit of Greasepaint, Hallo Dandy was not able to shake him off, with a lead of one length for most of the run-in. Right at the end, the leader kicked clear again and would go on to record a winning distance of four lengths.
For Greasepaint, he would, unfortunately, finish second again, but he gave it his all and was becoming a real fan favourite because of his near misses. Hallo Dandy landed the race in great style, ran well a year earlier on ground that wasn’t suitable, and was able to show his real ability on the good ground he encountered in 1984.
40 Runner Field Limit Introduced
One of the big talking points about the Grand National is the size of the field. We want this to be as big as possible, but the race must also be safe. Regardless of the limit, we would always see horses balloted out because everyone wants to have a runner in the National.
In 1984, we saw the first year of a 40-limit cap on the runners. Those who had organised the cap will have no doubt been pleased to see that 23 runners managed to complete the course, which was a record at the time of the race for the number of completions, ensuring a safe race, whereas many finished as was possible.
This move was probably the very first small move around making the Grand National a safer race and looking at ways in which horse welfare could be looked at while trying to keep the race as the spectacle it was known to be.
Moments Of Note
- After finishing fourth in the previous year, Hallo Dandy had better ground here and was able to use that to win the 1984 race
- At the turn of the year, he was a 33/1 shot, but a good prep run, favourable weight and good ground on the day all contributed to him being backed, returning with an SP of 14/1
- For the second time in two years, Greasepaint was unlucky, finishing second in the race