It is fair to say that over the years, Tim Forster wrote himself into the Grand National history books with an exceptional record in the race. Some couldn’t win it once, not only did Forster do that, but he won the race a total of three times, across the 1970s and 1980s.
He started his winning run in the race with Well To Do, who landed the 1972 Grand National. A few years later, Ben Nevis won the race in 1980 to give him two winners, and then in 1985, Last Suspect made it a hat trick of wins for Forster.
What makes the feat more impressive is the number of runners that he had in the race. He didn’t have many years’ worth of runners, with multiple each year, so he had plenty of shots to win three Grand Nationals. Forster saddled just 14 Grand National contenders during his training career, only five of them managed to complete the course, and of those five, three came home the winner.
Forster started his training career in August 1962, and at the following year’s Cheltenham Festival, he bagged his first festival winner, a big start to his training career. He won a total of 1346 races as a trainer, with his final runner and winner being Albermale at Market Rasen in May 1998.
Sadly, a year after retirement, due to illness, Forster passed away on April 21, 1999.
Tim A Forster Grand National Wins
- 1985 - Last Suspect ridden by Hywel Davies
- 1980 - Ben Nevis ridden by Mr Charlie Fenwick
- 1972 - Well To Do ridden by Graham Thorner
|1997||General Wolfe||16||-||Lorcan Wyer|
|1997||River Mandate||Fence 21 - Pulled Up||-||Andrew Thornton|
|1991||Blue Dart||Fence 22 - Unseated Rider||-||Hywel Davies|
|1990||Uncle Merlin||Fence 22 - Unseated Rider||-||Hywel Davies|
|1989||Mithras||Fence 28 - Pulled Up||-||Robert Stronge|
|1988||Hard Case||Fence 19 - Fell||-||Kevin Morgan|
|1986||Last Suspect||Fence 18 - Pulled Up||-||Hywel Davies|
|1986||Port Askaig||Fence 1 - Fell||-||Graham McCourt|
|1985||Last Suspect||1||£40,502||Hywel Davies|
|1980||Ben Nevis||1||£68,225||Mr Charlie Fenwick|
|1979||Ben Nevis||Fence 16 - Pulled Up||-||Mr Charlie Fenwick|
|1979||Mr Snowman||Fence 22 - Fell||-||Graham Thorner|
|1972||Well To Do||1||£25,786||Graham Thorner|
Winning His First Grand National With Well To Do
While Cheltenham success came pretty much instantly, Forster had to wait a decade for his first Grand National winner. The first success in the big race at Aintree came in 1972 when Well To Do won the Aintree Grand National.
There was a sad backdrop to the story of this horse, unfortunately, though what happened did break a record for Forster. On behalf of one of his biggest owners, Heather Summer, he bought the horse as an unbroken three-year-old. Unfortunately, she died of cancer while the horse was still relatively young, and in her will, she instructed Forster that he could choose one of the three runners she had at the time and take the horse on himself.
Being her favourite horse and wanting to do right by his owner, Forster took Well To Do on and became the owner as well as the trainer. When Well To Do crossed the line in first place to land the Grand National, Forster became the first owner and trainer to win the Grand National since World War II.
As for the race itself, just nine runners managed to complete the course, and the day before the event, we saw a massive gamble on one of the runners. This was Well To Do, who was initially priced up at 33/1 the day before the race but was sent off at less than half of that, returning with an SP of 14/1.
Graham Thorner was the rider on the day, winning his first and only Grand National. The pair had only been involved with the race one time before, when they teamed up a year prior, this was second time lucky for them both, a memorable day.
A Second Grand National Win With Ben Nevis
After Well To Do won in 1972, Tim Forster had no suitable horses to run in the race until 1979, when he saddled two, but neither managed to complete. One of those was Ben Nevis, who was pulled up at fence 16. Some 12 months later, Ben Nevis would return to Aintree and win the Grand National to give Forster his second success.
It is fair to say that this horse had a very strange career path. British bred and a horse that began his career in point-to-point races, where he had little success. At this point, he was sent across to the USA, where he would race.
He found his feet there, and he was unstoppable at a lower level in the US. He won eight times, set two course records and was a back-to-back winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup. He also won the Maryland’s Grand National point-to-point purse, and it was at this point where his potential was realised, which led to him being sent back across to the UK with the Aintree Grand National in mind.
Tim Forster was chosen to be his trainer in England, sent with the simple goal of being aimed at the Grand National and hopefully winning it. The first attempt to do this came in 1979, with the markets showing that there was a lot of support for Ben Nevis, he was a 14/1 shot and fourth in the betting.
Ridden by American amateur jockey Charlie Fenwick, unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan for him. He fell at The Chair, the 15th fence on the course, and while his jockey remounted him, he wasn’t right and was pulled up just one fence later.
In 1980, it’s fair to say he wasn’t fancied. Sent off at 40/1, an outsider in the betting, mainly due to the fact that he failed to complete a year before, and this time around, he also had heavy ground to deal with. Those two things certainly didn’t stop him from putting up a huge performance.
He went to the lead at the start of the second circuit and never looked back. There was a real rhythm to his jumping, and he kept going, not letting anyone feel like they had a chance to catch up at any point. At the last fence, he was ten lengths clear, only a fall would stop him, and he jumped the final flight well. Up the run-in, Fenwick kept him working, and the horse pulled further clear, going on to win the race by an impressive 20-length margin.
At the time, Ben Nevis became the third American-owned jumps horse to win the Grand National, and as far as Tim Forster goes, it was mission accomplished.
Third And Final Grand National Success With Last Suspect
Five years after the win of Ben Nevis, Tim Forster would saddle his next Grand National hopeful, Last Suspect. Without a runner for the period in between, he would record back-to-back wins with his runners, as Last Suspect went on to win the Grand National of 1985 in dramatic style.
The horse had been called plenty of names over the years, from moody to disinterested and plenty more, but on the biggest stage of them all, things came together, and the horse showed great character and fought to land the win.
Hywel Davies was the man in the saddle this time around, and he also deserves plenty of praise for carrying this horse home and keeping going right until the line, even when the situation looked bleak.
After travelling well throughout the race, a group emerged, and the winner would come from these, with two fences to go, and Last Suspect was one of those in the group. Mr Snugfit made his move to win the race, and it seemed that he had done things right at the time, jumping the final fence clear and looking all over the winner.
However, he had a big weight on his back, and going up the Aintree run-in, he began to tire. In behind were Last Suspect and Corbiere, a previous winner of the race, both saw this as an opportunity to get up and involved in the race again. It was Last Suspect that responded better to this, moving forward under the urgings of Davies.
There was no doubting the horse and his desire here, regardless of what he had been called in the past. He was all heart, catching Mr Snugfit with every stride, and in the final 100 yards, went from being behind in second place to winning the race by one and a half lengths.
Last Suspect would return to Aintree a year later but was pulled up and then retired from racing.
He would provide Tim Forster with his third and final win in the Grand National, at the time of that win, he had three winners from just six runners. Later in his career, he had more runners but would not have another winner.
Having said that, he had more than his fair share of success and will be fondly remembered as a trainer who had an excellent strike rate in the race, with three winners from 14 runners.
Famous Horses Trained by Tim Forster
Here are some of the bigger names trained by Tim Forster during his career.
Well To Do