Potted history of the Scottish Grand National

Features | 14th April 2021

Find out more about the historic and prestigious Scottish Grand National; from its humble beginnings to famous winners including a certain Red Rum.

The Coral Scottish Grand National is one of the most historic prizes in the British jumps racing calendar.

First run in 1858 and originally known as the West of Scotland Grand National, it was held at a track in Renfrewshire about a dozen miles west of Glasgow.

To call it a track is probably stretching it a little as the 32 jumps consisted mainly of stone walls and it wasn’t until objections from the leader of the local church that the race, worth £100 in prizemoney to the winner, moved to Bogside in 1867.

Once established at its new home on the west coast of Scotland roughly 12 miles north of its current location at Ayr, the race’s name was changed to its present title in 1880. After originally being held over distances around three miles, the race was extended to what it is now – just short of four miles.

Still in its formative years, only two runners lined up in 1891 and both of them departed at the second fence meaning no winner could be declared. A far cry from the 23‐strong field when the race, won by Takingrisks, was last run two years ago.

The Scottish Grand National remained at Bogside until the track closed in 1965. It had hosted some great races and saw three tiple winners of the marathon prize in Couvrefeu II (1911, 1912, 1913), Southern Hero (1934, 1936, 1939) and Queen’s Taste (1953, 1954, 1956).

Merryman II won the race in 1959 before going on to land the Grand National the following year and the 1964 winner Popham Down was to become even more famous, or, perhaps more accurately, infamous, at Aintree.

It was the Fulke Walwyn‐trained chaser who, running loose after unseating jockey Macer Gifford at the first fence, caused the bedlam that saw 100‐1 outsider Foinavon skip past the melee to win the 1967 National.

By then Bogside had closed and the Scottish version had been moved to nearby Ayr. It continued to attract some of jump racing’s best staying chasers.

In 1974 one of the very best, Red Rum, graced the race. Fresh from the second of his three Grand National successes, Ginger McCain’s star became the first horse to follow Aintree glory with victory in the Scottish equivalent. He remains the only horse to have done the double in the same season.

The Scottish Grand National has served as a successful nursery for future Aintree winners with 1987 hero Little Polveir and 1994 winner Earth Summit both going on to land the great race.

There have been a number of dual winners since the Scottish National moved to Ayr. Barona, successful in 1975 and 1976, was trained by Roddy Armytage, whose amateur jockey son Marcus was to win the Grand National on Mr Frisk 14 years later.

Merigo also won the race twice, in 2010 and 2012. He was a most popular winner with the Scottish crowd as he was trained by Andrew Parker not far from Gretna Green in Dumfries and Galloway.

In 2016, Vicente gave Paul Nicholls his second Scottish National winner fully 19 years after Belmont King, under a youthful AP McCoy, had given him his first.

The following year Vicente retained the trophy to become the ninth multiple winner in the race’s history.

The top jockeys and trainers will again be attracted to Ayr this year for the popular two‐day meeting.If past glories are anything to go by, it will be well worth watching.