The 1990 Grand National had the distinction of being the first to be run in under nine minutes – 8 minutes 47.8 seconds, to be precise – and, even after the overall race distance was shortened in 2013, remains the fastest in history. It was also the last renewal to be won by an amateur rider, 25-year-old Marcus Armytage, who partnered the 11-year-old Mr. Frisk to victory, by three-quarters of a length, over Durham Edition.
The winner was something of rarity, insofar as he was a steeplechaser who truly relished firm going; on rattling fast ground at Aintree – parched brown after the driest spring since 1910 – Mr. Frisk was in his element. Having finished a creditable fourth in the Kim Muir Memorial Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on his previous outing, Mr. Frisk was sent off co-sixth choice of the 38 runners at 16/1, behind favourite Brown Windsor at 7/1.
Mr. Frisk was always prominent and, after moving into second place heading out onto the second circuit , was left in the lead when Uncle Merlin, who’d made most of the running, blundered and unseated Hywel Davies at Becher’s Brook. Thereafter, he made the best of his way home and, although challenged by second favourite Durham Edition, ridden by Chris Grant, from the final fence, held on well on the famously long, 494-yard run-in to prevail in a driving finish. His winning time beat the previous course record – set by Red Rum after his epic duel with Crisp in 1973 – by 14 seconds.
Mr. Frisk returned to Aintree for the 1991 Grand National, but, on rain-softened ground, soon weakened and was tailed off when pulled up before Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. Nevertheless, he had already written his name, indelibly, into Grand National folklore and, with the National Course now routinely watered to provide going no faster than ‘good to soft’, his course record may never be beaten.