The Grand National in 1997, postponed by 48 hours after Aintree Racecourse received two coded bomb threats from the Provisional IRA, will always be remembered as the ‘Monday National’. Unfortunately, probably less well remembered will be the winner, Lord Gyllene, a New Zealand-bred gelding owned by the late Sir Stanley Clarke and trained by Steve Brookshaw.
Sir Stanley Clarke, of course, acquired nine racecourses over the years, starting with Uttoxeter in 1988, and it was at the Staffordshire track that Lord Gyllene did most of his racing in Britain. Indeed, in his Grand National-winning season, he won three times at Uttoxeter, including the Singer & Friedlander National Trial Handicap Chase, over 4 mile 2 furlongs, in which – not for the first time – he jumped notably well.
Ridden in the National by 24-year-old Ulsterman Tony Dobbin, Lord Gyllene took the lead at the second fence and, again, put in an exemplary round of jumping. He did, however, come within a whisker of being carried out by a loose horse at the water jump at the end of the first circuit. Nevertheless, he kept up a relentless gallop and, by the fourth last fence – where his nearest pursuer, Suny Bay, blundered – he could already be called the winner.
Approaching the second last fence, Dobbin asked Lord Gyllene for maximum effort and his mount responded, opening up a clear lead, which he extended all the way to the winning post. At the line, he was 25 lengths ahead of Suny Bay, with 100/1 chance Camelot Knight in third, 2 lengths further back, and 40/1 chance Buckboard Bounce in fourth, another 1¾ lengths away.
Having won the National by the widest margin since Red Rum in 1977, Dobbin was quick to praise Lord Gyllene, saying, ‘He is such an athlete; he just measures up every jump and flies. I never [sic] looked round ‘til after the Elbow and the run-in, but I never saw a soul.’