Thomas ‘Tommy’ Pickernell, or ‘Mr. Thomas’ as he was listed on racecards of the day, rode in the Grand National seventeen times between 1859 and 1877 and won three times, on Anatis in 1860, The Lamb in 1871 and Pathfinder in 1875. He was inducted into the Aintree Hall of Fame in 2012.
On the first occasion, in 1860, Captain Thomas Townley, jockey of the eventual second The Huntsman, reportedly offered Pickernell a bribe of £1,000 – more than the £720 winning prize money – on the run-in to throw the race. Pickernell declined and, despite what ‘The Sporting Chronicle’ described as a ‘tireless effort’ by Townley, coaxed Anatis home to win by half a length.
In 1871, Pickernell was booked for The Lamb after owner, Lord Poulett, foresaw his horse winning the National, under Pickernell, in a dream the previous December. Poulett wrote to Pickernell, swearing him to secrecy. At Aintree, The Lamb jumped well, close to the head of affairs, until taking the lead crossing the Melling Road for the final time and quickening away in the closing stages to win, cleverly, by two lengths.
In one, slightly dubious, account of the 1875 National, Pickernell lined up on Pathfinder so worse for drink they he did not know which way to face. On heavy going, Pathfinder started to struggle on the ploughed section immediately after Becher’s Brook on the second circuit but, unwilling, or unable, to pull up, Pickernell persevered. Remarkably, Pathfinder rallied, making relentless headway from the turn for home, disputing the lead at the second-last fence and wearing down the leader, Dainty, close home to win by half a length.