1836 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase

The 1836 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase was the first of three unofficial annual precursors of a steeplechase which later became known as the Grand National.

1836 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase
Grand Liverpool Steeplechase
Date29 February 1836
Winning horseThe Duke
Starting price3/1
JockeyCaptain Martin Becher
1837 →

The steeplechase was held at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England on 29 February 1836 and attracted a field of ten runners.

The winning horse was The Duke, ridden by Captain Martin Becher in the violet with white sleeves and cap colours of Mr Sirdefield, the landlord of the George Inn in Great Crosby and was trained privately.[1] The race was won in a time of 20 minutes 10 seconds, over twice the present course record.

The race was a selling race and its status as an official Grand National was revoked some time between 1862 and 1873.

Finishing order

Position Horse Jockey Age Weight Colours SP Distance
01 The Duke Captain Martin Becher 12-00 Lilac & White 3/1 1 length
02 Polyanthus Dick Christian 12-00 Yellow 5/1
03 Cockahoop Bartholomew Bretherton 12-00 Orange 9/1
04 Percy W. Tempest 12-00 Crimson & White 6/1


Fence Horse Jockey Age Weight Colours SP Fate
Table Top 2nd circuit {Where the Anchor Bridge Crossing is today} Laurie Todd Horatio Powell 12-00 Purple & Crimson 2/1 F Fell at a gate that had been nailed shut
First Brook, 2nd time (Modern day Becher's Brook) The Baronet E. Kershaw 12-00 Yellow & Black Stripe 6/1 Tailed off, Pulled up
First Brook, 2nd time Derry John Devine 12-00 Purple & Crimson 8/1 Tailed off, Pulled up
After one circuit Gulliver J. Denton 12-00 Yellow & Black Sleeves 8/1 Pulled up after one circuit
First Brook, 2nd time The Sweep Giles Patrick 12-00 Salmon 10/1 Tailed off, Pulled up
After one circuit Cowslip S. Martin 12-00 Straw 12/1 Pulled up


The race


The race was started at 2pm over a course almost identical to the modern Grand National course, although the fences were all no more than 2-foot (0.61 m) high earth banks with the exceptions of two brooks and a water jump in front of the stands.

Despite this at least three of the runners had to be put at the first fence for a second time after refusing. None of the ten riders are known to have been thrown from their mounts during the first circuit but 'Gulliver and Cowslip came back onto the racecourse some distance behind the other eight runners and in such a distressed state that their riders did not continue onto the second circuit.

Baronet, The Sweep and Derry were all tailed off or out of the race entirely by the time the leaders reached the first brook for the second time and did not complete the race.

The boundary of the racecourse proper and the outer fields of the course, known as the country, was marked by a laneway, today known as the Anchor Bridge Crossing. In 1836 the lane was raised from the fields either side of it, creating a natural bank, named the table top jump. Runners would jump up onto the lane and then down again out of it. Another path ran alongside the course before meeting the lane at a junction where the two were level, which was divided by a gate. However, prior to racing it was agreed that the gate would be nailed open, thus allowing competitors to use the path to avoid the banks on either side. After passing on the first circuit, a spectator, for reasons unknown, took exception to this route and freed the gate, closing it and the clear path through.

Horatio Powell, on board the favourite, Laurie Todd took this route on the first circuit and again on the second, not expecting the gate ahead to now be closed. The obstacle proved too high for Laurie Todd to jump and the horse became the first to fall in the race. Powell was quickly on his feet and making a bid to remount when another competitor, Most likely Bretherton aboard Cockahoop, knocked him back to the ground. While there appear to have been some whispers that this act was deliberate, the fact Powell made no objection after the race suggest he at least believed the collision to have been mere accident. Either way, Laurie Todd backer's had lost their money.

The chances of Cockahoop and Percy were fading by this stage as they were losing ground on the two leaders. By the time they came in sight of the stands, they were battling for third pace. Both were briefly offered hope as the two leaders, The Duke and Polyanthus both blundered at the final hurdle before going on to dispute the finish. The Duke prevailed by one length with Polyanthus finishing second.



The race largely failed to capture the public imagination and came in for scathing comments from some of the local press. By the time the first Grand National historians began emerging in the early 1860s this race, and the two which would follow in 1837 and 1838, had largely been forgotten by the passing of time and fading memories. As a result, when the first honours board was erected at Aintree in the early 1890s this race was totally omitted and remained forgotten for over a century before being rediscovered early in the 21st century. It is still regarded officially by Aintree as not being worthy of Grand National status and is instead regarded as the first of three unofficial precursors over the same course.


  1. ^ Vamplew, Wray & Kay, Joyce. (2004). Encyclopedia of British Horseracing. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-7146-5356-3
  2. ^ "1836".