The 1947 Grand National was one of the dramatic Grand Nationals in living memory.
A massive field of fifty-seven runners took their place, making it the largest field since 1929. The race was won by 100/1 Irish outsider, Caughoo. The eight-year-old was ridden by 35-year-old jockey Eddie Dempsey and trained by Herbert McDowell. Caughoo had been purchased for 50 pounds, and showed little early promise. He was unplaced in his early runs on the flat. His jockey at the time was the wonderfully titled, Morney Wing.
Mr. Wing suggested, rather unkindly, that the best possible course of action would be to shoot the horse! Thankfully the owner did not take the advice of his jockey, or the legend of Caughoo would have been over before it started!
Herbert decided to persist with the horse, and he was schooled over fences. Hopes were not high that the diminutive Caughoo, would be able to forge out a career over the obstacles. He showed a glimmer of jumping ability, and finished third in the Galway Hurdle. In 1945, he won the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick and suddenly Caughoo was in demand.
Herbert decided to keep the horse in the family, and sold him to his brother, Jack. Jack Herbert played rugby at the Suttonians club, and he adopted their colours as his racing colours, royal blue, green and white.
The year of 1947 was famous for its inclement weather, with a healthy covering of snow on the ground. Training conditions were less than ideal for a number of months.
The McDowells owned a famous jewellers in O’Connell Street in Dublin, called ‘The Happy Ring’. Herbert McDonnell raced the horse on the beach between Portmarnock and Malahide. The training regime ensured Caughoo would arrive at the famous Liverpool venue, in tip- top condition. There was no doubting he would be requiring all those reserves of fitness. The Aintree field boasted the cream of the National Hunt crop.