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Remembering Manifesto on Grand National Thursday

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the first of two victories in the Grand National by the extraordinary Manifesto.

Red Rum is universally regarded as the greatest Aintree performer of all time thanks to his three victories in the 1970s, but the remarkable feats of Manifesto also make the Irish-bred performer a horse of very rare ability.

Straddling the reigns of Queen Victoria and Edward VII, between 1895 and 1904, Manifesto ran a record eight times in the Grand National at Aintree. These appearances yielded two victories and four places. When he jumped round safely at the age of 16 in 1904 to come home last of the eight finishers, the ovation he received was twice that given to the winner.

Manifesto was bred near Navan in Co Meath, Ireland, by one of the shrewdest of the Irish horsetraders of the era, Harry Dyas. His sire was Man Of War and his dam Vae Victis.

He was brought along steadily and lightly raced in 1992, 1993 and 1994.

In 1895, at the age of seven, Manifesto made his first acquaintance with Aintree and gave a foretaste of the future by jumping round cleanly to finish fourth to Wild Man From Borneo. The following year saw Manifesto fail to complete the course at Aintree for the only time in his career, when he collided with Redhill at the first fence and came down.

Partnered by Terry Kavanagh in 1897, racing against 27 rivals and carrying 11st 3lb, Manifesto started 6/1 favourite and gave his supporters little to worry about as he strode to victory by 20 lengths from Filbert.

In early 1998, Manifesto was sold by Dyas to London stockbroker John Bulteel for £4,000 – a considerable sum at the time. Bulteel moved his new purchase to the care of Willie Moore at Weyhill in Hampshire, but a freak accident ruled him out of the National, for which he was red-hot ante-post favourite. A careless stable lad left his box door open; the horse escaped and injured a leg jumping a gate. The horrified lad dropped his tools and fled.

Manifesto carried 12st 7lb in the 1899 National and started at 5/1, just a point behind 4/1 favourite Gentle Ida, who was representing his former owner Harry Dyas. Gentle Ida fell at the first Valentine’s and before that Manifesto had come within a whisker of disaster himself. Hay had been spread on the take-off and landing sides of some fences as a protection against frost and, most culpably, had not been cleared from the far side of the Canal Turn. Manifesto leapt the obstacle with his usual aplomb but landed on the hay and in jockey George Williamson’s words, it was only Manifesto’s ability’s to find a “fifth leg” that saved him.

Manifesto took up the running three from home and came in, to a frenzied reception, five lengths ahead of Ford Of Fyne. Bulteel rewarded Williamson with a present of £2,800, over and above his riding fee of £100. Only three other horses have carried 12st 7lb to victory in the National – Cloister (1893), Jerry M (1912) and Poethlyn (1919).

Manifesto’s third place in 1900, under the burden of 12st 13lb, was arguably the best weight-carrying performance in Grand National history. It was the highest weight carried by a placed horse in any Grand National.

The great horse led over the second last but failed by four lengths to concede 24lb to the Royal runner Ambush II and was only run out of second place by a neck when Williamson eased him close home.

Manifesto picked up two more thirds, beaten six lengths at the age of 14 and much further at 15, before his gallant swansong as a 16-year behind Moifaa in 1904.

That final year, the famous Flat jockey Mornington Cannon was at Aintree and asked, and was allowed, to sit on the equally famous steeplechaser in his racecourse exercise. Partnered in the race by Ernest Piggott, grandfather of Lester Piggott, Manifesto put up an exemplary round of jumping as he came home last of the eight finishers behind Moifaa.

After his Grand National swansong, Manifesto made one final appearance, appropriately at Aintree, when he come last of the four finishers in the Valentine Chase on November 11, 1904.

The great horse maintains a connection with Liverpool, with his skeleton held at the University of Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum.

Manifesto’s rich legacy is remembered at Aintree Racecourse by the G1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase, which takes place on Grand National Thursday and will be run for the 10th time in 2018.

First staged in 2009, the Manifesto Novices’ Chase takes place over two and a half miles and boasts an outstanding roll of honour. Initially a G2 race, the Manifesto Novices’ Chase was upgraded to G1 level ahead of the 2012 renewal.

The best winners of the race include Uxizandre (2014), who went on to the land the G1 Ryaniar Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the following season and multiple G2-winning chaser Menorah (2012).

From 1977 onwards, when the Randox Health Grand National Festival became an all-Jump meeting, Grand National Thursday – the first day of the three-day festival – has developed an outstanding programme of racing action, a true Day for Champions.

It is only one of three racedays during the entire British Jump season to offer four Grade One (G1) contests.

Uniquely, Grand National Thursday is the only day of the year with two open G1 races and two G1 contests for novices.

The G1 chase action on Grand National Thursday is headlined by the Betway Bowl, staged over three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay Course.

The fabulous roll of honours boasts the names of some of the very best chasers of the modern era with Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, See More Business, Florida Pearl, Siliviniaco Conti and Cue Card all having been successful.

Lizzie Kelly created history in 2017 when becoming the first female jockey to win the Betway Bowl aboard Tea For Two.

The G1 Betway Aintree Hurdle moved to Grand National Thursday in 2013, having previously been on Grand National Day. The race is the only British G1 open hurdle run over the distance of two and a half miles.

First staged in 1975, it has proved to be the perfect follow-up for horses who have won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

In 2017, Buveur D’Air joined great performers Annie Power, Jezki, Istabraq, Morley Street, Beech Road, Dawn Run, Gaye Brief, Monksfield, Night Nurse and Comedy Of Errors by winning both the Champion Hurdle and the Betway Aintree Hurdle.

Often regarded as the greatest hurdle race of all-time, the 1977 renewal of the Betway Aintree Hurdle saw a dead-heat between Monksfield and Night Nurse, both dual winners of the Champion Hurdle.

The G1 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle over two miles and a furlong is the natural next target for horses who competed in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Last season Defi Du Seuil followed in the footsteps of Pollardstown, Detroit City, Katchit and Zarkandar by winning both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle.

Racegoers also get an opportunity to see racing over the Grand National fences for the first time at the meeting, with the two mile, five furlong Randox Health Fox Hunters’ Chase taking place on Grand National Thursday.

Restricted to horses who have run in point-to-points and hunter chases and ridden by amateur riders, the Randox Health Fox Hunters’ Chase is a good race for multiple winners, with Katarino (2005 & 2006) and On The Fringe (2015 & 2016) both having scored twice since the turn of the century.

Ultra-competitive handicap action comes courtesy of the two-mile G3 Betway Red Rum Handicap Chase which commemorates the three-time Grand National winner Red Rum.

Stars of the future can be found in the concluding race, the G2 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Bumper, which is the richest mares’ bumper run in the UK. Its title derives from the last mare to win the Grand National, the 1951 heroine Nickel Coin.

First staged as a Listed contest in 2013, the Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Bumper has rapidly established its place in the expanding British programme for mares and was upgraded to G2 status in 2016.

To sum up, Grand National Thursday is a day to savour, with racing of the highest class, led by four G1 contests plus a G2 race, a G3 event and the Randox Health Fox Hunters’ Chase over the Grand National course. And of course, it remembers Manifesto – one of the greatest horses to ever run at Aintree.

The evolving success of Grand National Thursday – A Day for Champions – is demonstrated by its growing popularity. During the 1980s, the attendance was below the 10,000 mark but has risen substantially, with the crowd figure now around 35,000.

Grand National Thursday on April 12, 2018 includes a Champions of Merseyside dimension, with a number of sporting champions involved in celebrating the best of Merseyside sport at all levels and all ages. There will also be a military theme, with Aintree helping the RAF celebrate their Centenary Year in style.

Aintree’s Preview Night returns on Wednesday, April 11 and features 2015 Grand National winning trainer, Oliver Sherwood, the most successful female jockey in the Grand National, Katie Walsh, and two other racing giants to be announced.