THE 1947 Grand National, staged on Saturday rather than the traditional Friday at Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s request “in the interests of British industry”, followed the most severe and prolonged ‘late winter’ in living memory.

Racing, and training, had come to a halt since mid-January. With the sole exception of the Leopardstown Chase, run amid banks of cleared snow in February, every Grand National trial had been snowed off. Perhaps inevitably, a record field of 57 horses, of very varied fitness and ability, faced the starter.

Deprived of income for more than two months, jockeys were glad to get any mount at the special Grand National riding fee. Aubrey Brabazon was an exception. He declined the mount on Irish outsider Caughoo, considering himself safer in the stands than on such an uncompromising conveyance. Instead he rode Luan Casca, the joint third favourite.

Prince Regent, now 12 and burdened with a massive 12st 7lb, had not run since scoring a bloodless victory over almost three miles of the Grand National course in early November. Nevertheless, Tom Dreaper’s champion was sent off favourite to do what he had gallantly failed to do when third under 12st 5lb the previous year.

Market favourite

Sent off at 3/1 on that occasion, Prince Regent headed the 1947 market at 8/1. After all, he now had an additional 23 rivals to overcome. Ireland also provided the second favourite, Revelry, ridden by Dan Moore, his de facto trainer. The bookmakers went 22/1 bar these two Irish raiders.

The field lined up, as space permitted, in rain and fog, which obscured the further reaches of the course. Unfortunately for followers of Revelry they could see their fate all too well, as he came down at the first, giving Dan Moore a crashing fall.

Aubrey Brabazon shared Moore’s fate at Becher’s on the first circuit.

When the survivors came back into view they were led past the packed enclosures by the Irish 33/1 shot Lough Conn (Danny McCann), with Prince Regent (Tim Hyde) and Silver Frame (Bobby Petre) among his prominent pursuers. Crossing Becher’s on the final circuit, Lough Conn was joined and quickly passed by his compatriot Caughoo (Eddie Dempsey).

Splendid isolation

As the ‘no-hoper’ galloped fence to fence in splendid isolation, an incredulous throng scrutinised racecards to identify the interloper. An exuberant last fence blunder briefly promised to make that search unnecessary. Happily, Eddie Dempsey quickly righted his mount, bringing Caughoo home 20 lengths ahead of Lough Conn, while Kami (Mr John Hislop) relegated the cruelly overburdened Prince Regent to fourth.

Vincent Orchard recorded his impressions for the Bloodstock Breeders’ Review. “In all, about a dozen of the 57 got round without falling, and none others completed the course. It was a great day for the Irish contingent, only a few of whom had, however, backed the winner. The winner was led in by Miss Mary McDowell, sister of the winning owner.

“Dempsey, the jockey, was smiling all over his face. He had always believed in Caughoo, and it was partly on his recommendation that he ran at Aintree instead of attempting a hat-trick in the Ulster Grand National. There were terrific celebrations when the winner and his party returned to Dublin. The McDowells provided a meal for 300 people.


“The only notable absentee was the groom’s wife. She, it transpired, had a baby while the race was being run!

“Caughoo is a dark brown horse, with no distinctive marks other than a prominent star. Measuring 15.3hh, he is well-proportioned, with plenty of power behind the saddle, good length from hip to hock, the hocks set low. He has a fine bloodlike head, a very bold eye and an engaging way of showing his teeth – rather like a dog when it smiles.”

The winner, by Within-The-Law out of Silverdale, was bred by Patrick Power of Loftus Hall, Fethard-On-Sea, in 1939 and bought at Ballsbridge as a two-year-old for 50gns by Herbert McDowell MRCVS, Wheatfield, Malahide, on behalf of his brother John, the well-known, prosperous Dublin jeweller.

Trained on the strand at Portmarnock by Herbie McDowell, Caughoo had an undistinguished flat career, but was unlucky not to win a Galway Hurdle. His forte was over fences, which had yielded successive Ulster Nationals. Orchard put those victories in context for English readers.

Some confidence

He wrote: “It is necessary to correct an impression, current in England but not in Ireland, that the Ulster Grand National is a race of no account. On the contrary, it is a very good race to win and, barring Punchestown, the course is one of the stiffest in the country. His owner and friends, convinced of this, went to Aintree with some confidence.

“Admittedly, Caughoo had no acquaintance with English fences, least of all Aintree fences, but he had jumped over water, had proved his versatility, and had completed a splendid training on the Portmarnock strands.”

An anonymous scribe in The Irish Horse emphasised the romance in Caughoo’s victory. “The story of the horse and his career, an entirely family one, should belong to a fairy tale for the young and unsceptical. The moral of it is that it pays to be bold. Only very bold men who preferred their own opinions to those of others would have brought Caughoo to run for the Grand National.

“Caughoo’s jockey was also in the family picture. Not only had be never ridden at Aintree before, he had never stepped foot in England until he stepped ashore from the channel steamer a day or two before the race. Yet no jockey could have ridden a better race.

Drop fence

“Caughoo had never met a ‘drop fence’ before he met one at Aintree, and he pitched and was nearly on his head at the first two or three. Thereafter he adapted himself like the great natural jumper he must be.

“Dempsey, who is a Co Meath man, was, before the race, not so well known at home as some of his contemporaries, even though he had been associated with Mr Dreaper’s strong stable, and had successfully gone round on Prince Regent on two occasions. He had always been regarded as a fine, sound horseman rather than as a fashionable jockey.”

That fairy tale theme was echoed in The Irish Field report. “Caughoo’s jockey, E Dempsey, deserves great credit. Dempsey, who had never ridden in England before, was head man to Tom Dreaper from 1941 to 1944, and he was the first jockey to win on Prince Regent over jumps. He rode several winners in point-to-point races before taking out a professional licence, and had not ridden a winner for three years prior to Saturday’s triumph.”