Merryman II

Merryman II, on winning the 1960 Grand National, became not only the first Scottish horse to win the race, but also the first horse to be captured winning the event on television! Indeed Merryman II’s victorious tale is definitely a fate-filled one, especially when you consider that although the clear favourite for the race at 13-2 (the first favourite in thirty-three years), he was brought to victory by the twenty-two year old jockey, Gerry Scott who was strapped from neck to waist in bandages following the breaking of his collarbone just twelve days prior to the race!

Merryman II gave trainer Neville Trump his third National win, and it was only due to an impulse buy on behalf of the Marquess of Linlithgow, a former Viceroy of India, that Merryman II ever came to race at all.

Having retired to an estate in Midlothian, the Marquess decided out of the blue over breakfast one morning that he would quite like to get involved in horse racing and while he lacked the finances to breed a Derby winner, it would give him the ‘greatest satisfaction’ to breed a Grand National winner. His daughter Lady Joan Hope, even though surprised at his new dream, helped him to make it a reality. A friend gifted them with a half-bred mare named Maid Marion and Lady Joan had her covered by Carnival Boy, a stallion owned by the Duke of Northumberland, and the offspring that resulted was Merryman II.

Sadly the Marquess never achieved his aim, not in his lifetime anyway – he died in 1952, ever before Merryman II had run. Lady Joan moved abroad and Merryman II was left with her brother who sold him to Miss Winifred Wallace of Edinburgh, who had previously owned his half-brother Robin Hood. She used the horse to hunt, rode him in three point-to-points and then in April 1958 entered him in his first National Hunt race under Rules, the Buccleuch Hunters’ Chase at Kelso which he won by twenty lengths.

When Neville Crump saw him run well in a hunter chase at Leicester the following February he convinced Miss Wallace to send him to his stable in Yorkshire. She relented and he won his first race the Foxhunters Chase at Aintree in the March, followed by the Scottish National the following month. His next four races, although unsuccessful in terms of wins, showed the horse to be in solid form, and having already proved himself at Aintree, was made favourite of the twenty-six runners to race in the Grand National.

His only real challenge was to be in the way of Wyndburgh who was runner-up by just one and half lengths the previous year, but was now nine pounds raised in the weights. Wyndburgh fell at Bechers, which also took down Mr What, the 1958 winner, so Merryman II, his only mistake having been a small error at the seventh, went on to win by fifteen lengths from Badanloch, having jumped brilliantly and gained lengths at every fence.

Merryman II was the last triumphant horse in the Aintree course with its intimidating upright fences, before they were made less daunting by the introduction of a sloping apron on the take-off side. He entered the race twice more before his retirement, in 1961 where he had an extra stone to carry, but still placed second and again in 1962 where he was (harshly) the top weight of the thirty-two contenders, where he finished thirteenth – not the most impressive finish but he maintained his jumping record over the Aintree fences. He died in 1966.