Highland Wedding

Highland Wedding was the gelding who won the 1969 Grand National at Aintree in his third attempt at the race. His first attempt had been in 1967 he had finished eighth while his second endeavour the following year saw him come seventh. Bred by John Caldwell at Ayrshire, and sired from Question out of Princess, Highland Wedding was owned by American sportsman Thomas McCoy Jnr and Canadian Charles Burns. Unfortunately for Burns, he wore the Canadian colours in the two years when he lost the race and the American colours in the year of his victory.

Highland Wedding was trained by Toby Balding, who described Highland Wedding’s triumph at Aintree as the win he was most proud of due to him being ‘a total product of the system’. Balding had first seen him on television and bought him for a client from his friend and neighbour Peter Calver who had ridden him putting up a stone overweight. Balding connived to only race the horse when his new owner was unavailable to ride him!

After being sold on to McCoy and Burns, Highland Wedding’s potential for the National was first seen in February 1966 when he rode to victory at the Eider Chase at Newcastle by twenty lengths, under Owen McNally who was to become his regular rider. This win put him as third favourite for the National, and of the forty-seven runners he was in quite a strong position at the second Becher’s, but was soon outpaced. The same thing happened the following year when he had an extra stone to carry.

It is at this point that many would have given up on Highland Wedding, especially given that he was now twelve years of age. But surprisingly he set off as the 110-9 third favourite, probably due to the fact that punters recognised that he had experience over the course, not to mind form, had won his three previous races and was the only horse at the race to represent the Toby Balding stable, which had just won the Topham Trophy with Dozo. To top off these credentials he had had a third success at the Eider Chase, a four mile race, which proves any horse’s stamina, and he was back at the National carrying ten pounds less than the previous year.

Showing some restraint in the first circuit of the course, himself and rider Eddie Harty; who had stepped in to cover for McNally due to a fractured elbow; really went for it at the second Becher’s where they drew level with the leaders of the race. The course commentator said he was a faller but he never came anywhere close to falling, and was in the front at the Canal Turn. He was in the lead from then and kept on drawing steadily ahead, winning by twelve lengths from Steel Bridge. His win gave Harty, a former Olympic rider his seventh National ride and first National win. Following his victory he was sent to retirement in Canada.