Specify

Specify won the 1971 Grand National which was one of the most competitive finishes the race had ever had – five horses jumped the last fence at the same time. Specify, being ridden by John Cook took his victory at the line, by just a neck from Black Secret.

Bred in Norwich by Alan Parker, and sired by Specific out of Ora Lamae, Specify was bought for £300 by Arthur Freeman, a former royal jockey, who had previously won the National on Mr What. After an unremarkable first season over hurdles, Freeman sold him on to what the start of a long list of owners and trainers.

At the age of four there was a significant improvement in the brown gelding, and he won three successive events, but things went somewhat backwards when at the age of six he broke a bone in his head when he fell during the Schweppes Gold Trophy Hurdle.

He came back to prove himself, and after winning a chase at Windsor was sold on for £12,000 in 1970 to F.W. Pontin of the legendary Pontin’s holiday camps. He wanted Specify to enter the National and did so, but was brought down at the second Bechers. After being sent to trainer John Sutcliffe, Specify returned for the 1971 National, and was fourteenth in the betting at 28-1.

Things were looking hopeful for the owner, trainer and jockey who were hoping for a double, having won the Schweppes Gold Trophy just two months earlier with Cala Mesquida. There were many fallers in the early stages of the race, including favourite Gay Trip who had won the race the previous year, who fell at the first fence.

Specify was well placed behind the tearaway leaders and managed to hold his position as more continued to fall by the wayside. The tension at the last fence was almost unbearable as the group of five horses, of which Specify was the last, being so close to each-other – it was practically in unison that they jumped.

It was extremely difficult at this stage to determine who would be the winner, so close was it. Specify timed the last fifty yards to perfection, coming home a winner by a neck. Specify had entered the 1971 National with a fairly unimpressive previous form from the year before and it was the same way that he went on to enter the 1972 race.

This time he lacked the presence of Cook, who unfortunately had had to end his riding career after a serious leg-breaking fall. This time it was Barry Broghan was took the saddle, and they took to the course two pounds lighter in the weights than the previous year, eleventh in the betting at 22-1.

He started the race in a strong position and remained in contention until the second Becher’s, but only managed to come sixth out of nine finishers – the torrential rain having played havoc with many of the competitors, with Black Secret, who he had barely beaten the previous year, ahead of him in third place. Specify never went on to win another race.