Lucius

Winner of the 1978 Grand National Lucius was sired by Perhapsburg out of Matches, who had won twice over fences. Lucius was three years old and as yet unbroken when he was sold at the 1972 Doncaster sales for 1,800 guineas.

He was secured on behalf of Fiona Whitaker, the wife of a Scottish accountant, by trainer Gordon W. Richards, who saw huge potential in the bay gelding. He won two hurdle races in 1973-74, another four the following season and was then sent out over fences, which unfortunately didn’t start off looking all too promising.

After finishing in second and third place at chases in Newcastle, he fell during a novice chase at Kelso, but nothing would change Richard’s view of the horse, who despite the fall, was convinced that Lucius was a ‘Grand National type’.

He knew that the horse would improve with experience and he was proved right when he quickly went on to have two wins followed by two second placings, while in the 1976-77 season he won three out of his eight races.

Lucius had a hard campaign of nine races prior to the Grand National, of which he won three races. While this was good news it was actually his two narrow defeats just prior to the National that showed him to be the horse that he could be – the first was at Doncaster where he ran a very good race in the William Hill Yorkshire Chase, and the second was the Greenall Whitley Chase at Haydock where he was beaten by just three quarters of a length.

Having initially being in the betting at 40-1, these two race results brought up his odds to 14-1 by the day of the National. Originally it was intended that he be ridden by his regular jockey David Goulding for the race, but a minor racing injury excluded him from the proceedings, so at the last minute Richards secured Bob Davies, the former champion jockey.

Davies had never mounted the horse prior to the National and was given only one instruction: delay taking a lead for as long as possible. It wasn’t until the second Becher’s that Davies started making any kind of attempt to get to the front. Sebastian V, the Scottish Grand National winner was in the lead but on hitting the third last Lucius lost some of his momentum, which made him less in danger of taking the lead too soon.

At the last there were five horses in contention for the lead and Davies continued to hold out for as long as he could, only really pushing the ‘go faster’ button after the Elbow. He won by just a quarter of a length and a neck from Sebastian V, with Drumroan a neck back in third – only two and a half lengths divided the first five horses over the line.

His win in 1978 was made more even more pleasing by the fact that the run up to the race had been filled with the ever-constant talk of Red Rum, but his late withdrawal and retirement left the race a wide open affair. Lucius never won a race again, due to being burdened with the top weight, and a virus meant he couldn’t even enter the 1979 National. He retired the following season and hunted in Fife until he died in his sleep at the age of twenty-seven.