Owned and trained by F.H. Gilman, Grittar is credited with being the first hunter/chaser in modern times to win the National. He was a winner over hurdles and then moved on to hunter/chases ridden by Dick Saunders and his daughter. In 1981 he won the Cheltenham and Liverpool Foxhunters and Gilman decided he should be entered in the National the following year.
Amateur jockey Dick Saunders thought he should have a professional rider but Gilman had other ideas and said “if he runs then you ride” little knowing Saunders was set to become the oldest jockey to ever win the race.
Saddled with a massive 11st5lb due to his great form at the time, he ran as the 7/1 favourite. Saunders made a brave run known as the “Fred Winter” run, staying on the inside where the drops on landing are steeper than elsewhere. Grittar had a virtually trouble free run beating the other 7 finishers by 15 lengths.
Jockey Saunders retired immeadiately after the race and went on to become Chairman of the Aintree Stewards. Grittar had two more runs in the National, in 1983 when he finished 5th behind Corbiere and the following year ridden by John Francome he finished 10th to Hello Dandy.
Grittar died aged 25 in Leicestershire where he spent most of his life with his late owner and trainer Gilman. Dick Saunders paying tribute to the National winner said he was a “wonderful character and a great horse to place at those big Aintree fences”.