Corbiere won the Grand National in 1983, then came third two years in a row, fell in his fourth successive entry, before coming twelfth in his fifth and last appearance. This record put him alongside West Tip as one of the greatest horses of the Aintree racecourse of the 80s, following on from the great Red Rum.
His victory in 1983 was the first time in the races history that the winner had been trained by a woman, Jenny Pitman, who had been just fourteen months old when she was first put on a pony. Pitman went on to prove herself a prolific trainer and in 1997 became the only trainer other than Martin Pipe to win all of the big four Grand Nationals, when Mudahim won the Jameson Irish Grand National.
Corbiere was owned by the Burrough brewing family who named him after a lighthouse located near their home in the Channel Islands. Sired by the stallion Harwell out of Ballycashin, Corbiere was trained by Pitman from the age of three.
Pitman believed him to have great courage as he was the only horse to keep running in a hailstorm, and he proved himself worthy of an entry to the Grand National when he won a Nottingham bumper and quickly progressed over fences to win the Welsh National at Chepstow.
He was ridden by Ben de Haan for the National and was fifth in the betting at 13-1 behind 7-1 favourite Grittar, the previous year’s winner. He led the 41 strong field over the first fence, alongside Delmoss, who had already established himself with a reputation as a tearaway front-runner. The second circuit saw both horses headed by Hallo Dandy, placed 60-1 on the bettings, but from Valentine’s Corbiere saw him off, and he had a four length advantage over Greasepaint who was renowned for being a fast finisher.
Corbiere won the race, with Greasepaint only three quarters of a length behind, and Yer Man two lengths back in third. Raised ten pounds for the 1984 National, any punter who knew about form would have realised that Hallo Dandy who had finished well in fourth in 1983 on unfavourably soft ground would do well on his preferred ground, having only been raised one pound to a tiny ten stone two pounds.
He was well backed at 13-1, while Corbiere stood at 16-1. Corbiere managed to come home third, just behind Greasepaint, but Hallo Dandy was the winner by four lengths. The 1985 National saw Corbiere equally harshly treated in his handicapping with just four pounds less than the previous year, making him one of only two horses above eleven stone in a field of forty.
He jumped flawlessly under Peter Scudamore who had taken over from the injured De Haan, but his twenty-five pound disadvantage saw him finish in third. He fell at the fourth fence during his fourth attempt at the race and his fifth effort, as a twelve year old saw him finish twelfth. He retired following the 1987 National, but in over two decades since his victory Corbiere’s conquest has become more and more appreciated – given that no horse since has carried as much as eleven stone four pounds to victory in the race.