1984 saw the Grand National at Aintree being limited to forty contenders, which surprisingly resulted in a record number of horses finishing the course – twenty three in 1984. Winner of the 1984 race, Hallo Dandy, was sired by Menelek, out of Dandy Hall. He was sold to Jack Thompson at the Ballsbridge sales for £10,000 as an unbroken three year old, who immediately sent him to the very capable hands of Ginger McCain, the trainer of the legendary Red Rum.
Showing only moderate form over hurdles the trainer decided to send him to a Haydock novice handicap chase as a six year old, which he won. Following two more successful, albeit minor wins, he needed to be fired following leg trouble, and was transferred to the Greystoke yard of Gordon Richards.
In 1982 he finished third in a chase at Aintree’s Mildmay course, and Richards began to suspect that he may be a potential contender for the National. Unfortunately his owner’s wife had other ideas – she didn’t want her horse to be put through such a demanding race, so Thompson allowed Richards to sell the horse so long as he stayed at Greystoke and fetched £25,000.
Perhaps surprisingly a buyer was found in the form of Mr Shaw who had never in his life owned a horse before, but wanted him to be entered into the 1983 National. The run up to the National saw him win three out of his four races, but he still went off at just 60-1, due to the soft and therefore unfavourable ground conditions.
Ridden by Welshman Neale Doughty, Hallo Dandy put up an exceedingly good show for his first time in the National, tiring only at the penultimate fences, and finishing fourth. Mr Shaw and many others saw his huge potential and knew that given better ground conditions they could really be on to something in the next year’s National.
He won his first race of the season but was then beaten at Kelso and pulled up in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, and wasn’t raced again until the National weights came through. This caused massive controversy as Hallo Dandy, due to his disappointing post-National races, was raised only one pound in the handicapping, whereas last year’s winner and runner-up, Corbiere and Greasepaint were allotted an extra ten and nine pounds respectively.
At this point Hallo Dandy could still be bet on at 33-1, but his odds were shortened to 13-1 when he finished second in his prep-race at Ayr, and punters quickly realised that he was going to get the type of ground he favoured. A great leap at Becher’s saw Hallo Dandy move into a prominent position and by the twenty-sixth fence it was between him and Greasepaint for the lead, which he took at the second last, winning by four lengths, with Corbiere another one and a half lengths behind in third.
His victory gave Richards his second National win in six years. Hallo Dandy’s return the following year saw him placed with an extra ten pounds, a new jockey, Graham Bradley, and odds of 14-1 (seventh in the betting). He unseated Bradley at the first fence and his final attempt at the race in 1986 saw him reunited with Doughty, but they only managed twelfth out of seventeen finishers. On racing retirement he hunted for eight years before being put to grass.
In 1994 he was found to be in an woeful state and admitted to the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre where he was returned to fitness, living in comfort for a further twelve years before being put down in 2007 at the age of thirty-three.
Without Hallo Dandy’s publicized period of neglect, the plight of former racehorses would never have been highlighted and now for every race entered into a race, 50p goes to charity Retraining of Racehorses, while jockeys and trainers also contribute as part of their annual licence renewal.