It wasn’t until Little Polveir’s fourth attempt at the Grand National, when he was twelve years old, that he won it in 1989. He had come ninth in 1986 and unseated his rider in the two years preceding his victory.
Bred in Co. Antrim by Cantab (who had won the Triumph Hurdle) out of Blue Speedwell, Little Polveir was named after a salmon fishing pond in Scotland. He was bought without having being raced, by trainer John Edwards on behalf of Mark Shone and entered his first race over fences in 1983 – at 40-1 in a three mile novice chase which he won by twenty lengths. However following that impressive debut he went on to demonstrate careless jumping, which meant he only managed to win one race over fences in each of his first five seasons up to 1987. The last of these races was a turning point – he won by ten lengths over four miles on heavy ground in the Scottish Grand National.
While his first two entries into the Grand National saw him give less than impressive performances, he actually did quite well in the 1988 race, at the age of eleven, where he was in the lead until the twenty-sixth where he took off too soon, landing on the fence, giving the lead to the eventual winner Rhyme ‘N’ Reason.
After finishing third in a chase at Bangor in February 1989, Little Polveir was bought by trainer Toby Balding on behalf of a Mr Harvey, who was buying a horse for his son. Sold for the price of 15,000 guineas, the exchange of trainer was slightly ironic given that Edwards had started out as Balding’s assistant.
Edwards had three runners in the 1986 National, and 1989 saw him enter six runners including Little Polveir. While he had no choice but to give up the twelve year old, his chances of winning were actually looking quite high – in his hands he had Dixton House, the 7-1 clear favourite as well as Bob Tisdall who was being ridden by John White, a jockey that had completed in all of his five previous National attempts.
Unfortunately for Edwards Dixton House fell over the first Becher’s and Bob Tisdall usurped White’s unblemished record – he had a false start, which he followed by missing the break at the re-start before clearing only one fence and then refusing to go any further.
Little Polveir on the other hand was demonstrating impeccable jumping, and with Jimmy Frost in command of the reigns they started the second circuit in the lead. Smart Tar and Durham Edition both challenged, but ultimately Smart Tar gave Little Polveir the race on a stick, when he unseated Carl Llewellyn from the saddle, becoming the loose horse who then carried Durham Edition towards the rails leaving Little Polveir to win by seven lengths from West Tip. The Thinker was a half a length behind in third.
While there was probably no consoling Edwards, at least his previous owner Mr Shone had had the foresight to back his old horse at ante-post odds of 40-1.