Few horses can claim to have jumped the Aintree Grand National fences as much as stalwart The Pilgarlic who, in the late seventies gave many a horse a run for his money. He started in the Topham Chase in 1976 where he finished second and from there on in was headed to the Grand National.
Usually a horse who enters and places that many successive years would at least be memorable but unfortunately for the Pilgarlic he was also running at the same time as the legendary Red Rum and after that he didn't have a shot at being remembered.
He entered and finished fourth in 1977, fifth in 1978, fourth again in 1979, his best finish at third in 1980 when he went off at 33/1. Remembered for being a dour stayer but with only one gear, he showed tremendous courage and stamina, but no speed. Still, he wouldn't have been the first horse with those characteristics to win the National but it was not to be.
In the 1980 Grand National on March 29th 1980, there was only four finishers. It was won by Ben Nevis, ridden by the American amateur rider Charlie Fenwick. Second was Rough and Tumble ridden by John Francome, third was The Pilgarlic and fourth was Stuart Royal.
In fact the use of the term ‘The Pilgarlic' is now used as a nickname in reference to competition entrants that always place but never win – kind of a ‘Always the bridesmaid never the bride' situation.