Rhyme N Reason – 1988 Grand National Winner

Like Maori Venture the year before, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason’s win in 1988 was his first and last appearance in the Grand National. Bred in Downpatrick, Co Down and sired by powerful French stallion Kemal out of the unraced half-sister of 1984 National winner Hallo Dandy, Smooth Lady.

He himself had a good start to his racing career winning two Irish bumpers before being bought as a four year old by Michael Dickinson on behalf of Miss Juliet E. Reed. His first season (1983-84) under Dickinson saw him achieve a hat-trick of wins in three mile novice hurdles. Dickinson then decided to move to both the Flat and the United States so Rhyme ‘N’ Reason started being trained by David Murray-Smith under whom he won four chases in his second season – one of them being the Irish Grand National when he was just six years old.

This win of course got everyone into a heightened state of excitement – Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was looking like he could be the next ‘wonder horse’ – but expectations quickly evaporated when he went through the next two seasons without a single win. He was now recognised as an unreliable jumper and sent to trainer David Elsworth, under whom he quickly seemed to regain his form. The run up to the 1988 Grand National saw him win four of eight chases, he finished runner-up in two and third in another.

All very promising for the National, especially considering his two runner up placings were in the Welsh Grand National where he was beaten by just a length, and at Sandown where he was just behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Charter Party and ahead of Desert Orchid.

However he completely messed up in his pre-Aintree run where he fell at the nineteenth fence, which of course denied him favouritism for the National. He was well-handicapped on eleven stone, but there was initial hesitation from Rhyme ‘N’ Reasons owner about letting him enter the National at all, following the death of Forgive ‘N Forget in the Gold Cup. Eventually she succumbed to the trainer’s requests, who was full of confidence in the horse, so much so that he backed the horse at twice the starting price.

Ridden by Irishman Brendan Powell, there were doubts yet again about the geldings jumping as he slithered on his belly when landing over Becher’s, but the jockey got him back under control, and with four runners being eliminated at the second Becher’s they moved into second place behind Little Polveir. Little Polveir unseated his rider at the twenty-sixth fence, leaving Rhyme ‘N’ Reason in the lead – but the National is never smooth sailing and after a bad stall at the second last, Durham Edition looked like he was going to win the race. Rhyme ‘N’ Reason however wasn’t about to give in so easily, he was after all known for his finishing speed, went on to win by four lengths.

Miss Reed was so excited in the winner’s enclosure that she lost all the contents of her handbag from jumping up and down so much! Unfortunately the near fall at Becher’s had resulted in a fractured hock – while he didn’t need to be put down he would never race again and went on to enjoy retirement at the Woodhaven Stud in Hampshire.