Legends of the Turf: Manifesto

26th January 2013

Since it’s inception in 1837, the Grand National has seen multiple dual winners and one triple winner in the shape of legendary Red Rum. At the turn of the century, Manifesto was considered the greatest National runner, with two victories and three thirds from a record eight attempts. Like Red Rum, Manifesto served to restore the pride and prestige of the National after problems with corruption in previous years.

Foaled in 1888, Manifesto was a good looking son of the ferocious Man O’War (not to be confused with the 20th Century US legend) and bred by Harry Dyas. Although raw boned and given time to mature, Manifesto caught the eye early in his career. Although a faller on his debut in 1892, he quickly broke his maiden in a hurdle race and went on to win the Irish Champion Steeplechase at Leopardstown.  He later astounded handicappers by romping away with the 1894 Lancashire Chase.

Manifesto first attempted the Grand National in 1895, finishing a ‘bad’ fourth under 11st 2lbs, before colliding with Redhill and falling at the first fence the next year. For the 1897 renewal, Dyas employed trainer Willie McAuliffe to prepare Manifesto with Terry Kavanagh riding. Manifesto was weighted with 11st 3lbs and sent off the 6-1 favourite. After a false start, the field proceeded intact until the Canal Turn, with Manifesto racing in second. As his rivals succumbed one by one, Manifesto extended his advantage to twenty lengths for a very impressive win in a time of 9 minutes 49 seconds. Outsider Filbert gained second by a head with Ford Of Fyne third. Manifesto’s victory was very well received as he had been coupled with Lincolnshire Handicap winner Winkfield’s Pride in many ante-post bets.

Misfortune struck in the run up to the 1898 Grand National, as a stable boy left Manifesto’s stable door open a week before the race, allowing the horse to escape and injure himself jumping a gate.  In his absence the six year old Drogheda won by three lengths from Cathal.

Manifesto returned with vengeance in 1899, despite being burdened with 12st 7lbs, with his half sister Gentle Ida the next highest weight on 11st 7lbs.  The mare was favourite at 4-1 while Manifesto was 5-1. Also in the line up was the five year old Ambush II, winner of the Prince of Wales Steeplechase at Sandown and owned by the future King Edward VII.

The race itself was not without drama. Due to frosty ground, officials had spread hay on either side of some fences, including at the Canal Turn. Cruising along in mid-field, Manifest cleared the fence with aplomb but lost his footing on landing. Jockey George Williamson lost both stirrups and even touched the ground with his feet as Manifesto went down. Incredibly, the horse managed to recover from the mistake and re-gather his stride. Despite the near disaster, Manifesto was too good for the rest of the field after Gentle Ida also blundered and fell.  A victory by five lengths from Ford Of Fyne saw him equal the weight carrying record and delighted the crowd.

Manifesto’s Grand National triumphs massively boosted the races popularity but, unlike Red Rum, he never won the race again despite some sterling efforts in defeat. In 1900, he was burdened with 12st 13lbs, with the six year old Ambush carrying 24lb less. In the end, even Manifest couldn’t withstand the surge of the younger horse, eventually finishing third while being eased up. As a Royal winner, Ambush’s victory was immensely popular, but equally acclaimed was Manifesto’s heroic run under his great weight.

Both Ambush and Manifesto missed the 1901 Grand National with Grudon winning in their absence. A record crowd gathered to watch Manifesto’s return in the 1902 renewal, where the doughty 14 year old was burdened with 12st 8lbs. The huge weight and heavy ground, as well as his age, counted against him, but he still but up a magnificent performance to finish third behind Shannon Lass. Many observers considered this his finest effort in the race.

A year later, and the old warrior lined up at Aintree for the sixth time under 12st 3lbs, with Ambush finally carrying top weight of 12st 7lbs. Again Manifesto ran a tremendous race to hold off the eight-years younger Kirkland (winner in 1905) for third behind Drumcree. His effort was greeted with cheers from the crowd, who believed this would be the fifteen year old’s final run in the Grand National.

Incredibly, Manifesto lined up one last time in 1904 as a sixteen year old. Connections and observers fully expected this to be his swansong, so champion Flat jockey Mornington Cannon asked permission to ride the old horse in his final gallop. Under 12st 1lb, Manifesto was no match for the giant Moifaa, who had travelled all the way from New Zealand. Although he finished far behind the winner in eighth, the crowd gave him a reception fit for a champion.

Aintree legend Aintree legend

Manifesto bowed out with two wins, three seconds and a weight carrying record from eight assaults on the Grand National. Upon his death, his skeleton was donated to a veterinary college in Liverpool. The Grade 2 Manifesto Novices Chase over 2 miles 4 furlongs is run in his honour at the Aintree Festival.

Manifesto (1888) by Man O'War out of Vae Victus (King Victory)

Breeder: Harry Dyas

Owner: Harry Dyas, John Bulteel

Trainer: Willie McAuliffe, Willie Moore

Jockeys: Terry Kavanagh, George Williamson, Ernest Piggott

Grand National record: 4th, fell, 1st, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 8th

By Alice Kay