COLUMN: Looking Back with Pete Colman

Freebooter is paraded through Ripon city centre after his victory in the 1950 Grand National, led by Raph Milner.
Freebooter is paraded through Ripon city centre after his victory in the 1950 Grand National, led by Raph Milner.

Pete takes a look at Ripon’s very own Grand National winner, plus the horse that hated to be beaten.

In this year’s Grand National, Auroras Encore was the first Yorkshire -trained National winner since Merryman II in 1960.

The runners this year were brushing through the fences and knocking up to a foot off the top of them. How things have changed since Ripon had its own Grand National winner when the obstacles were harder. 1950 was the year Freebooter won, and he was trained by Bobby Renton at the stables at Oxclose which is at the end of Ripon Canal.

Lurline Brotherton was the owner and was one of the most successful owners at that time, having first teamed up with Bobby Renton in 1945. Freebooter had won two races in Ireland before coming to England.

Raph Milner collected Freebooter at Ripon railway station and was the only stable man to ever ride and groom him while at the stables.

Freebooter was a County Wexford bred horse, by Steel Point out of Proud Fury, hence the name Freebooter – a person who pillages and plunders ... a pirate. He certainly showed his steel-like character when winning the Grand National by a distance in front of a crowed of over 300,000.

He was a co-favourite with Roimond and started the race at 10/1 and became the first favourite to take the National since 1927, winning prize money of £9,339.

It was also the first National the King and Queen had attended since 1937.

Jimmy Power gave Freebooter a tremendously brave ride, even ploughing through the chair fence – he carried a weight of 11st 11lb. There were 49 runners with the first three home being trained in Yorkshire, second was Wot No Sun with Acthon Major being third. Only seven of the 49 starters finished the race, with Freebooters time being 9m 24s.

He was a nine-year-old when he won, with Lurline Brotherton paying 3,000 guineas for him five years before the Grand National win. The giant of a horse had won twice before at Aintree Racecourse, the Merseyside home of the National, in 1949 winning the Champion Chase and the Grand Sefton.

He went on to win twice more on the course and holds the post-war record for the most successes over the National fences.

In the 1951 National he was brought down at the second fence and in 1952 he fell at the 24th fence, the Canal Turn, when he was going very well.

Bobby Renton was to have seconds with Tudor Line and a fourth with Glorious Twelfth, before the days of Red Rum (the one that got away).

Freebooter came home to a hero’s welcome and was paraded through the streets of Ripon and around the market place to large crowds cheering on Ripon’s own Royal Grand National winner.

Another local character of the turf has to be Ubedizzy, the so-called Crazy Horse of racing.

He was trained by Steve Nesbitt who first trained at Dingle and later was to train at Newby Hall and at Middleham.

Ubedizzy was one of Steve’s best horses, and won the William Hill trophy at York in 1976 and was fourth in the Nunthorpe in 1977.

The horse was a real rogue and was well-known for biting anything that got close to him, even trying to bite his opponents in a close finish.

He ran blinkered in order to help him from biting any horse that challenged him. He would often bolt when going down to the start of the race, and end up delaying the start with his temper. I think Steve got Ubedizzy originally from trainer Harry Blackshaw’s mother.

Some of the jockeys who rode Ubedizzy were John Lowe, Tony Ives, Eddie Hide and Andy Crook. Andy was to lose part of his finger after Ubedizzy ran second to Boldboy in the Aberant Stakes at Newmarket. After the race he went berserk in the enclosure, and bit off part of Andy’s finger.

He was banned from ever running again in Britain and was sold for just 8,000 guineas to race in Sweden, where he had to wear a muzzle when he raced. He also became a champion sprinter while he was in Sweden.

He was banned at only fiveyears-old and probably could have gone on to be even better than he was at that time; he was one of the fastest over five or six furlongs. Hundreds of fans turned out to see Ubedizzy when he was sold, sadly not to buy him – just to see if he would kick off, which he did by kicking a brick wall.

Steve Nesbitt was well-known for his sprinters, winning the Great St Wilfrid in 1968 with Morgan’s Pride. The Steve Nesbitt Challenge Trophy Nursery Handicap is run at Ripon in his memory.

Yes, Ubedizzy was a talented sprinter but he was always difficult and his aggression became worse as his career went on.

But when the name Ubedizzy comes into the conversation it always brings back memories of those times, when he was the horse that didn’t like to be beaten.