For four miles, Dick and the gallant ESB had soared over Aintree's 30 fences; now, as they cleared the last but a few hoofbeats behind Devon Loch, Francis accelerated away from them in search of his place in Grand National legend. Even 46 years on, what happened next remains one of sport's greatest mysteries; 50 yards from the line and with the entire nation cheering a Royal victory, Devon Loch pricked up his ears, appeared to jump a phantom obstacle, and belly-flopped to the turf with his four legs splayed out like Bambi on ice. Though Dick Francis would become the Queen Mum's favourite author, she retained a soft spot for laugh-a-minute Dave Dick, who never failed to make her chortle with his stream of roguish one-liners.
Fifty years ago, as Devon Loch inexplicably crashed to the ground 10 strides from victory to provide the most mysterious and sensational of all the stories produced by the Grand National, a teenage boy was living his own fairy tale. As Dick Francis and the Queen Mother's horse slithered on his belly into legend, the horse who should have finished seventh, Martinique, was just coming to the elbow to realise a dream for his year-old jockey, who was completing the course on his first ride in the race. When I went past I didn't dwell on it or look, as far as I was concerned it was just another faller.
As a National Hunt jockey, Francis had ridden in 2, races and ridden winners. Francis and Devon Loch had just jumped the last fence, well clear of the rest of the field and set to break the previous record time, when suddenly, 30 yards from the winning post, with the race commentators screaming "Francis wins! The cause of his collapse provoked intense speculation and spawned theories that would not have been out of place in a Dick Francis thriller.
Remember Me Forgot your password? Forums Blogs Articles Groups. Stallion Spotlight. Real Estate Spotlight.
It looked as though nothing could come between him and his fi st Grand National win on a horse owned by the Queen Mother to boot. But then his mount did something that has mystified racing fans ever since: he suddenly jumped into the air and landed on his stomach, allowing E S B — the second placed horse — to overtake and win. It was a crushing disappointment but it turned out to have a rather large silver lining, according to his son Felix.
It was 32 minutes and 11 seconds past 3 o'clock in the afternoon, give or take a few fractions of a second. A big brown gelding named Devon Loch, running easily, took the lead at the third from the last fence at Aintree, pulled away steadily from a hard-toiling horse in second place and led on the flat toward the finish line by six lengths or more. No one was remotely threatening.
Dick Francisone of the rare breed of celebrated sportsmen known better for a single failure than a multitude of successes, has died aged Later to become a journalist and best-selling author, Francis's talents as a writer would never have been uncovered but for one of the most astonishing and memorable defeats in sport when Devon Loch collapsed within sight of the winning post in the Grand National. An enthusiastic crowd thought they were about to witness the first royal victory in the world-famous race for more than 50 years when the nine-year-old, owned by the Queen Mother, took up the running three fences from home.
The only Francis novel I had read at that point had been enjoyable. The main character was a world-weary jockey coming to the end of his career, being pressured to fix races, and, despite threats, unwilling to do so. The hero was beaten up at least once, and his pain was described in a way that made me wince.
Sign in. Dick Francis learned to ride when he was five, on a donkey. His older brother offered him sixpence if he could jump the fence sitting backwards on the donkey.
Devon Loch was not favorite on that day because two past winners and a future winner were in the race but never the less the horse was fancied by his connections having showed his ability by wining twice that year and also running up a good third at Cheltenham that season. All looked good for his crack at the title. His progress was helped when two of the market leaders fell at the first both Must the favourite and also Early mist a previous winner this was to leave M'as-tu-vu in the lead and Devon was going well in mid division. The horse had no problem with the obstacles and only had one problem on the fist circuit when a horse fell in front of him and he had to swerve to miss it, he did this in great style and went on to complete the first circuit by jumping ' The Chair ' the biggest fence in the race easily, and then cleared the water to go back to the start for another circuit.