Did Richard Pitman ever win the Grand National?

Richard Pitman was, of course, the first husband of Jenny Pitman who, in 1983 – six years after their divorce – became the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National. Between 1972 and 1975, Pitman was stable jockey to Fred Winter and, in that capacity, won several notable races, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Pendil in 1972 and 1973 and the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Lanzarote in 1974.

Pitman never won the Grand National yet, for all his success elsewhere – he rode a total of 427 winners – he will probably always be best remembered for coming off second best in one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the world famous steeplechase. In fact, he once said, ‘I’m quite embarrassed that people still want to talk about it, all these years later.’

On March 31, 1973, Pitman lined up for the Grand National aboard the Australian-bred Crisp, affectionately known as the ‘Black Kangaroo’, who was sent off 9/1 joint favourite, alongside an up-and-coming Red Rum. Crisp jumped boldly at the head of affairs for most of the way and, at one point, was 25 or 30 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer. He was still 15 lengths ahead jumping the final fence but, shortly afterwards, Pitman committed what he described as ‘a basic error’. As he picked up his whip, right-handed, his rapidly tiring mount fell away to the left and, agonisingly, was caught and passed by Red Rum, who was receiving 23lb, two strides from the winning post.