Nick Gaselee reflects fondly on the 1992 Grand National win of Party Politics, the chaser he called 'big horse'
James Stevens interviews former trainer Nick Gaselee 25 years after the Grand National success of Party Politics
It was 1992, the country was anticipating one of the closest general elections in history, while in his humble Lambourn home Nick Gaselee was preparing for the biggest race of his life, the Grand National.
The season hadn’t been a great one for the trainer, and he travelled to the Merseyside track without much realistic hope. His chance was Party Politics, unfancied by every tipster in the land.
“He’d been fourth in the Greenall’s Gold Cup so we thought the National would be within his capabilities,” says Gaselee.
The National field was as strong as ever: Cool Ground aimed to follow up his shock Gold Cup win whilst Docklands Express started as the 15/2 favourite after finishing third.
“We stayed the night before in a place up near Haydock,” adds the Lambourn handler.
“I think I had a runner earlier on in the day, and it did nothing. Our runners weren’t really in form at that time, I don’t think I’d had a winner that year! It wasn’t as if one was going into the National with all guns blazing.
“I was nervous. I’d get nervous even if I had a runner in a seller at Plumpton! We weren’t sure what to think, it was his first time over the National fences and we didn’t know how he would get on. He actually took to them very well!”
Once-a-year punters latched onto the topical name of the horse, and he was as low as 14/1 before the race began.
“You never quite believe these things are going to happen do you,” added Gaselee.
“It was election year, and these things tend to happen. With the election and the National, you just don’t believe that both those things are going to happen do you? “The owner, David Stoddard, and I backed him up to the National so we thought he had a chance. But the National is always a lottery, even these days.”
On board was Carl Llewellyn, the Welsh jockey who was beginning to make a name for himself after landing a second winner at the Cheltenham Festival the following month.“He was ridden up to that day by a boy named Andrew Adams, who unfortunately broke his wrist at Doncaster,” adds the Berkshire man.
“He used to ride him in all his races. He used to have a wonderful pair of hands, he would sit very quiet on him. But I remember Carl came to school him, because of the injury and the first time he jumped very badly, and Carl kept asking him. It suddenly dawned on us that Andrew just sat so quiet on him, and Carl did that too.”
The eight-year-old held a steady place throughout the race, whilst his colossus size helped him rise highest above the Aintree fences.
“We took the view to go down the middle of the fences. I always think there’s less trouble there, and let Carl ride his own race on him,” Gaselee adds.
“Party Politics for a big horse is incredibly nimble, and when Brown Windsor came down at Becher’s he just sidestepped him. A lot of horses would’ve gone straight over him, it’s remarkable considering how big he was.”
As they approached the final circuit Party Politics started to creep into contention, and just like the Major vs Kinnock result that was set to shake up British politics, he was preparing for a shock result himself.
“When he jumped the Canal Turn I remember thinking to myself ‘he’s got a very serious chance’,” Gaselee says.
“When he turned the corner I still couldn’t quite believe it. It was magical, it was a truly amazing moment."
Llewellyn and Politics eased ahead of Romany King as they turned the final corner and by the penultimate fence the purple and pink colours of David Stoddart had pressed onto a convincing lead.
Romany King, ridden by Richard Guest, shortened the gap but the huge Party Politics would not be denied. Just five days later John Major and the Conservatives won the General Election.
“The horse stayed up at Liverpool that night, and came back the following morning,” said Gaselee.
“All of the village and everyone came up to the yard. I wanted everyone to be able to appreciate him, we had a party up in the yard and all the village came.
“We managed to buy enough so everyone could have a drink. It was all good fun! They even had banners and things up, ‘never mind the politics, let’s have a party’. It was a lovely morning and a great day!”
Gaselee and his team brought Party Politics back for a second crack at the National the following year.
“We decided to go down the same route, and this time he won the Greenall’s Gold Cup. He started favourite and I said to my head lad ‘his preparation is perfect, he’s done nothing wrong.’ We did fancy him.”
However, as National devotees will know, 1993 was the year of the infamous false start, which led to a void race and mass criticism of the racecourse administrators.
“It took a week for it to set in how annoying it really was,” reflects Gaselee.
Party Politics missed the renewal of the 1994 Grand National but in 1995, now 11, he surprised connections finishing second to Royal Athlete.
The following year would be his final race, when he fell at the third fence but thankfully avoided serious injury and was immediately retired.
“He was affectionately named ‘big horse’, you couldn’t miss him. For such a big horse with wind problems he needed very little work, which is quite remarkable. He gave us so many good memories, I just can’t believe it’s been 25 years since he won!”