Ben Nevis II

Ben Nevis II

Blood-Horse Library

2009 Hall of Fame: Big Ben

Ben Nevis II became the third United States-based winner of England’s Grand National.

Ben Nevis II became the third United States-based winner of England’s Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree when he captured the historic race in 1980. Better yet, he followed the two previous American winners, Battleship and Jay Trump, into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Bred in England by A.S. Pattenden, Ben Nevis II was named after the Scottish mountain Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles. He was purchased while in training in England and brought to the U.S. by Redmond C. Stewart Jr., whose daughter, Ann, and her husband, jump jockey Charles Fenwick Jr., took on the job of training the male-line descendant of the great champion Hyperion.

Ben Nevis II’s reputation as a star performer initially was established in the United States, where he was unbeaten in seven starts. The son of Casmiri captured the four-mile Maryland Hunt Cup in 1977-78, lowering the course record by 8 2/5 seconds in the latter running.

Ben Nevis II won the Grand National in his second attempt. In the 1979 running under Fenwick, the high-strung gelding lost all chance of victory when he fell at the formidable jump known as “The Chair.” Fenwick remounted but later pulled Ben Nevis II up.

For the 1980 Grand National, the team of Fenwick, English trainer Capt. Tim Forster, and Forster’s recently retired jockey Graham Thorner came up with a game plan that took into account the heavy going of the Aintree course after a rain storm had swamped the area. The three men felt the pace would be extremely slow and it would be best if Fenwick could keep Ben Nevis II relaxed in the back and avoid the loose and fallen horses. The strategy worked.

The leader fell at the infamous “Becher’s Brook” jump the second time around, and Fenwick found himself with a 10-length lead, which he lengthened to 20 at the wire.