Silks confusion leaves museum red-faced after fresh discovery


Lottery and Jem Mason in the correct silks

  PICTURE: David Cramphorn  

A report in the Liverpool Mercury from 1839 has left members of the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing Sporting Art red faced, having revealed that a set of scarlet silks the museum believed to be the ones carried to victory in the first running of the Grand National are not as advertised.

The museum bought the silks at a public sale of memorabilia collected by the Topham family in 2007, believing them to be the ones carried by Jem Mason in the inaugural National of 1839 aboard the winner Lottery.

After extensive restoration, the silks were displayed in Newmarket before this year’s Grand National. However, having delved a little deeper into the annals it has been discovered that Mason, in fact, sported blue silks and a black cap on the big day – and not the scarlet colours associated with Lottery’s owner John Elmore.

“There has always been some doubt about the provenance of the silks since the museum bought them at the Graham Budd Sale in 2007,” said Tim Cox, a trustee of the National Heritage Centre.

“Some contemporary prints showed him wearing blue, some crimson. The museum has a racecard for the 1832 St Alban’s Steeplechase that showed the owner, John Elmore, had entered to wear scarlet.

“Henry Wright’s Steeplechase Calendar for 1826 to 1844 listed them as ‘scarlet, with black cap’. On the balance of probabilities we chose to say that they were the colours worn by Mason in the 1839 Grand National.”

However, John Pinfold, a historian of the Grand National, has since unearthed a report in the Liverpool Mercury, printed March 1, 1839, in which the colours are listed with Lottery being ridden by Mason in ‘blue jacket, black cap’.

Cox said: “We’re as certain as we can be the silks we have are Mason’s, and we know Lottery was ridden by him wearing crimson silks in some races. However, we now know he wore blue in the 1839 Grand National. Red, or perhaps crimson, faces all round.”


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