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The story of Oakham Grand National hero Master Robert to feature in new book by New York writer





The stunning story of a racehorse which won the Grand National a century ago against the odds is being told in an upcoming new book.

While many eyes were on Aintree last Saturday to watch the world-famous steeplechase, writer Francis X Murray’s thoughts turned back 100 years to 1924 and the spectacular victory of Master Peter.

The chestnut gelding was jointly owned by Major Sidney Green, who lived at Catmose Cottage, in Oakham, and Scottish peer Lord Airlie, and following retirement from the turf, Master Peter spent his final years in the Rutland town.

Master Robert's win was immortalised on a cigarette card
Master Robert's win was immortalised on a cigarette card

Francis, who is hoping to have his manuscript published, lives in New York, but was inspired to tell this ‘compelling historical story’ following his first trip to Ireland, in 2013, where he met a third cousin in County Derry.

“After spending a pleasant few days with my newly-discovered relative, he asked me on my way out of his door, ‘do you know the story of Master Robert?’,” Francis recalled.

“My cousin told me that Master Robert won the 1924 Grand National and explained to me that his uncle, Patrick Murray, my great grand-uncle, owned the horse for a time before he won, and that he kept the horse at the local pub.

New York writer Francis X Murray was captivated by Master Robert's story
New York writer Francis X Murray was captivated by Master Robert's story

“I was curious to learn more about this ‘horse story’, having grown up around the thoroughbred racing game.

“I began casual research on the subject, which continued into deeper research.”

Master Robert’s rise to fame is as spectacular as it was unlikely, having originally worked as a plough horse on a farm in Ireland during the First World War.

Master Robert and Bob Trudgill's victory was captured by a world-record 45 film cameras. Image from the collection of Francis X. Murray. Used with permission. For more information, please visit www.masterrobert.horse
Master Robert and Bob Trudgill's victory was captured by a world-record 45 film cameras. Image from the collection of Francis X. Murray. Used with permission. For more information, please visit www.masterrobert.horse

He was propelled to equine stardom largely thanks to Major Green, a member of the Cottesmore Hunt, who spotted him on the point-to-point circuit and bought him in 1922 with his friend Lord Airlie.

Just two years later, at the age of 11, Master Robert made the 30-strong field for the Grand National - considered then the world’s premier sporting event - but, even then, any thoughts of victory seemed highly fanciful.

He had suffered with lameness in the days leading up to the race and was ditched by his regular jockey.

Jockey Robert Trudgill had been advised not to ride after needing stitches in a leg injury the day before the race
Jockey Robert Trudgill had been advised not to ride after needing stitches in a leg injury the day before the race

The ride was instead handed to ‘journeyman’ jockey Bob Trudgill who himself had been advised not to ride after injuring his leg when thrown from a horse the day before.

Master Robert was also up against three previous winners and a red-hot favourite, yet ‘courage and fine jumping’ swept the 25-1 long shot to the £5,000 prize, cheered on by a crowd of 250,000, including King George V.

Rutland had further Grand National success in 1982 winner Grittar who was owned by Frank Gilman, from Morcott.

Major Green died aged 54, but a few years later, in 1929, Master Robert strengthened his Rutland connections when he came to live on the Oakham farm of James Baird, the joint master of the Cottesmore Hounds. He lived there until his death in January 1934.

To find out more about Francis’ extensive research, visit www.masterrobert.horse



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