The world’s greatest horse race has generated tales of derring-do, of extreme joy – but also of complete heartbreak in its 174-year history. But of all the tales associated with the National, surely none is more poignant or tragic than that of the Irish Wynne family’s association with Aintree.
The sad tale begins with first Irish-trained winner of the race; the nine year-old “Matthew”, ridden by Dennis (a.k.a.“Denny”) Wynne in 1847. The horse was trained by John Murphy at The Curragh, for Cork-based owner, John Courtenay.
Fifteen years after the race, Denny’s son Joseph was due to ride “O’ Connell” for the 1862 National, but on the day of the race the Wynne family received the awful news that Joseph’s sister had died suddenly back home in Ireland. The horse’s owner Lord De Freyne tried to persuade Joseph not to take the ride; but the young man was determined to do so to help honour his sister and the
Wynne family’s association with Aintree and the Grand National.
But an unbelievable double tragedy was to strike when, at the fence before the water jump, O’Connell was brought down in front of the grandstand to the shock of the many thousands of spectators. The fence was usually taken at great speed, as it was a plain fence. This contributed to the severity of the fall in which the young Joseph Wynne received terrible internal injuries. He was transported, unconscious, to the Sefton Arms Inn, where tragically he died just five hours later.
This compounded matters for the Wynne family as Joe’s father Denny had also died in a fall from a horse just four years earlier.
The fence at which tragedy struck the Wynne family at Aintree was later changed into an open ditch as a result of this tragedy- and later still; it came to be known as “The Chair” because of its proximity to the distance judge’s seat.