Crisp Steeple - 3900m • Grand National Hurdle - 4200m
Crisp – also known as the Black Kangaroo – was inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame in 2013.
Crisp was bred and raced by Sir Chester Manifold, one of racing’s most prominent administrators. He served 11 years as chairman of the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), from 1951 to 1962, and was also the first chairman of the Totalisator Agency Board – our modern TAB – in Victoria. Manifold was a successful owner and breeder, with Crisp his best galloper. Foaled in 1963, Crisp was by Rose Argent – a black type winner in the United Kingdom – out of the well-bred mare Wheat Germ.
Trained by Des Judd, he showed very little on the flat at two and three and his future was in doubt.
However, in 1968, he won five races over the hurdles, before he was switched to the bigger fences as a steeplechaser. Battling the handicapper, he managed to win the Hiskens Steeplechase at Moonee Valley two years in a row, winning by 20 lengths under 70kg in 1969 before winning by 12 lengths under 76.5kg in 1970.
The Hiskens Steeplechase would be Crisp’s last start on Australian soil (11 wins, 5 seconds). Crisp was virtually ‘weightedout’ of racing in Australia and Sir Chester wasn’t prepared to risk his champion with the crippling burdens he was being asked to carry. So with the handicapper having the better of Crisp, it was decided to give the Black Kangaroo his opportunity on the National Hunt scene in England, where (arguably) jumps racing is bigger than flat racing.
Transferred to Fred Winter, but still owned by his Australian connections, Crisp made an impact straight away
His first major victory was the the 1971 Cheltenham Festival when he won what is now the Queen Mother Champion Chase, for the best two mile chasers around. He demolished his opposition, racing away for a 25 length victory.
The following year, he was entered for Cheltenham’s premier race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup over a distance of 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs (approximately 5300m). However, he seemed to find the distance too far, grinding home for fifth behind Glencaraig Lady.
Incredibly, the following season, the plan was to step Crisp up in distance, with the Grand National the target.
The Grand National is one of the world’s most arduous races. Run at Aintree, just outside Liverpool, it is a gruelling four miles and four furlongs (approximately 7250m) taking in two laps of the infamous National Course. It is the Melbourne Cup of the National Hunt season, run under handicap conditions, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup the Cox Plate equivalent.
The 1973 Grand National is as much remembered for Crisp’s run-in defeat as it was for Red Rum’s narrow victory. Crisp began to tire badly on the 494-yard run-in, carrying 23 lb more than his nearest rival. Red Rum made up considerable ground, and two strides from the finishing post he pipped Crisp by three-quarters of a length to win his first of three Grand National titles. To describe Crisp’s performance as extraordinary is a devastating understatement. He was brutal, bold and brave. And yet, he didn’t win. It was as good a run, if not significantly better, than any of his wins.
Crisp ran three times in the season after his second in the 1973 National. He won a two and a half mile chase at Newbury beating two mile champion chaser Royal Relief; and a third place in a 2-mile Hurdle at Worcester. Then, at Doncaster, he had a match race, at level weights, against his old foe Red Rum. With a twenty three pound weight turnaround from Aintree, Crisp won by eight lengths.