PAULINA had refused at the first. Conrad had hurled his rider, Captain Martin Becher, into a brook. Rust had got waylaid by spectators who didn't want him to win. Dictator had died.

And so Lottery was out in front of the first proper Grand National of 1839 with only the last to jump...

Lottery was a nine-year-old horse which had been born on Mr Jackson's farm at Thirsk. Mr Jackson had called him Chance, and he'd shown enough promise as a four-year-old, winning a couple of local races, for the renowned London trainer John Elemore to buy him for the considerable sum of £120 (many thousands of pounds today).

Mr Elemore had struggled with Chance at first - he crashed through a gate and badly injured himself. Then Mr Elemore renamed him Lottery and teamed him up with a promising young jockey called Jem Mason. Jem was brutal - if Lottery refused a fence, Jem hit him so hard he never refused again. In fact, Jem's brutality caused Lottery to bite great chunks out of him. The horse so hated racing that Jem had to mount him disguised in an overcoat. Only when safely in the saddle did Jem remove his coat to reveal his silks, and off they went...

Despite the despising, they made a perfect partnership.

These were the early days of steeplechasing - a pounding race in which two or more horses chased across country towards a distant landmark like a church steeple. The loser was said to have been "pounded" into the mud - probably literally as the rider violently attempted to encourage his knackered nag.

In the early 1830s, the Great St Albans Steeplechase in Hertfordshire attracted big crowds from London.

William Lynn, proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool, liked the idea of big crowds drinking his beer. He'd already started a hare-coursing competition, called the Waterloo Cup, to attract drinkers. In February 1836, at Aintree, he organised the first Grand Liverpool Steeplechase which his friend Capt Becher won on The Duke. Further races were held in 1837 and 1838, each attracting more attention than the last and soon the race was boastfully called the Grand Liverpool and National Steeplechase.

The Grand of 1839 is considered the first properly national race as 53 horses were entered from all over the country. Thousands of racegoers descended on February 26 to drink Mr Lynn's beer.

The 17 starters were due off at 1pm, but due to weighing mix-ups and false starts it was nearer 3pm before they were under way, with Lottery the 5-1 favourite.

Conrad tipped Capt Becher into the first brook, and the military man had to stay face down, grumbling that he didn't know water tasted so bad without whisky, until five horses including Lottery had charged over him. The captain remounted, but Conrad dipped him into the second brook and was retired.

When Rust, ridden by William McDonough, jumped out of a ploughed field into a country lane, he was detained by a sizeable group of gamblers who had bet against him winning. He was released only when the others were out of sight and, realising his race was over, trotted back to the stables.

With Dictator dying of a burst blood vessel, Lottery went ahead in the closing stages. With only the last to jump, he was three lengths clear.

In later life, he was to become famous as the greatest steeplechaser of his day because of the length of his leaps - Mr Elemore had him jump laid dinner tables as a party piece.

To win the first Grand of 1839, the horse foaled in Thirsk produced a prodigious 30ft leap to clear the last and win 115 sovereigns.

And if you've got any sovereigns riding on the race today, it'll be a Lottery all over again.