Off the Bit Vol 20…Champions ‘Crisp’
Jun 29, 2017
At the risk of offending the Anti-Jumps Group, I must declare there is nothing in Racing that compares to the sight of a magnificent Jumper in full flight! Growing up I was fascinated by the great jumpers Strasbourg, So and So and Fast Food. Watching the English Grand National on TV was always a much cherished annual event in our house. More recently, it’s hard not to be moved by the amazing performance of Bashboy to win 3 Grand Nationals in a row. One horse however stands out as Australia’s greatest jumper of all time, the Black Kangaroo – CRISP.
By Rose Argent from the mare Wheat Germ, Crisp was foaled in 1963. He was a big brown Colt who became a Gelding before he began racing. He was trained by Hall Of Fame Trainer Des Judd in Australia and later by Fred Winter when racing in England. Crisp was owned by VRC Committeeman Sir Chester Manifold and became a popular horse here but became a cult figure in England.
As a 2 and 3 year old Crisp showed limited ability on the flat and Sir Chester wondered if he had a future. Des Judd switched him to jumping and as a 4 and 5 year old he won 5 races over the Hurdles.
Late in the Season of 1968, Judd switched Crisp to the Steeples and a star was born. His first start in the Redleap Steeple resulted in a hard fought win but next up in the Hiskens, he smashed the field winning by 20 lengths carrying 70kgs. He returned to win the Hiskens again in 1970 by 12 legths carrying a whopping 76.5kgs. That was the last Australian racegoers would see of the Champ as weight had forced him to try his luck overseas. His jumps record stood at 17 starts for 11 wins and 4 2nds.
Still owned by Sir Chester Manifold, Crisp made his way to England in 1971 and found his way to the stables of Fred Winter. His impact was both immediate and devastating. He won his first start by 15 lengths and smashed the course record. Just 5 days later was the famed Cheltenham Festival where he lined up in the Champion Chase, effectively the Cox Plate of English Jumps Racing. The Black Kangaroo went straight to the front and annihilated the best 3200m jumpers around by 25 lengths. The following year he returned to Cheltenham for the 5300m Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Melbourne Cup of English Jumps. He seemingly found the distance beyond him and could only manage 5th. Incredibly, the following season he was aimed at the legendary 7250m Grand National at Aintree. The Aintree Course is a brutal test of man and horse with enormous fences, huge drops and of course the 4 miles of distance.
Crisp’s effort at Aintree is the stuff of legends. In fact many believe it to be one of the greatest sporting performances by an Australian overseas in any sport – ever!
Sporting scribes have described his effort as; extraordinary, devastating, bold, brutal and brave…and he didn’t win!Given the top weight of 76kgs, Crisp found himself in front after 7 fences and soon raced away to a huge lead. After completing the first lap, he was at least 30 lengths clear galloping boldly and jumping in spectacular fashion.
With 7 fences left only one horse had emerged to try and give chase ~ the future immortal, Red Rum. Carrying about 10kgs LESS than Crisp, Red Rum gave chase but was still a long way behind. With 2 fences to go Crisp still led by 15 lengths and seemed certain to forge on to victory but Red Rum kept chipping away at the lead. Over the last and with about 400m to go, Crisp started to falter and was dead on his feet. Sensing a miracle, Red Rum’s jockey began urging him forward. Still 5 lengths behind with 100m to go Red Rum surged past the weary Crisp in the last 2 strides to claim a famous victory.
They smashed the race record by 19 seconds and it stood for another 17 years. The true worth of the effort would become evident at the end of Red Rum’s career. The little chestnut champ would win the race in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Incredibly he also ran 2nd in 1975 and 1976.
Crisp and Red Rum met only once more, later in 1973 at Doncaster. Every other horse was withdrawn so it was a match race between the 2 champs, but this time at level weights. After a stirring battle, the Aussie wonder horse would have his revenge going on to win by 10 lengths.
Sadly Crisp was injured during the race and would never race again. He turned to Hunting and would pursue this for the next eight years until he passed away.
Crisp was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame the same year as Black Caviar.
To watch the end of the epic Grand National, follow this link.
Until next week…good punting.
By Rick Wells 31st May 2017.