MONTPELIER RECEPTION HONORS GRAND NATIONAL WINNER BATTLESHIP

BATTLESHIP ON THE FAR RIGHT

Seventy-five years ago this spring diminutive Battleship, a son of Man o’ War, was the first American bred and owned horse to win the British Grand National, one of the toughest races in the world.

To commemorate the event Montpelier is mounting an exhibit of the event called Beating the Odds: Montpelier’s Battleship and the British Grand National. A reception to kick of the exhibit was held Thursday, March 28th at the William DuPont Gallery, Visitors Center at James Madison’s Montpelier.

Owned by Marion DuPont Scott, Battleship was ridden by 17-year-old, 6’4” tall Bruce Hobbs. The pair were described as looking like a “hairpin on a telephone pole”.  They prevailed over a field of 36, a course of almost 4 and ½ miles and 30 of the biggest fences in racing.
THE EXHIBIT AT MONTPELIER

Battleship ran at his owner’s insistence.  His trainer, Reg Hobbs and the jockey’s father, thought he wasn’t up to it; he was too small.  Mrs. Scott insisted and history was made at the 100th running of the National in front of a crowd of 250,000.

Mrs. Scott was impressed by Battleship from the first time she saw him. Offering to buy him in the spring of his three-year-old year the owner, Walter Salmon from Lexington, KY, said he wouldn’t sell him until the fall.  
That summer Battleship injured his right forefoot in a starting gate.  Mrs. Scott bought him in spite of his persistent lameness.  He was one of the first horses in the US to be x-rayed and with rest and corrective shoeing he returned to racing at four winning six of his twelve starts.  The next year he was started over fences.
BATTLESHIP AND MRS. SCOTT’S COLORS

In 1936 Mrs. Scott sent Battleship to England with the goal of winning the Grand National. Trainer Reg Hobbs talked her out of entering him in the 1937 Grand National and tried to do the same in 1938.  While walking the course the morning of the race Mrs. Scott later reported they “had it out on the course”.  Determined to get her way she told the trainer Battleship was going home to Virginia the next week.  Hobbs relented and the horse stayed entered.

To overcome his 15.2 hand stature, 18 inches of rein were sewn onto the bridle so the tall jockey could lean back and balance him on the drop fences.  Apparently he needed it because after the race Battleship’s nose was streaming blood – he had scraped his nose on landing.  The jockey claimed he had “five legs not four.”
CHARLES H. SEILHEIMER, CHAIRMAN OF THE MONTPELIER STEEPLECHASE AND EQUESTRIAN FOUNDATION,
AND KATHERINE L. IMHOFF, PRESIDENT OF MONTPELIER FOUNDATION 
(Douglas Lees Photo)

After the race the Battleship was paraded through the streets of Lambourn, the home base of his English trainer.  Anne Cross, a small girl at the time, remembers the day fondly.

In June, he returned to the United States aboard the USS Manhattan.  His trainer accompanied him and charged everyone on board a dollar to look at him and donated the money to the Red Cross.  In New York Mayor La Guardia was there to meet him along with Randolph Scott who had taken time off from filming the movie The Texan to be with his wife and join the celebration.
Mrs. Scott made a promise before the race and was as good as her word;  Battleship never raced again.  He retired to her home in Virginia, Montpelier formerly the historic home of James and Dolley Madison.  
Battleship is buried at Montpelier.

JAMIE McCONNELL, CHARLES C. FENWICK, JR. and DR. REYNOLDS COWLES, JR. (Douglas Lees Photo)
MRS. ARTHUR W. ARUNDEL, ROB BANNER (PRESIDENT OF GREAT MEADOW FOUNDATION)
and KATHERINE IMHOFFF (Douglas Lees Photo)
MILLIE TYNER, MARTHA STRAWTHER (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MONTPELIER STEEPLECHASE
and EQUESTRIAN FOUNDATION and GREG MAY (Douglas Lees Photo)
BATTLESHIP ARRIVES HOME (TheVaultHorseRacing.com)

(TheVaultHorseRacing.com)