Specify – Farringford’s Grand National Winner

Ridden by John Cook, Specify was the last of a group of five horses who jumped the final Grand National fence in unison...

Sir Fred Pontin is famed for his nationwide holiday parks but to Island residents his name will also be forever linked with Farringford, of which he was the proud owner for thirty years from 1960. By this time his wealth had helped him acquire a string of racehorses which he kept in stables at Farringford, long since converted into holiday accommodation and still popular with summer visitors.

His first racehorse was named Go Pontin, then followed Pontingo and Go Pontinental, to name a few. They were all ‘pretty useless’, as quoted on a chat forum of racing enthusiasts, but in 1971 Sir Fred struck gold when his horse, a handsome bay named Specify won the Grand National. The tightly contested race has since gone down in history for being one of the most competitive finishes the race has ever known. Commentator Peter O’ Sullevan describes the race’s climax:

They’re inside the final furlong now, Black Secret coming to challenge with Specify on the far side Sandie Sprite in between the two, it’s Johnny Cook getting up on Specify...It’s Specify and Black Secret, Specify is just gonna win it, at the line Specify is the winner!

Specify was well positioned behind the tearaway leaders and was able to make up ground with only two or three jumps to go. For pure thrills the tension at the last fence was almost unbearable, as Specify was the last of the group of five horses who jumped the final fence in unison. Specify, being ridden by John Cook, took his victory at the line, by just a neck.

Specify was first sold for £300.00 to Arthur Freeman, a former royal jockey, who had previously won the Grand National on Mr What in 1958. After a disappointing first season Freeman sold him on to what would turn out to be a long list of owners. At the age of four the gelding showed improvement, winning three successive events but then fortune turned when aged six he sustained a head injury from a fall during a race. He made a comeback and after winning a chase at Windsor was sold to Sir Fred in 1970 for £12,000. Specify was originally to have been called Specify Pontin but the application was rejected!

Specify was not able to repeat the success when re-entered for the 1972 race, only managing to come sixth out of nine finishers. He retired the following year and in 1978 arrived home to a champagne reception at Farringford held in his honour. He died in the 1980s and a stone plaque marks his final resting place on the front lawn.

Archive footage - Specify Wins the 1971 Grand National

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