The Story of Battleship

battleship_smOver seventy five years ago Battleship was the first American owned and bred horse to win the British Grand National, the preeminent test of a steeplechase horse. And, he was only 15.2 hands and carried a 17 year old jockey who stood well over 6 feet tall.

Mrs. Scott noticed Battleship, a son of Man o’ War, at age three and wanted to buy him. He sustained an injury in a starting gate before she could buy him. Mrs. Scott was so taken with the horse she bought him anyway, gave him rest and corrective shoeing and returned him to racing. He won six of 12 starts as a four year old and started racing over fences at five.

After a somewhat successful steeplechase career in the States, Battleship was sent to England in 1936 as a hopeful to run in the 1937 Grand National. His English trainer discouraged his entry in the Grand National that year claiming he was too small. In 1938, Mrs. Scott insisted he be entered in the Grand National. Reg Hobbs, the trainer, continued up until race day morning to try to discourage Mrs. Scott from entering him, even though his son was riding him.

compressed_battleshipThe Grand National was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1938 and 33 horses started. Battleship ran a grand race.The jockey, Bruce Hobbs, claimed after the race he was falling off at the fourth fence when a fellow jockey reached over, grabbed him and plunked him back in the saddle. Only 13 horses finished the race. Battleship ran a nail biting stretch run against one other horse to stick his head in front at the wire.

A parade in his British home base greeted Battleship the day after the race. A month later, when he returned to New York City aboard a ship, Mayor LaGuardia welcomed him along with actor Randolph Scott, Marion’s husband, who interrupted filming in Hollywood to join the celebration. Mrs. Scott promised if Battleship won the Grand National he would never race again and she was true to her word. He retired to stud at Montpelier and is buried there. Guests can visit his grave, alongside two of Mrs. Scott’s other famous horses, Annapolis and Accra.


Battleship shown above, second horse, parading through the streets of Lambourne England after his victory.