Sunloch - A Grand National Winner for Burbage

Sunloch, a bay gelding, foaled in 1906 by Sundorne and a grandsire of the Derby Winner George Fredrick was bred at the farm of H S Black at Frisby on the Wreake who recognised its potential and entered the horse in a number of local steeplechase trials where he showed great stamina at completing some gruelling races.

After winning a major race at the Leicester meeting prior to the 1914 Grand National, the owner was arrested for some unrecorded offence and Tom Tyler of Loughborough took over ownership in order to clear debts owed by Mr Black.

The 1914 Grand National was overshadowed with prospect of the First World War, which was declared inSunloch - Grand National Winner 1914 August of that year.

The racegoers did not consider Sunloch had much of a chance of winning such a big prize so subsequently started the race at 100 to 6.

The outsider was ridden by jockey W. J. Smith and the horse ‘fenced with the speed and agility of a cat’. During the race he set off in front, made the entire running and was never headed. At one stage he was forty lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer.

Sunloch beat 19 rivals to win by 8 lengths, much to the satisfaction of many Leicestershire folk who had backed the unknown winner.

Probably due to the outbreak of WW1, Sunloch did not continue to feature in many more big races and by 1920 was in the ownership of Charles Aldridge of Sketchley Hall who was planning on entering him for the 1920 Grand National in the April of that year.

One February morning Sunloch was in training at the stables at Sketchley Hall and whilst taking a jump crossed his hind legs and subsequently broke one. The local vet was called, nothing could be done to save the animal and Sunloch was humanely killed.

It is reputed that Aldridge ordered the horse to be buried in a field at the side of Green Lane at Sketchley, which is now probably part of the car park at Sketchley Grange Hotel. Locals maintain the sound of galloping hoofs can be heard on dark February nights!

Charles Aldridge died in c1928 and is buried at Aston Church. Sketchley Hall was sold and rebuilt in the 1930s and is now a spa and treatment centre, the stables where Sunloch trained were demolished in 2000 and a new housing development 'The Hollies' was built.

Burbage still maintains its link with the National Winner, The former owners of the Sketchley Riding stables built a house on the site in the 1990's and named it Sunloch Cottage.

BHG would like to thank the Aston and Burbage Voice, The Hinckley Times and The Grand National Museum for information supplied.