Bell’s Life and the Sporting Chronicle provided a detailed account of the race on Saturday 25th March 1871, the article forming the backbone of the information shown below.
The racing newspapers of the day were now of the opinion that the Grand National had become the race which warmed the hearts of punters through the long winter months in anticipation of what was to come in March. The main sporting paper reported, ‘There are few of the present generation of racegoers who cannot remember the time when it was possible to win a large fortune on the Chester Cup before the publication of the entries. Now, however, matters are altogether different with Mr Topham’s Handicap which, for the last 3 or 4 years, being the main topic of conversation throughout winter’. This year the race was moved to Tuesday, and if racing successes are synonymous with large attendances, it can be asserted that 1871 cast all preceding anniversaries into the shade. This year it was felt necessary to allocate a full hour to the weighing and other pre-race preliminaries but, as a consequence, the field arrived at the start promptly and got away at first flag fall. Despatch was given his head first, followed by Rufus, Inon, Wild Fox and Snowstorm. Before completing even 200 yards Rufus went to the head of affairs approaching the first fence, at which St Valentine fell. At the third The Doctor was interfered with, putting him at the rear by the time the leaders reached Beecher’s Brook, over which Rufus held a healthy lead from Purlbrook, The Lamb, Dog Fox and Despatch. At the next fence, a rail and ditch on the take-off side, Scots Grey cannoned into Cecil causing him to fall. Through the ploughed land by the canal side the immediate successors to Rufus were Purlbrook, The Lamb and Wild Fox. As the field approached the thorn fence preceding the Stand Water jump Purlbrook was passed for second place by The Lamb, Dog Fox and Alcibiade. Once the artificial brook was met, marking the half way stage, Souvenance joined Rufus in the lead, a length to the good over Wild Fox. Over Beecher’s and the canal bridge, Rufus stoutly held on to his place at the fore, but joining the course proper The Lamb and Despatch joined issue with the leader, the trio gaining a 4 length advantage over the remainder. Into the home straight The Lamb held a slight advantage over Despatch, while Rufus hit the next timber, effectively putting paid to his chances. Between the final two flights both leaders came under pressure, but it was The Lamb who responded better to win by 2 lengths, with Despatch claiming second some 4 lengths ahead of Scarrington who saved his owner’s stake. Pearl Diver was fourth, Tusculanum was fifth and the heroic Rufus sixth.