May 05, 2017
We here at Sternberg Clarke love costumes. We often supply them to corporate events or parties primarily to add an air of authenticity to proceedings. If you’ve organised a themed party, there’s nothing better than having a few costumed characters to make everything seem real! We often dress our performers in costumes that match the world being created, again leading to a wonderfully immersive experience. But have we ever raced our costumed performers? Nope. But Mascots used to race in their own Grand National each and every year. Intrigued? Read on below.
The Mascot Grand National was a race that ran (sorry) from 1999 to 2013 and somewhat bizarrely, struggled to shake off controversy as the event wore on. Held at Huntingdon for the first decade of its life and then Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey, the event was held on the May Day bank holiday each year. Yep, if it was still going today you’d have just missed it.
Mascots weren’t expected to be able to run around the entire racecourse and there were no horses involved. The basic race consisted of costumed mascots for clubs all around the country lining themselves up on the start line and then having to run along the final furlong of the course. Up to 100 mascots in full body costumes used to take part and to add to the hilarity, it wasn’t a straight running race. The poor mascots had to jump low hurdles (just 40cm in height) every few metres to keep themselves in the running for the prize.
In its inaugural winner, Beau Brummie Bulldog won the cup for those at Birmingham City FC, but lost out the next year to Harry the Hornet, who football fans are sure to know is the representative for Watford (incidentally, the only current Premier League club who have won this prestigious event). Dazzler the Lion won in 2001 for the now defunct Rushden & Diamonds before Oldham Athletic’s Chaddy the Owl dominated the event for the next two years. Could he make it a third straight victory in 2004? Nope! Graham the Gorilla roared in from Finedon Volta FC – whoever they are – before The Sun newspaper won in 2005 under the guise of Scoop Six Squirrel.
“Hey, they aren’t a football team!” We know, we know… And so did the mascots. Charity mascot Mickey the Monkey won for Kick 4 Life in 2006 before Wacky Macky Bear of Saffron Walden Town FC notched up wins in 2007 and 2008. Could Wacky go one better than Chaddy the Owl? No! He couldn’t managed a third consecutive title either, losing his crown in 2009 to Stag, Huntingdon Rugby’s one and only win (also marking the only time a non-football sports team came first in the race). Normality was resumed once more in 2010 when Mr. Bumble of Barnet FC buzzed towards the finish line, but could he really be happy with his performance considering the controversy now clouding over the competition?
Ever since Scoop Six Squirrel won for The Sun (and arguable even a year beforehand when Finedon Volta took top spot), professional football club mascots were aggrieved that mascots from any field were allowed to enter the race. If you don’t wear the costume day in, day out, they figured a mascot shouldn’t be allowed to compete. With many boycotting, Mr. Bumble might not feel that the victory was as prestigious and due to the disagreements between mascots, the race wasn’t ran at all in 2011.
Thankfully normal service resumed in 2012 when the race continued and Mr. Bumble again managed to take first place. Was this a better victory? Who knows, but in 2013 Barratt Homes’ safety mascot, Barry Barratt, won the Mascot Grand National at Kempton and presumably all hell broke loose. Why? Because the race hasn’t been ran since. From 2014-2017, there has been a gaping hole in the sporting calendar and that’s a huge shame because all entry fees used to go to charity, whilst the event also providing amazing entertainment as the photo and video in this blog show!
Although the official Mascot Grand National doesn’t run any more, there are a few unofficial races throughout the year with both Warwick and Wincanton Racecourses running a similar event in the past few weeks. No word on who won at Wincanton but Ray the Fox was the winner at Warwick. Wahey! The Sue Ryder Mascot Gold Cup is probably the closest competition to the original Mascot Grand National these days though, with last year's highly entertaining race embedded below.
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By Henry Fosdike