Birch, Arthur

photo courtesy John Griffiths

Moifaa was a huge brown gelding that resembled a starved elephant.

Arthur Birch, born in Bonehill, Tamworth in 1875, was a little known jockey.

Together in 1904, they combined to produce that kind of magic that comes from nowhere in the odd Grand National.

Moifaa had form, of sorts.
As a four-year-old in New Zealand, he had won four of his nine races. The next season, carrying 13 stone, he won a three-mile handicap.

He was then shipped over to England. 

Arthur, meanwhile, continued his life in the shadows, and no-one was more surprised than himself when offered the ride.

Arthur's previous attempt at National glory, in 1901, had been on 66/1 chance Padishah who, not unexpectedly, failed to finish. 

A week before the National, Arthur partnered Moifaa in a full four mile workout over fences at Epsom (an unthinkable scenario these days). Arthur was astonished at its pace and power, and secretly began to harbour well-founded dreams of Aintree glory.

The favourite for the race that day (25 March, 1904) was the King's topweight, Ambush ll, but as much interest centred on that good horse and previous winner Manifesto who, aged 16, was making his last appearance at the course.

The early fences exacted a heavy toll, among the many fallers being Ambush ll, who came down at the third.

At the fifth, Arthur found himself in front, the last place he wanted to be so soon. Moifaa had other ideas: it didn't so much jump the remaining fences as plough through every one. Arthur had no choice but to let the hard pulling giant make his own way.

Moifaa won by an easy eight lengths to become the first ever Colonial winner of the race.

Strangely, Arthur was jocked off for the horse's next race, replaced by veteran Bill Dollery. To no avail - the horse never won another race.

Meanwhile, Arthur returned to obscurity.

Arthur Birch was born in 1875 at Bonehill, Tamworth in Staffordshire.
At that time, he lived at 28, Grange Road, Lewes, Sussex.

Arthur, who had a brother called William, died aged 36 on February 3 1911 at Seville House, Victoria Drive, Eastbourne. 

His death was the outcome of an accident at Gatwick Racecourse on Thursday 6 December in 1906 which resulted in an injury to the spine. 
His horse, Black Ivory, had made a half-hearted attempt to take a jump and tumbled over on the other side. Arthur fell free of the horse and was preparing to rise when another horse, having 'flown' the fence, landed full-square on top of him, inflicting the most terrible injuries.
Confined to a wheelchair, he hovered between life and death for many years after before succumbing, aged 36, on Friday, February 3, 1911.

He left estate valued at £2,438.

Arthur, who had started his career as a flat-race jockey, left a wife and five children. His son, Arthur (1905-1993) also became a jockey & trainer.

There is a popular story that Moifaa survived a shipwreck before winning the Grand National. This is not true. Another contender in the 1904 Grand National, an Australian-bred gelding named Kiora, did survive a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Town in October 1899, where he was found standing on a rock near the site of the wreck. Another horse on board named Chesney allegedly swam a great distance to shore.