Nowadays best known as racing correspondent at the ‘Daily Telegraph’, Marcus Armytage was, nonetheless, an accomplished amateur jockey, who rode 100 winners between 1981 and 2000. Indeed, ‘Mr. M. Armytage’, as his name appeared on the race card, recorded three victories at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup on Tug Of Gold and the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup on Keep Talking in 1992 and the latter race, again, on Christmas Gorse in 1994.
However, Armytage rose to prominence when, in 1990, he rode Mr. Frisk to win the Grand National and, in so doing, became the last amateur jockey to win the celebrated steeplechase. On unseasonably firm going, the eleven-year-old tracked Uncle Merlin as far as Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, at which point the leader parted company with his jockey, Hywel Davies. Left in the lead, Mr. Frisk made the best of his way home and, although challenged by Durham Edition on the famously long run-in, held on well to win by three-quarters of length in a new course record time. Even more remarkably, Mr. Frisk and Armytage turned out again for the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown Park three weeks later and won again, making all the running to beat Durham Edition by eight lengths.
Born in Oxford in 1964, Marcus Armytage is the son of late dual Scottish National-winning trainer Roddy Armytage, who was based in East Isley, near Lambourn, Berkshire. Armytage Jnr. was still a student at Eton College when he had his first ride in public, failing to complete the course on the 13-year-old Brown Jock, trained by his father, in the Peter Cazalet Challenge Trophy Chase at Plumpton on November 21, 1981. However, his father did provide him with his first winner, Rocamist, in the Shutlanger Chase at Towester on February 15, 1984.