The Grand National takes place in April of each year as part of the Grand National Meeting at Aintree, Liverpool. It’s a national hunt race held over a distance of 4 miles 514 yards and open to highly rated horses aged seven and above. The course has 30 gruelling fences over two laps, including notorious hurdles such as Canal Turn, The Chair and Becher’s Brook.
If you asked 100 people to name a race that generates excitement with the general public, the vast proportion of those would say The Grand National. They’d be right of course, as it’s the one racing event that even those not racing minded like to get involved with. Office sweepstakes galore spring up due to the Grand National and it’s an event that gets people tuning in year on year. Viewing figures are routinely 8 – 10 million in the UK alone, and a staggering 600 million plus worldwide. That speaks to the universal appeal of this competitive race. very few sports events can match such numbers.
The very first Grand National took place in 1839, and came about due to the Great St. Albans Chase not being renewed , which had often clashed with Aintree races. That and a railway line arriving in Liverpool finally allowing for easy travel, made for a perfect confluence of events.
The prize pot for the Aintree Grand National steeplechase is a cool £1,000,000 with over half of that put aside for the winner. As you can likely appreciate, both the prize money as well as the unrivalled reputation of the race itself result in a coming together of the very best racing talent in the country.
With an event this competitive and with such longevity, the Grand National has a thousand stories to tell, and no doubt plenty more to come. Back in the 1960’s, Foinavon was a surprise winner at 100-1 on account of the freak incident of a loose horse hampering most of the field. In the 70’s we saw Red Rum, (who had passed through numerous owners initially, as he was seen as ‘nothing special’) become the only horse to win the race three times, all memorable wins too, especially his first in 1973 where he had to give it his all to overtake champion horse Crisp on the final straight. Trainer Ginger McCain made a stunning return to form decades later when Hedhehunter went on to win the 2005 race. Every decade of the Grand National offers a new narrative.
To throw a few interesting Grand National facts into the mix, the oldest ever jockey was Dick Saunders at 48 in 1982, and the youngest 17 year old Brice Hobbs in 1938. The fewest horses to finish was just 2 back in the 1928 Grand National, and the most rides without a win goes to none other than Richard Johnson with 20 attempts between 1997 and 2016.
Big winners of the Grand National include Mon Mome in 2009 at 100-1 and Auroras Ensore in 2013 at 66-1. The 2018 winner was Tiger Roll ridden by Davy Russell and trained by George Elliott. His SP was 10-1 and he went into the lead two from home, fending off a tough challenge by 25-1 shot Pleasant Company. The race was decided by photo finish.