The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held each year in April at Aintree Racecourse, near Liverpool. It’s considered to be one of the toughest races for runners and riders or “the ultimate test of horse and rider”. It’s one of the most popular steeplechase events in the world and more than 600 million people await the race with excitement.
Why is this race so popular? Is it because of the dangerous obstacles, the brave jockeys or the bets? Let’s “run” through these interesting facts about the Grand National to better understand the fascination surrounding it:
The Grand National is run at Aintree, a town settled by the Vikings in which all the trees were cut down apart from one, which was known as Ain Tree.
The first Grand National race was held in 1839. The winning horse was named “Lottery” who won with odds at 5-1 with the slowest winning time in history of 14 minutes and 23 seconds.
Only truly brave jockeys participate in the Grand National. They’re navigating the horses through difficult obstacles, like the Canal Turn, Becher’s Brook and The Chair.
The Chair is the highest obstacle at 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m), so it’s a bit like jumping over a small man on a racehorse traveling at over 30 mph.
With 30 jumps in total, it’s impressive just how quickly the horses can manoeuvre around the track.
The race has been broadcast on the radio since 1927.
Simply finishing the race is an achievement in itself. Back in 1928, 42 horses took part in the race and only two completed it.
In 1929, 66 horses started the race which caused a multitude of issues for both horses and jockeys. Thereafter the starting number was reduced at 40 horses per race.
The first female jockey to race in the Grand National was Charlotte Brew in 1977, riding Barony Fort. Since then 16 female jockeys have entered the competition. The most successful was Katie Walsh finishing third in 2012.
There has also been amateur winners in Grand National history:
Bretherton riding Jerry in 1840
William Dutton won the race in 1929
Marcus Armytage, a journalist who won aboard Mr. Frisk in 1990.
The youngest jockey to win the race was Bruce Hobbs who won in 1938 at the age of 17.
The oldest competitor was 68-year-old Tim Durant. The oldest horse to compete was Peter Simple, aged 15 years.
The first female trainer Jenny Pitman won the Grand National in 1983.
A victory that stole many hearts was that of Bob Champion. After recovering from cancer and despite all the odds he went on to win a race. The movie that captured this inspiring story was “Champions” in 1984.
Vincent O’Brien was the only handler to win the Grand National three years in a row from 1953 to 1955 with three different horses.