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 maneuver 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.
The Grand National has been broadcast live on TV in the United Kingdom since 1960.
Today the Grand National can be seen in over 140 countries.
1990 still holds the record for the fastest winning time. Mr. Frisk finished the course in an impressive 8 minutes and 47.8 seconds.
Red Rum is the most famous horse to date being the only horse with 3 victories and two-second place finishes. The treasured horse died in 1995 and was buried at the winning post at Aintree Racecourse.
Sir Tony McCoy is regarded as horse racing legendary. With 20 races under his belt, he is the most experienced Grand National rider.
The Duke of Albuquerque was obsessed with winning the Grand National. He never did win the Grand National, but he broke 22 bones and suffered more than 100 fractures trying.
Another unlucky jockey was Richard Johnson. He made 21 unsuccessful attempts to win the Grand National.
The only horse to ever win the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season was Golden Miller in 1934. Many have tried, but none have been able to match this racing champion.
The most successful winner in Grand National history was the jockey, George Stevens. With five wins under his belt – in 1856, 1863, 1864, 1869, and 1870.
Over 150,000 spectators attend the Aintree Grand National over the three-day race meeting.
It’s estimated that the attenders drink 250,000 pints, 38,000 vodka shots, 5,000 cocktails, 75,000 cups of tea and coffee over the three day event.
Almost 13 million people place a bet on the Grand National.
The prize money at the Grand National is an impressive £1 million but way more than that is made or lost on the event in bets.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about the Grand National that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!