Newest Review: ... I think the tickets cost around £20 which are the cheapest tickets available. These tickets get you into the steeple chase part of the... more
The biggest show in town-and the stars are the horses!
The Grand National
Member Name: Nigel1
The Grand National
Advantages: Betting on the outcome could seriously increase your wealth!
Disadvantages: Betting on the outcome can seriously damage your wealth!
With almost 600 million viewers from 140 Countries, and close on 70,000 people actually attending Aintree Racecourse itself to view this fascinating spectacle at first hand, for just this one day, Liverpool, the jockeys and the horses become the central attention and focus of the world.
Run over a distance of 4 miles and 865 yards, with 30 demanding and gruelling fences ahead of them, the horses must have stamina in abundance, and be able to negotiate the fences with all the elegance of a stag, because hitting a fence, or the jockey failing to time his mount's take off point to perfection, can cause the jockey to be thrown heavily to the floor (hurting pride, body and pocket), or cause the horse to lose valuable ground and gradually drain away its much needed energy.
There are 16 fences in total which have to be jumped twice, except for the 'Chair' and 'The Water Jump' which only have to be negotiated the once, which is just as well because the 'Chair' (which is so named because of its position which is directly opposite the 'seat' reserved for the distance judge) is the most challenging and demanding of all the fences on the course, also being the tallest and the broadest with a six-foot long ditch on the take-off side, which more than any of the other fences, demands perfect timing of the jump. Meet this fence wrong and that's the end of the jockey's dreams of winning The Grand National for sure.
If horse and jockey have safely managed to jumped the thirty fences without too much mishap, then there remains a gruelling 'run in' to the winning post of 494 yards via a very sharp turn known as 'The Elbow' (for obvious reasons). Grand Nationals have been won and lost on this long and tiring surge to the winning post, as, after an exhausting four and a half miles, horses legs start to turn to jelly as their jockeys drive their horses out, trying to get every last ounce of energy and stamina from their respective equine partners, pushing, shoving and encouraging their horses for that little bit extra that will force their heads over the winning line in first position, thus ensuring horse and jockey go down in the annals of horse racing history.
Such are the gruelling demands of this unique race that often amateur jockeys are able to upstage their professional rivals. John Francome, Peter Scudamore, and more recently Tony McCoy, (deemed to be three of the best jockey's ever to sit on a saddle), have all failed in their attempts to win this coveted prize, yet amateurs such as Marcus Armytage (Mr Frisk 1990) and Dick Saunders (Grittar 1982) have succeeded where these professionals have so miserably failed!
Since the equal opportunities legislation came into force in 1976, female jockeys were allowed to take their rightful place in The Grand National, and all eyes were on Charlotte Brew in the 1977 Grand National, as she was the first 'woman jockey' to have a ride in the event. More eyes and judgement were centred on here than on any of the horses or jockeys, as the men, and Charlotte on her horse Barony Fort, lined up for the race. Not many people took her seriously but to her credit she managed to jump 26 of the 30 fences before her horse refused at the last open ditch. She did not have to suffer too much in the after-race interviews however, because that was the year that the brilliant Red Rum won his third Grand National!
Following Charlotte's brave attempt, five years later, Geraldine Rees became the first woman to actually complete the demanding Grand National course, jumping all thirty fences successfully on a horse called Cheers. Although finishing last of the eight horses that had managed to keep their feet, Geraldine had secured her place in the history books as the first female jockey to complete the course.
With its demanding fences and gruelling distance, many people think that finding the winner is a bit of a lottery. Interestingly enough, the first ever winner of the Aintree Grand National was a horse aptly named 'Lottery', who won way back in 1839.
People travel from all over the world to descend on Aintree for this fascinating spectacle, and in excess of 3000 caterers ensure there is enough food to go around, and almost one hundred ground staff spend months before the big race, preparing the fences and topping them with that beautiful spruce which is transported all the way from The Lake District.
Virtually every year without fail, the winning horse or jockey has its own unique story behind it. For example, in 1992 Party Politics won the race despite a tube in his neck to help him breathe. Then there was Aldaniti's win in 1981 for jockey Bob Champion. Aldaniti had been plagued by injuries and Bob Champion was recovering from cancer. Despite these setbacks both horse and jockey defied the odds and sauntered home to victory. Also, in 1991 The Grand National was sponsored by a firm called Seagram and hence, was called The Seagram Grand National, and guess what the name of the horse was who won that particular years National? Yes, you've guessed it.....Seagram!!
Millions of pounds are wagered each year, in trying to predict the outcome of the race. Some choose to go down the 'form' route, seeking out horses who will stay, jump well and will be suited to the particular going, while others simply pick a name or colour that takes their fancy. Whose to say one method is better than the other?
Of course, no review of The Grand National will ever be complete without mentioning the legend that is Red Rum.
He is the only horse ever to have won the race three times. On the other two occasions he took part, he finished gallant seconds.
He made his début, coincidentally, in a five furlong sprint race at Liverpool, where he dead-heated for first place.
The first of Red Rum's Grand National wins came in 1973. That was the year that another horse in the race called 'Crisp' looked to have an unassailable lead as he was almost 20 lengths clear of Red Rum as they jumped the last fence. It is to Rummies great credit and sheer determination that he gradually ate into that enormous lead and managed to force his head in front just yards from the winning line.
Twelve months later, back at the scene of his famous victory, Red Rum did what only two horses had ever managed to do in the National's rich and glorious history...He did the almost impossible, and won the race for a second consecutive time, with Brian Fletcher doing the steering. This was the beginning of the Nations love affair with Red Rum, the likes of which are only bestowed upon a chosen few.
In 1975 he met the twice Gold Cup winner L'Escargot and had to give him 11lbs. However he was still in front at the last, but the ground was very soft that day and Red Rum hated the ground, so with combination of giving weight away and the soft ground to contend with he had to give best to L'Escargot, still managing to run a very respectable second.
In 1976 he took on another top class horse by the name of Rag Trade, and again having to carry top weight for the third successive year he found the task of giving the winner a 12lb weight advantage beyond him. Although he never gave up and closed in on him up the straight he was again destined to finish a gallant second.
A year later, 1977 and Red Rum, already twice a winner, was now starting to get a little older. He was now 12 years old and many racing pundits and experts believed that Red Rum had gone to the well once to often and really had little or no chance this time round. Still having to carry the heaviest weight of any horse in the race due to his recent exploits, Red Rum took the lead shortly after Becher's Brook and strode away to win by an incredible 25 lengths from Churchtown Boy. This feat of sheer skill, determination and guts ensured Red Rums place in the Nations hearts, becoming a National hero and a household name overnight.
Red Rum turned up for the next three years in an attempt to win his fourth National, but on each occasion was found to be lame before the start of the races, and being the grand age of fifteen, connections had to admit the inevitable, that Red Rum was now feeling his age and could no longer take part in a race that he had virtually made his own, and sadly retired him.
This was not the end for Red Rum however. He now had a second life where he would lead the Grand National Parade well into the 1990's. He also attended opening ceremonies, drawing in vast crowds all eager to catch a glimpse of the 'wonder horse'. He even appeared on the BBC Sports personality of the year award.
Red Rum died on October 18th, 1995 at the grand old age of thirty. His place in the history of the Grand National and of the Aintree racecourse will live on for ever, and a statue was built in his honour at the course. He was also given the honour of having his final resting place in one of his favourite places, and today he lays buried under the Aintree soil, with his head facing the winning post, much like he did in life. A fitting tribute indeed, to the Nation that held him so dear in their hearts!
Summary: A racing extravaganza of gargantuan proportions.