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The Grand National - A Closer Look

• Written by Josh


The infamous Grand National horse race takes place this weekend, with 40 riders battling it out to become the champion! Off the track, people around the country will be placing their bets on their favourite horses, whether itss based on form or just because they like the horse's name.

In fact, it is estimated that a quarter of British adults bet on the race. According to the Grand National Statistics website, 47.4% of people bet on a horse because of its name, whilst 19.4% place their bets based on the colour of the horse.

In today's post we will take a brief look back at the history of The Grand National.

Grand National Beginnings

The famous Aintree course, in Liverpool, was designed by William Lynch, a syndicate head and proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel. In regards to the first official race, there is plenty of debate among historians of when it actually took place.

Historian John Pinfold believes that the first race took place in 1836 and was won by The Duke, who would go on to win again the following year. These races, along with the 1838 event, have long been disregarded because of the belief that they actually took place at Maghull. The GrandNational.Org website continues:

Some historians have unearthed evidence that suggest those three races were run over the same course at Aintree. Also, that they were regarded as Grand Nationals up until the mid-1860. Contemporary newspaper reports place all the 1836-38 races at Aintree although the 1839 race is the first described as “National”. To date, though, calls for the Nationals of 1836–1838 to be restored to the record books have been unsuccessful."

Due to other events, such as the end of the Great St.Albans Chase, the 1839 race was much bigger than before. There were higher quality horses and riders, as well an an increase in spectators and media.

Over time, the first three events were forgotten, securing 1839 its place in Grand National history as the inaugural race.

War Time

The War Office took over the Aintree circuit during the first three years of World War One, which meant that an alternative event was held at the Gatwick Racecourse - the land now used by Gatwick Airport. These races are not always recognised as Grand Nationals however.

During World War Two, no Grand National was held between 1941 and 1945 due to the commandeering of the racecourse for defence use.

Red Rum Dominance

The only horse to have ever won three Grand Nationals was known as Red Rum.His achievements came after overcoming he bone disease pedalosteitis, which should have rendered him un-raceable. Red Rum was at the only yard where the training took place on a beach. Trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain ran Red Rum into the seawater and oversaw an amazing transformation.

Red Rum's first victory came in the 1973 race, where he started as the favourite. The win didn't always look like it was going to happen though, with the Australian horse known as Crisp building up a strong lead with only four fences remaining. Due to his weight (12st), Crisp's stamina began to fade, and he began to falter at Elbow. Red Rum began to claw into his lead and ended up winning the race by three-quarters of a length, in what was a record time of 9m19s.

The following year, Red Rum won both the Grand National and the Scottish Grand National. Red Rum won the 1977 event by 25 lengths, to the joy of all the fans in attendance that day.

Up until the morning of the 1978 Grand National, Red Rum was being trained for a sixth attempt. However, he would suffer a hairline fracture during the pre-National work-out on the day before the race. Red Rum was forced to retire.

Red Rum died on October 18, 1995 and was buried by the winning post on Aintree’s Grand National course.

The Race that never was!

The 1993 was will forever be remember, but not for a good reason. The race was declared void following a series of incidents, which began with one jockey becoming tangled in the starting tape after it failed to rise correctly.

A false start was declared but due to a lack of communication between officials, 30 out of the 39 jockeys did not realise and began the race. Course officials tried to stop the runners by waving red flags, but many jockeys continued to race, believing that they were protesters.

Only seven horses completed the race, which meant that the result was void.

IRA Scare

The 1997 was postponed after two coded bomb threats were received from the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The course was secured by police who then evacuated jockeys, race personnel, and local residents along with 60,000 spectators.

Cares and coaches were locked in the racecourse grounds, leaving thousands of people without their vehicles over the weekend. Local residents stepped up and took in many of the travelling race fans.

The race was run 48-hours later on the Monday, with the meeting organisers offering 20,000 tickets with free admission.

The 00's

Red Rum's trainer, Ginger McCain, returned to the Grand National in 2004 and took victory thanks to Amberleigh House. The horse, ridden by Graham Lee, got the better of Clan Royal on the final straight after Hedgehunter has fallen at the last.

Hedgehunter was take victory the following year, becoming the first 11st horse to win since Corbiere in 1983. Hedgehunter took victory by 14 lengths, much to the delight of Ruby Walsh.

In 2009, Mon Mome became the biggest-priced winner for 42 years, overcoming odds of 100/1 to win by 12 lengths. This victory was also the first for a female trainer since 1995, with Venetia Williams taking victory.

Recent Races

In 2010, jockey Tony McCoy took victory for the first time in what was his 15th attempt. McCoy's success on-board Don't Push It also led to him picking up the prestigious Sport's Personality of the Year Award. This race was also the first Grand National to be televised in high-definition.

Two years later we witnessed the closest-ever Grand National finish. Neptune Collonges won the event beating Sunnyhillboy in a photo finish. The race winner became only the third grey horse to win the Grand National, and the fist since 1961. This race was also the final one to be televised by the BBC.

In last year's race, One For Arthur became the first horse trained in Scotland to win since Rubstic in 1979. It was also the first event to be broadcast by ITV, following Channel Four's decision to remove horse racing from its schedule.

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