The Grand National

There are few events that can match a live horse race for excitement and exhilaration and even fewer that can rival the magic of the annual Grand National in the United Kingdom. The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held at Aintree Racecourse near the city of Liverpool in England. It is one of the longest and toughest courses in the world with a horses having to jump 30 fences during two laps of the course that comes in at a distance of four miles 514 years, or 6.907 kilometres.

Red Rum

William Lynn founded the Grand National in 1829 although there is much debate as to when the first Grand National race took place. Some say it was in 1836 and won by The Duke, which also won in 1837 before Sir William won in 1839. Records from this time are hazy at best and some believe these races took place at Maghull and not Aintree and have therefore been removed from the official Grand National records. The 1839 race, won by Jem Mason on the horse Lottery that is referred to as the first ever Grand National race at Aintree.

A famous Grand National story happened in 1928 when on the day of the race William Dutton, who was to ride Tipperary Tim, heard a friend shout out to him

“Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall down!”

Derek Fox

Amazingly, this actually happened with 41 of the 42 starters falling during the race, which was run in misty conditions and under very heavy going. Tipperary Tim won the race, which finished with only two riders after Billy Barton’s jockey Tommy Cullinan managed to remount and complete the course; Tipparary Tim won at 100/1 odds. In the 1970s, a horse named Red Rum began breaking a number of horse racing records in the United Kingdom and to this day is the only horse to win the Grand National on three occasions. Red Rum finished first in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Red Rum’s 1973 victory saw him comeback from 30 lengths behind and is considered one of the greatest Grand Nationals on record.

Red Rum, who died aged 30 in 1995, managed to finish second in the 1975 and 1976 Grand Nationals, making him easily the most successful horse in the race’s history. The 1993 Grand National was the race that never was. A false start was declared after a one jockey became entangled in the starting tape, but poor communication meant 30 of the 39 jockeys began racing. Seven of them completed one lap of the course so a void result was declared.

Four years later, in 1997, the Grand National was postponed after two coded bomb threats were received from the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The race went ahead two days later than planned with Tony Dobbin riding Lord Gyllene to victory. The reigning champion is One For Arthur, ridden by Derek Fox, a victory that earned the horse’s owners £561,300 of the £1 million prize pool, sums that make the Grand National the richest horse race in Europe.