Grand National

The Grand National is held annually at the Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, arguably it is the biggest test of horse and jockey in the world. The grueling four and a half mile course has thirty fences, many measuring more than seven foot. with a field of forty runners the race is one of England's biggest sporting spectacle.

Of the forty horses that start the race an average of just 30% will have the stamina to complete the course. On more than one occasion horses have been killed as they tackled the notorious fences. These deaths have led to animal rights campaigners calling for the race to be banned.

The Grand National race is watched by over 500 million people worldwide on television, making it more popular than the NFL Super Bowl and Formula 1 car racing. The race is particulaly popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and the Far East.

2014 Grand National

The schedule is set for the Grand National Horse Race, also known as the National, with the official race date of Saturday 5th April, 2014. The race is an annual event held near Liverpool, England at Aintree Racecourse. This year's field promises to be as strong and entertaining as ever.

The three-day event begins on Thursday, 3th April, 2014, with Liverpool Day. Liverpool Day not only features the John Smith's Foxhunter's Steeplechase and the Grade 1 Totesport Bowl feature race, but is also a celebration for the city of Liverpool. Several entertainment events are planned for the kickoff celebration including a concert by girl group 'The Saturdays'. This year's Liverpool Day has been the focus of the community and should provide for an excellent community festival in association with the world's most famous race because of the number of additional events planned for this season.

The festivities continue on Friday 7th April with Ladies Day, which is a traditional event that features fashion and style from the female attendants. Various goody bags and prize giveaways for the ladies are part of the plan during this year's festivities. The focus on the ladies is not the only order of the day, of course. Every day of the championship extravaganza is a race day, as the John Smith's Melling Steeple Chase is the featured race of the day. This has been a highly challenged event in the past few years and should be the same this year.

The Grand National Horse Race is finally run on Saturday 5th April and is the culmination of the week's schedule. The championship has a storied past among racehorse professionals and within the British culture. It is a specialized race industry that is native to the United Kingdom and enjoyed by everyone up to the Royal Family, who are not only big fans, but are horse owners themselves.

The Grand National Horse Race is an historic event dating back officially to 1839, though there were predecessors to the first official race, and it has been an iconic representation of United Kingdom sports very similar to its professional golf tournaments. The Aintree Racecourse is one of the most difficult courses in the world and provides an excellent course to test the best of the steeple chase racehorse class. The energy infused by the local city of Liverpool, with a population of over 400,000 and a surrounding urban area of over 800,000, will make this year's championship a major success and well worth attending.

Grand National 2010
Grand National 2010

Jockey Falls During Steeple Chase

Jockey A.P. McCoy falls during race
Jockey A.P. McCoy falls during race

Grand National History

The Grand National is one of the oldest horse races in the world, it has been run each year since 1836 (Excluding the years during WW1 and WW2) the first winner of the race was a horse called 'The Duke'.

The international appeal of the race has seen a number of foreign breed horses triumph, most notable Irish horses have been the most successful in recent years, in 1938 the American horse 'Battleship' won the race, it should be no surprise to find out Battleship's father was the awesome racehorse 'Man O'War'. It should be noted that French breed horses have the worst record in the race, just one winner in the last one hundred years.

The race has also featured in a number of movies, the best known being the 1944 movie 'National Velvet' a fictional account of a young girl disguising herself as a male jockey to get a ride in the race, at that time women jockeys were not allowed to enter the National - the part was played by Liz Taylor, who once quipped that her best leading man was a Horse! Today women jockeys are allowed to enter, the best finish by a woman in the race was in 1994 when Rosemary Henderson came 5th.

The English Grand National is considered one of the biggest sporting events in the United Kingdom alongside the F.A. Cup, The All English Tennis Championship (Wimbledon) and the Ashes Test Series. Because of this status the Grand National has been added to the list of government 'Protected Sport Events' these events must be shown on terrestrial T.V. channels and the broadcast rights cannot be sold domestically to Satellite broadcasters like Sky, Setanta Or Cable Channels.

Full List Of Protected Sporting Events In The United Kingdom

  1. The Grand National
  2. English F.A. Cup
  3. Scottish F.A. Cup
  4. FIFA World Cup Finals
  5. Test Match Cricket (involving England)
  6. Wimbledon Tennis Championship
  7. The Derby
  8. Olympic Games

It's remarkable to think now that the Grand National could have been omitted from the list. In 1973 the Grand National race was in serious trouble, under-investment at Aintree Grand National course meant that crowd numbers had dwindled to an at time low, and the owners of the course where looking to sell it off the land to a local property developer.

In 1973 the course was sold to the developer Bill Davies, who promised to keep the race running. The first National under Davies ownership saw admission prices to the Aintree course tripled, many in the press speculated that 1973 would be the last running of the great race.

Indeed, without the intervention of English bookmakers 'Ladbrokes' the 1973 race could have been the last. Ladbrokes started a campaign in that year to keep the race running, eventually Ladbrokes took over the running of the race and improved the course and facilities. It is doubtful if the motives for securing the future of the race where entirely altruistic on the part of Ladbrokes, when you consider a quarter of the U.K. population bet on the Grand National annually.

Grand National Legends

As you can imagine as race with a history as long as the Grand Nationals has thrown up more than it's fair share of horse racing legends. Featured below are just a few of the amazing horse's who gone down in racing folklore.

Red Rum

Red Rum or 'Rummy' as he was affectionately known is without doubt or argument the greatest of all Grand National runners. He's historical three wins has never been bettered and even when the handicapper loaded the top weight of twelve stone on Red Rum in the 1974 race he still left the rest of the field trailing in his wake.

Along with his historic three wins, Rummie also finish in second place twice in the National, on those occasions the ground on the day did not suit him. Red Rum's achievements earned him a place as the UK's most loved horse, although Red Rum was actually Irish! His Grand National racing career ended in 1977 (he was entered into the National in '78 and '79 but injury forced him to withdraw) Red Rum continued to enjoy his celebrity status long after his racing career finished, he even appeared on the BBC's Sports Personality Of The Year T.V. show and made personal appearance's at charity events and had the honour of leading out the runners to the parade ground at Aintree on many occasions.

In October 1995 Red Rum died at the age of thirty, a bronze statue has been erected at Aintree in his honour, fittingly Rummie is buried at his favourite place... The finishing post at Aintree!

Foinavon

The exact opposite of Red Rum, Foinavon was the least likey winner in the history of the Grand National. This notoriously laid back horse won the 1967 Grand National after every runner fell!

Foinavon was so laid back that during one race he stopped to graze on a fence. Which may account for the bookmakers quoting him as 100/1 chance on the day of the race! So badly rated was Foinavon that his owner didn't even attend the Grand National and missed out on horse's moment of glory.

We all remember the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, and in 1967 Foinaon proved that slow and steady really does win the race! At the start of the race in '67 many of the fancied horses took off at a tremendous pace, leaving the plucky Foinavon well behind the leading pack.

After the first few fences 'Popham Down' another unfancied horse unseated his rider and continued to run without the jockey on-board. By fence 23 Popham Down was running wildly ahead of the leading pack, just as the pack attempted to jump the fence Popham ran in front of them causing a huge pile up of horses.

Nearly all the runners fell in the ensuing melee, apart from one horse at the very back of the field, Foinavon who's jockey ( John Buckingham) had the advantage of seeing the pile up a long time before reaching it, Buckingham skillfully pulled Foinavon around the carnage and jumped the fence cleanly, Foinavon and Buckingham then began the long run for the finishing post, even with a huge lead in the race Foinavon was nearly caught in the final furlongs by a horse who had fallen, been remounted and continued to run the course. In the end Foinavon had just enough in the tank to complete the most remarkable victory in the National. In honour of the victory fence 23 was renamed 'Foinavon'

You can view the amazing 1967 Grand National below.

Foinavons Victory In 67

Devon Loch

We move from one of the luckiest Grand National winners of all time (Foinavon) to one of the unluckiest losers 'Devon Loch'. The 1956 Grand National saw HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother horse Devon Loch entered into the famous race, the Royal Family have been keen supporters of racing in the U.K. and that's why racing is still known today as the sport of Kings.

Dick Francis, who went on to become a famous Author was the jockey on-board Devon Loch. Dick and Devon put in a near flawless run that day clearing all the 30 fences cleanly, before headed into the final furlongs well ahead of the nearest second placed horse 'E.S.B' ridden by Dave Dick. As Devon Loch approached the finishing post the horse suddenly and without reason appeared to jump into the air and then collapsed in a heap on the turf! E.S.B. flew past Devon Loch and won the '56 National as jockey Dick Francis tried desperately to get the horse back on track.

Many theories have been put forward as to why the horse collapsed in such dramatic fashion, at first it was rumour that Devon Loch had suffered a heart attack. However, the Aintree course vet ruled this out. Dick Francis maintains to this day that the cause of the collapse was the immense noise made by the crowd in the home straight as it became clear to the punters on course that the Queen Mother was going to get her first National winner! It may seem strange to younger generations but the Queen Mother was a hugely loved and respected by the general public and particularly those who shared her passion for horse racing.

You will often hear sports commentators refer to teams or sportsmen 'Doing A Devon Loch' is used as a metaphor used to explain sudden or last minutes failures. The Queen Mother who was at Aintree to witness the events that day reportedly turn to an aid and said "Oh, that's racing". Some years later the Queen Mother met the winning jockey Dave Dick and enquired "What did you think when my horse fell down?" to which Dave Dick replied "I was absolutely delighted, Ma'am," It's goes without saying that he never got a Knighthood!

Bob Champion and Aldaniti

True sporting legends are usually made, not born. A few greats have been destined for fame since birth though. Bob Champion is one of these natural-born legends, but his courage and dedication are the qualities for which he is most admired.

Champion, born in Yorkshire, England in 1948, was surrounded by riders and hunters from the very beginning. His father was an avid huntsman who took young Bob riding frequently. These early experiences instilled in him the love of horses and riding that would eventually carry him to a Grand National championship.

At only 15 years old, Bob Champion won his first horse race. After his initial taste of victory, he continued to race on the National Hunt circuit. His special way with the horses continued to win him races, as well as respect. He also proved to have a special way with women. His tempestuous love affairs were well-known and sometimes amusing to those around him.

Champion tried his luck racing in America and continued to enjoy success. His career eventually took him back to Britain, where he had dreams of winning the Grand National. He raced in the Grand National eight times after returning to Britain, always keeping his eyes on the big prize. However, his career and life took a major detour on the way to fulfilling his dreams.

In 1979, Bob Champion was diagnosed with testicular cancer. In true Champion fashion, Bob refused to believe that his doctors were correct. He stubbornly insisted that there was a mistake in the diagnosis.

The diagnosis wasn't wrong. Doctors gave Champion a maximum of eight months to live, with only a 40 percent chance of survival. Things looked grim, but he was given a second chance. An extremely aggressive program of chemotherapy, if begun immediately, might just beat the odds. Champion agreed to begin the treatment the very same day.

Most people who have been diagnosed with cancer and told that they will most likely die within months would take some time away from work. Not Bob Champion. He returned to training and racing while still in treatment and set his sights on winning the 1980 Grand National.

Unfortunately, Champion's treatment had not been easy on his body. A large-scale infection nearly claimed his life and he was forced to put off his Grand National ambitions temporarily.

Champion was soon recovering from his various hardships and back in training. In 1981, he rode Aldaniti in the Grand National. The two were a perfect pair: both hard-working, stubborn and recovering from serious health problems. Champion's cancer and Aldaniti's three leg injuries caused almost everyone to speculate that the team wouldn't get near the winner's circle.

The two survivors melded on the Aintree Racecourse that April day in 1981. Their victory is one of the most memorable and emotional moments ever to be recorded in horse racing. Coming in four-and-a-half lengths ahead of the competition, Champion and Aldaniti beat the odds and made history.

After his Grand National championship, Bob Champion continued to race and win until 1983. By that time, he had approximately 500 wins to his credit. After leaving racing, he focused his energy on training horses and running the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. The charity has raised millions of pounds for cancer research and Champion continues to raise funds for it to this day.

Although Aldaniti died in 1997 and Bob Champion retired from training horses in 1999, they are both legends of the horse racing world. Their legacy is a sense of hope for all those who follow in their paths. They taught us that, even when things look desperate, success is just over the next fence for those who choose to make the jump.

How To Spot A National Winner

Many people think that it's very difficult to pick a Grand National winner. After all, the race is four miles long with over 30 fences and has forty horses competing. Surely this race is more about pure luck than jockey skill or horse ability.

This is the public perception of the race, in fact the seeming unpredictability nature the race is one of the reason it's so popular with the general public. For many people betting on the Grand National is the only time in the year that they wager money on horse racing. Generally the people who bet on this race do not study racing form, have no knowledge about the quality of the horses running and most will bet on a horse whose name means something to them or they will randomly select a horse using the time honoured method of closing their eyes and sticking a pin the newspaper!

People use these methods because the common misconception is that the Grand National is more of a lottery than a horse race. This couldn't be further from the truth! If you take a look at type of horses that actually win the race you start to see a very familiar pattern. Using this pattern of past winners you can discount nearly three quarters of the runners instantly, that's right! Nearly three quarters of the field has absolutely no chance of winning.

You might ask how you can discount so many runners instantly? Well, lets take a look at the record books and see what type of horse's haven't won the Grand National in the last 20 years.

  • French Horses ~ Only one French horse has won the National for 100 years! Mon Mome in 2009 (100/1)
  • American Horses ~ No American winner in the last 20 years!
  • Young Horses ~ No horse younger than 8 has won in the last 20 years!
  • Weight ~ Only 1 winner carrying more than 11 stone in the last 20 years!
  • Odds ~ Only 2 winners lower than 10/1 odds in the last 20 years!

So now you know what kind of horses to avoid, lets take a look at the type of horse which have won in the last 20 years.

  • Irish Horses ~ The Irish take few things in life as seriously as horse racing, so look for Irish owned and breed horses, especially those of J.P. McManus.
  • Long Distance Experience ~ The National is a massively long run for any horse, only look the runners with experience and wins over 3+ miles
  • Watch The Weight ~ Horses carrying around between 10 and 11 stone have the best chance of winning

If you apply the above tips to this years runners you will only be left with about 10 horses which fit the bill. If you bet on one of the ten horses each~way, then you will get a return even if it comes in 4th, dramatically increasing you chances of picking a winner.

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    Grand National In The News

    Ex top jockey Richard Dunwoody has claimed that Strictly Come Dancing is tougher than the Grand National horse race!.

    3 time Champion Jockey Dunwoody is a celebrity dancer on BBC dance contest Strictly Come Dancing, he is paired up with professional dancer Lily Kopylova.

    "I never thought I would be good at dancing, but I really wanted to give it a go," he told Claudia Winkleman on the Beeb last night.

    "Comparing it to the start of the Grand National? I will be more nervous on Friday and Saturday night that I would be lining up for the National. At least I knew what I was doing there!"

    Speaking about his partner Kopylova, the 45-year-old added: "She's a top girl, but she's been cracking the whip a lot lately. It did not come easy at all in the early weeks, it’s been very slow progress."

    I'd rather play free fruit machines then ride in the grand national but that's just me. If you're lucky you can get a free bet on the National with money online bookmakers.

    Grand National Style Fences

    Grand National Poll

    Who Is The Greatest Race Horse Of All Time

    See results without voting

    Mon Mome Wins 2009 Grand National

    The 100/1 rank outsider Mon Mome won the 2009 Grand National at Aintree. Mon Mome was the first 100/1 winner since the plucky horse Foinavon won in 1967. Just two fences out from the finishing post, Mon Mome was well positioned between ten or so runners still in with a chance of winning. Jockey Liam Treadwell kept Mon Mome away from harm on the outside, as they reached the elbow the 2008 Grand National winner Comply Or Die in a head to head battle for the finishing post. Mon Mome pushed out the bigger weighted Comply Or Die abd scooped the £1 million prize money.

    Aintree Racecourse - Home Of The Grand National

    A markerAintree Racecourse - Liverpool -
    Ormskirk Road, Aintree, Liverpool, Merseyside L9 5AS
    [get directions]

    This is the location of Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool.

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