What Makes the Grand National So Special?

The Grand National is a steeplechase run at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. It takes place in April, the final month of the National Hunt season.

Here is a look at what makes the race so special around the world and why this year’s renewal is set to be another one to look forward to.

History And Tradition

The Grand National is one of the oldest races on the world horse racing calendar. It was first run in 1839 when Lottery prevailed for jockey Jem Mason and trainer George Dockeray. Last year Noble Yeats became the latest to add his name to the horses who have won the race when he scored under the hands of amateur rider Sam Whaley-Cohen.

Although it retains a lot of the traditions from the early runnings, today’s race is a little different. Men and women can now compete in the saddle, while higher-rated horses tend to enter. Galvin, who is +188 in the Cheltenham day 2 antepost betting for the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, is as high as 167 on the official rating, but he is expected to take his chance in the marathon contest at Aintree this year. He is joined in this year’s race by other former Grade One winners Conflated and Envoi Allen.

Large Field Of 40 Runners

Few races across the globe have a field of runners as big as the Grand National. A maximum of 40 horses line up for the race, which makes for fascinating viewing. With every horse handicapped to have an equal chance of winning, each of the runner’s connections can be optimistic about their chances.

The field often includes runners from Ireland, and they travel across the Irish Sea looking to beat their British rivals in the lucrative handicap contest. When Noble Yeats prevailed in 2022, it was the fourth consecutive renewal of the race to be won by an Irish horse.

Bigger Fences

Aintree’s Grand National course features a total of 16 fences. The runners in the race jump a total of 30 fences, completing almost two full circuits of the track. These fences are much bigger than the standard steeplechase obstacles.

Each of the fences on the Grand National course at Aintree has a name. These include The Chair, Becher’s Brook, and Foinavon. These obstacles are named after either a person, a horse, or by the feature of the fence. 

Huge Crowd and Television Audience

A sell-out crowd of 80,000 attends the Grand National every year, while millions watch the race around the world. Not only is it a big part of the sporting schedule in spring in the UK, but the race is followed in the USA, Asia, and Australia.

The atmosphere at Aintree on Grand National Day is described as electric. The crowd cheer as the starter lets the 40 horses go at the start of the course, while the winner gets a great reception when it returns to the winner’s enclosure following their victory.

All eyes will be on the Grand National again on April 15 for the 162nd running of the race. The confirmed 40 runners, along with their respective jockeys, are announced 48 hours earlier.

Huynh Nguyen

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