The famous course at John Smith’s Grand National
On April 11, a 70, 000-strong crowd will pack the Aintree racecourse for the 2015 John Smith’s Grand National while more than 10 million people will be glued to their television screens to cheer the horses as they clear the fences on what’s referred to as the “world’s greatest” steeplechase while many others will be placing bets; check out Grand National betting options.
Horses that complete the race would have cleared a distance of four miles and three and a half furlongs; this makes it the longest of any National Hunt race in the U.K. The course itself is nearly two and a-quarter miles long and the riders complete two circuits. Of the 16 obstacles in the tough challenge, 14 are jumped twice; and two, The Chair and the Water Jump, are jumped on the first circuit only.
After the final fence, the run-in, at 494 yards, makes it one of the longest as well.
The 16 fences are topped with spruce. In 2012, the cores of 12 fences were rebuilt and are now made of flexible plastic material; this is a little more forgiving compared to the traditional wooden cores. The fences are topped with 14 inches of spruce for the horses to knock off.
The race tests both the riders’ skill and the horse’s ability. The obstacles are a major challenge; the drop fences, where the landing side of the fence is lower than the take off side means the horse is unaware of the drop until in the air.
Over the past 10 years there have been at least 155 fallers over 30 fences at the Grand National. Over the same period, a study shows that Becher’s Brook, with its 5ft 8-inch drop into a ditch has accounted for ending the chances of 20% of all runners. The fence was named after Captain Martin Becher, who fell there from his mount, Conrad, in the 1839 race; he took refuge in the brook to avoid injury. The challenge begins early even before the run when riders try to get a good spot. Then after handling the first two fences, riders meet a challenge on the third fence, which has a massive ditch in front of it and a steep drop behind.
The next big challenge is the sixth fence, the famous Becher’s Brook, which is the biggest; it has a massive drop behind it and has ended the dream of one-out-of-five riders — this year it’s anyone’s guess as to which rider could go down.
Another major challenge is Canal Turn, which is notorious for the 90 degrees turn in the race after riders scale that fence. Another big challenge is The Chair with the massive ditch in front of it. After completing the circuit, riders are ready for the second grueling run.
Depending on security and ground conditions visitors can actually walk and see up-close some of these famous fences at Aintree a few hours before the race.
The legendary Grand National was first officially run in 1839, giving it its long history with many famous riders.
Some of the “legends” of The Grand National include: Ginger McCain and his record three-time winning horse Red Rum; Jenny Pitman, the first woman to train the winner of the race in 1983; Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the commentator who called home the winners of fifty Grand Nationals on radio and television from 1947 to 1997; George Stevens, the record five-time winning rider between 1856 – 1870; Captain Becher, who played a major part in bringing the National to Liverpool and rode the winner of the first precursor to the National in 1836 — he was the first rider to fall into the brook at the sixth fence; Brian Fletcher, a jockey who won the race three times; Tom Olliver, who rode in nineteen Nationals, including seventeen consecutively, and won three times;Jack Anthony, three-time winning jockey in 1911, 1915 and 1920; and Peter Bromley, the BBC radio commentator who covered 42 Nationals until his retirement.