The Grand National

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2011 Grand National

2011 Grand National (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s one of those races which pulls in visitors from all over the planet – The Grand National is an iconic horse race which punishes both horse and rider, with a long history of injury for both.

Origins of the Grand National

The Grand National, or simply ‘National’ is known throughout the world as one of the toughest horse races on earth, with terrifyingly tall jumps, ditches and water troughs which pose serious threats to both horse and rider. The original course was laid out by a local hotel owner, William Lynn and a local Lord, the 2nd Earl of Sefton.

There is actually quite a bit of debate over when the first race took place, with some saying that this happened in 1836, whilst the majority saying that races before 1838 happened on a different course. It is clear that in 1838-89 the small, local race turned into a national extravaganza when the railway arrived in Liverpool, enabling a large influx of visitors to the race and an explosion of publicity.

Further Changes

The Grand National captured the imagination of the public in the UK and worldwide, however the race wasn’t originally a handicap race. This was done after the original owner Lynn became ill and this laid the groundwork to drastically increase both the interest in the race and it’s noteriery as a real challenge. Ever since the change to a handicap format, The National has been one of the most popular betting races in the calendar, attracting bets worldwide.

Many Memorable Winners

There have been many memorable races at the now famous Liverpool race course Aintree – probably one of the most recognisable names on this list would be Red Rum. Red Rum was originally bought for 6000 guineas, however after successive wins at the National and many other races became priceless and a national treasure, eventually being given the honour of being buried on the finishing line at the Liverpool course.

Love Hate Relationship

There have been many changes to the course over the years, with recent calls for the fences again to be lowered following the last race in 2012. In the race, two horses died after falls and riders were injured. Despite this, the 2012 Grand National race was deemed the closest finish in history, with a photo finish which took quite a while to decide.

The public at large have a real love hate relationship with The Grand National, with some animal protection societies calling for the race to be banned altogether and others asking that again the course be altered to reduce the chance of injuries to horses. It’s in a way sad that the extreme nature of the course is slowly being eroded, with the highest jumps being made slimmer and lower, but in the end the special nature of this race is made from the whole atmosphere of the event.

Citations:
  • Image courtesy of RacingKel

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