Often referred to as the world’s greatest steeplechase, the Grand National is a tough test of talent and stamina for both the rider and the horse. It’s a nearly-two and a quarter mile course that has 16 fences, including the famous Becher’s Brook. The race has a rich history that dates back to 1836, spanning many exhilarating races and record-making champions.
The First Official Race
The first Official Grand National was in 1839 but the race was actually run three years earlier, and the history of the event dates back even further. Entrepreneur William Lynn leased some land at Aintree and held race meetings back in the mid 1820s, but it wasn’t until Lord Molyneux laid the foundation stone for the grandstand in 1829 that racing really started to begin at Aintree. In 1835, Lynn had the idea of running a steeplechase on the course, which was an immediate success. In 1839, the name of the race changed to The Liverpool and National Handicap Steeplechase and then again in 1847, to the Grand National Handicap Steeplechase, the name it still holds today.
The late 1800s saw the appearance of the greatest horse that’s ever run the Grand National – dual-winner, Manifesto. This powerful horse was tough and jointly holds the record for the highest weight carried by a winning horse, at 12st 7lbs. He also holds the record for the greatest number of runs in a race, running the Grand National a total of eight times.
The Sixties and Seventies
The BBC showed the race live on TV for the first time in 1960, when the race was won by Merryman II. But the most noteworthy race of this decade was in 1967 when Foinavon won the race and was the biggest price winner, when a huge pile up meant that he was the only horse to jump a small fence in the race, defying odds of 100/1. Red Rum won the 1974 Grand National for the second year running, winning a third time again in 1977 as the only horse in the races history to win three times. Between those wins, he also came in second twice, first in 1975 to L’escargot and again in 1976 to Rag Trade.
In 1993, the National had a landmark year when the race was declared void after a second false start was missed by half of the jockeys who completed a full circuit of the track unnecessarily, not realising until the end that the race was void. The horse that won was Esha Ness, now famous for winning the National that never was.
In 2001, Red Marauder won in style in bottomless conditions when all of the horses fell with the exception of the winner and Smarty, the horse who came in second. In 2003, the National was won by Monty’s Pass but this win was overshadowed by one of its owners who placed a bet on the horse and won a total of over £800,000. Check out this odds calculator at Timeform, it will show you what the perfect bet is and when is the right time to place it.