Category Archives: The Grand National

The legendary Grand National jockeys

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The Grand National has showcased some of the most legendary jockeys throughout the history of horse racing. This tough annual race is often full of surprises and, with no less than five winners coming in at odds of 100/1, is by no means an easy race to predict.

Here, we take a look at some of the most legendary Grand National jockeys and what it was that made them so famous.

George Stevens

Jockey George Stevens was born just six years before the first ever Grand National was run. Beginning his career in his mid-teens, the young George Stevens won 76 races over the 22 years from 1848 to 1870.

His most notable achievement is one that has never been bettered almost a century and a half after his death. George Stevens rode to victory in the Grand National five times between 1856 and 1870, on horses Freetrader, Emblem and Emblematic, and then on The Colonel in two consecutive years.

Thomas Olliver

Thomas Olliver was almost as famous for his antics off the course as on it during his career. A renowned ladies’ man, lover of parties and man of very generous spirit, Thomas Olliver was often referred to as ‘Black Tom’ and spent some time in a debtors’ prison.

Despite this, he also managed to ride in 19 Grand Nationals, including the very first. This record was unbeaten until Tony McCoy rode his 20th Grand National on Shutthefrontdoor in 2015.

Olliver won an impressive three times in the Grand National, riding Gaylad (1842), Vanguard (1843) and Peter Simple (1853). He also finished close second a further three times, leaving him a total of just 4.5 lengths off taking home the most Grand National wins of all time.

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy, also known as AP McCoy, captured the hearts and the betting slips of the nation in the 2015 Grand National.

Breaking Olliver’s record for most rides, McCoy was priced at an (astounding for such a race) 7/2 on Shutthefrontdoor. Unfortunately, on this occasion he only managed to finish fifth and went on to retire from racing two weeks later after 20 seasons.

At the date of his retirement, AP McCoy was able to boast of having set the record for the most career GB and IRE wins in jumps racing with 4,358 under his belt. He won the Grand National in 2010 on Don’t Push It and has also taken home two Cheltenham Gold Cups.

Bob Champion

Bob Champion won the hearts of the world as he raced Aldaniti to victory in the 1981 Grand National. This victory was a particularly poignant one as Bob had been struggling with a vast array of harsh treatments for testicular cancer for the precious two years.

His triumph over both adversity and thirty Aintree fences won Bob Champion (along with Aldaniti) the Team Award at the 1981 BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. He formed the Bob Champion Cancer Trust in 1983 and through it has raised millions to help other cancer patients.

Since the inaugural race of 1839, the Grand National has attracted some of the most well-known jockeys, looking to take home the big prize. The competition shows no signs of slowing down, so who knows which legends will emerge in the years to come?

Would you like to know the next top runners and riders for this year? Check out our Grand National runners list for 2018 

Survival of the fittest: Making the most of the Grand National

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The Grand National at Aintree is the biggest event on the National Hunt calendar, with more than 150,000 people turning up each year to watch forty horses compete for the most coveted prize.

If you’re thinking of attending Aintree this year, follow this expert Grand National advice to ensure you can truly make the most of this unique experience.

Getting there

Knowing how you’re getting there is the first stage of the journey. The best way to get to Aintree on a race day is by train. Trains run every seven and a half minutes from Liverpool Central Station, which is just a short walk from Liverpool Lime Street.

If you are driving, parking needs to be booked in advance as spaces are limited on-site. Car parks are clearly signposted from the entrance.

If you want more advice about how to plan ahead for your day at the races, take a look at our guide for getting organised for the Grand National.

What to take

There are several things you might want to consider taking to make your day more enjoyable. Most vital is your racecard, as this tells you everything you need to know in order to place your bets. Racecards are £2.50 purchased in advance or £3 on the day.

Binoculars are handy if you want to catch more of the action as you will only be able to see part of the course even in prime viewing spots. You might also want to take your camera.

What to wear

While there is no official dress code at Aintree throughout the year, on Grand National day entry will not be permitted to anyone wearing sports clothes or in fancy dress. Most people choose to dress smartly, in suits for the men and formal dresses for the ladies. Hats are optional but can be seen frequently.

Ladies in the know who want to team their outfit with heels pack a pair of ballet pumps or flip-flops for later in the day, when sore or tired feet can put a dampener on the experience.

Place your bets

A day at the races wouldn’t be the same without having a flutter and the Grand National attracts more bets than any other race each season.

Head to the trackside bookmaker kiosks at least ten minutes before race time to place your bets then make sure you have a good viewing area. Don’t forget to keep your betting slip safe in case your selection proves to be a winner.

Getting home

The crowds on Grand National day at Aintree are huge, so be prepared for what could be a long wait at the exit. If you do travel by train on pre-booked tickets, give yourself plenty of time to get to the station. Hopefully you’ll have some winnings to count to help you pass the time!

The Grand National is a thrilling day out, and to ensure you have the time of your life there are a few essential things to consider on the day. With a racecard in hand and the appropriate outfit, you can make this experience one to remember.

A grand day out: Planning your Grand National excursion

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The Grand National is one of the toughest and most popular horse racing events of the year, with more than 600 million viewers tuning in to watch the televised event. On top of that, some 150,000 spectators travel to Aintree to soak up the atmosphere and watch the race live.

If you’re thinking of buying Grand National tickets and cheering on the forty runners this year, planning ahead is a must to ensure you make the most of your grand day out.

Where to buy Grand National tickets

Viagogo is the official ticket partner of the Grand National and tickets usually go on sale in August. Book early to avoid disappointment as tickets sell fast.

Getting there

By far the easiest way to get to Aintree is by train from Liverpool Central Station. Trains run to Aintree every quarter of an hour on other race days but on the day of the Grand National they are every seven and a half minutes. You can also hop on a bus – routes 300, 311, 345, 350, 351 and 61A all run to the course.

Drivers will find the racecourse clearly signposted from the M57 from the south, M58 from the north or A59 from the Mersey Tunnel. There is limited parking on-site but this can be booked in advance.

Cheltenham National Hunt Steeplechase riders

Where to watch

The type of ticket you buy will affect where you can go on the day so read up on the different ticket types before you buy. All spectators can access the Red Rum Garden, which offers a packed schedule of entertainment throughout the festival.

Some tickets give access to other areas such as viewing galleries, restaurants, champagne bars and more. If you want to make sure you get a view of the winning post, it’s better to book a ticket that ensures this, as trackside gets busy quickly.

Accessibility

Aintree Racecourse meets all reasonably achievable access to spectators with limited mobility, including a raised viewing platform near the infamous Chair jump and lowered service counters at several bars.

There are baby changing facilities available in the Queen Mother Grandstand, the Princess Royal Grandstand and the Aintree Pavilion. Children and carers are charged full ticket price.

What to expect

There are seven races held on Grand National day. In between races there is plenty going on to entertain you, including a number of bars and restaurants to keep you fed and watered. Arrive early if you want to stake your claim in prime viewing spots, and due to the large volume of people attending, leaving the venue at the end of the day may take a while.

To ensure you get the most out of your day at the Grand National, plan your trip in advance. By booking early and arriving in time to secure a great viewing spot, you can enjoy your time at Aintree as much as possible.

Would you like to know more about the Grand National? Find out here our guide with all advice and betting tips for Grand National!

Choosing the perfect outfit for Ladies’ Day

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Ladies’ Day at the races is as much about the fashion as it is about the horses. From locals to celebrities, everyone chooses their Ladies’ Day outfits with care in a bid to be crowned the best dressed and win an exciting prize package.

Fashions come and go and every year will see slightly different trends, but there are certain rules and guidelines that remain the same year in and year out.

It’s all about the hat

No matter what the particular fashion, Ladies’ Day at the races is always an opportunity to wear that big, bold hat you wouldn’t wear anywhere else. The hat should always complement the outfit but there are few rules other than that.

Some like to go all out with a huge headpiece, while others prefer a more tastefully understated hat. Ladies’ Day hats have in recent years come to be replaced by the fascinator by many, giving you plenty of options for head-wear.

Whatever your preference, wear your hat with pride and you won’t go far wrong!

The dress

No matter what the fashions of the day, there will always be plenty of dresses to help you look fabulous on Ladies’ Day. However, shopping for your shape is going to help you look and feel better than simply choosing what’s on the covers of the magazines.

Floral summer dresses are almost always acceptable, while skimpy is usually not. Try to think practically as well – if you have a long way to travel before you arrive at the course you may want to consider fabrics that do not crumple or crease.

The shoes

While it may seem highly impractical to wear stiletto heels to the racecourse, on Ladies’ Day they will be everywhere. Glamorous but treacherous, the best advice for the stiletto wearer is to pack some ballet pumps for later in the day once the outfit has been seen.

Accessories

Accessories are what make an outfit complete and there are many different accessories that can be brought into play. We already have the hat, so why not combine it with a matching handbag?

Scarves, jewellery, brooches and more can complement the overall look for an outfit that truly stands out from the crowd, even on Ladies’ Day.

The rules

Ultimately, Ladies’ Day is about feeling glamorous and looking like the best version of you, whatever that might be. However, there are certain rules and dress codes and it’s advisable to check these out for the particular racecourse and enclosure before going shopping, especially if you’re in the Royal Enclosure.

Most courses stipulate how much flesh can be on display, with rules about hem length, exposed shoulders and more. Save the spaghetti straps and mini-skirts for another day and aim for elegant rather than over-the-top.

The men

Things are rather simpler for the men. A smart suit with tie is typical throughout most of the course, although those in the Royal Enclosure are usually required to wear a top hat and tails.

No matter what you wear, the aim of the day is to have fun so make sure you’re comfortable as well as stylish.

The in-depth Grand National racecourse guide

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The Grand National is run every year at Aintree. A National Hunt steeplechase, the Grand National is famous for being the ultimate test, with fences typically higher than in other steeplechases and one of the longest courses.

There are 16 fences in total and the horses jump 30 over two laps, missing out the final two fences on lap two in favour of the home stretch. Each fence is unique and each has its own challenges which horses and riders must meet. Some have earned names over the years, while others are referred to in number format.

Race start

The start of the Grand National was moved after a health and safety review in 2012, reducing the total distance of the race from 7.242km to 7.141km. It was decided to move the starting area 82m further forward to take it further away from the grandstands and crowds.

Fence 1 (and 17)

The first Grand National fence is set at a height of 4’6”. While not particularly challenging in terms of height, this fence often fells under-prepared runners who meet it at too high a speed.

After the 2011 race, work was undertaken to level the landing side of Fence 1 in order to help prevent horses over-jumping for safety reasons.

Fence 2 (and 18) – The Fan

Fence 2 was known for some time in the 19th century as The Fan, in honour of a particular mare who refused there three consecutive times. The name has since fallen out of use, and the 4’7” fence poses no notable difficulties today.

Fence 3 (and 19)

The third fence is colloquially known as the first ditch, with a 4’10” fence preceded by a 6’ ditch. This fence is said to pose the first real challenge on the course, especially on the first lap when the horses are not yet into their stride in terms of jumping obstacles.

Fence 4 (and 20)

In theory a fairly straightforward 4’10” fence, this has been the site of a number of Grand National catastrophes, including the fall of Corbiere in 1986 – having previously won once and come third twice – and the only ever fall of ten-times running jockey Neale Doughty in 1991.

Fence 5 (and 21)

The highest fence so far on the track, Fence 5 nevertheless poses few problems compared to many others. A plain obstacle, it is notable only for being bypassed on lap two in 2012 as medics treated a jockey who had broken a leg after a fall.

Fence 6 (and 22) – Becher’s Brook

Perhaps the most famous obstacle in the world in terms of steeplechase racing, Becher’s Brook was named after Captain Martin Becher after he fell and sheltered in the brook in the very first Grand National.

This tricky fence has a landing side which is much lower than the 4’10” take-off side, making it incredibly difficult to jump. Becher’s Brook along with Fence 20 were bypassed in the 2011 running after an equine casualty.

Modifications have been made several times in recent years to this fence in order to improve safety for the horses, including re-profiling to reduce the drop and make the jump less perilous.

Fence 7 (and 23) – Foinavon

The joint smallest and one of the least treacherous fences on the course, 4’6” Fence 7 was renamed in 1984 in honour of the 100/1 shot who surprised everyone by taking victory in 1967 despite relatively poor performance throughout the race.

As a loose horse rocketed across the fence on the second lap, almost every other horse fell or was forced to pull up. Foinavon, way in the back of the field, had the time to navigate the pile-up and crossed the fence thirty lengths ahead.

Even though 17 jockeys managed to remount and jump a second time, none could make up the lead and Foinavon managed to win the race.

Fence 8 (and 24) – Canal Turn

While the fence itself poses no major difficulty as a fairly standard 5’0” jump, Canal Turn poses its very own difficulties due to the fact that horses must turn almost 90 degrees almost immediately afterward. This causes some jockeys to try take the jump at an angle in order to maintain speed.

The name relates to some of the earlier Grand National races, where loose horses who continued straight on after the jump would physically end up in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Fence 9 (and 25) – Valentine’s or The Second Brook

Originally referred to as the Second Brook, Fence 9 was renamed Valentine’s after an incident in 1940, in which a horse named Valentine is said to have jumped over leading with his hind legs. The fence stands at 5’0” and has a 5’6” brook to navigate on the landing side.

Fence 10 (and 26)

Fence 10 poses no particular challenges in terms of Grand National fences, standing at 5’0” under the Sefton Stand.

Fence 11 (and 27)

Fence 11 is the third 5’0” fence on the course and is made more difficult by the 6’)2 ditch on take-off.

Fence 12 (and 28)

The 5’0” Fence 11 has a 5’6” ditch on landing side. It is also here that runners are said the re-enter the racecourse proper as they cross Melling Road.

In the early days of the running of the Grand National there were hedges here, causing runners to have to jump onto the road and then back again. It is also thought this was the site of a fence known as the Table Jump in the early days.

Fence 13 (and 29)

At just 4’7” and with no additional obstacles this fence causes few problems in the grand scheme of things. Most notably it was where hotly-tipped racers Master Oats and Double Silk were part of a five horse pile-up in 1994.

Fence 14 (and 30)

The smallest fence on the course along with Foinavon, Fence 14 only really poses problems when it becomes Fence 30, and is therefore the last fence before the home straight when horses are tired.

Due to its preceding the Chair on lap one and the home stretch in lap two, most jockeys take this fence extra carefully in preparation.

Fence 15 – The Chair

One of the hardest and most famous fences on the course, The Chair is one of two fences that only get jumped once before being bypassed in lap two in favour of the home straight. The Chair stands at 5’2” tall and is preceded by a 6’0” ditch, making it the biggest jump of the course.

The ditch was introduced after the only jockey fatality in Grand National history occurred here in 1862. Joe Wynne fell from his horse and later died from injuries, although the coroner did report he was weakened by consumption at the time.

The name of this fence comes from the fact that in the early years of the Grand National the distance judge would sit here – it was formerly known as the Monument Jump, but its current name came into usage in 1930. In contrast to Becher’s Brook, horses have to navigate a landing side that is 6’0” higher than the take-off side.

Fence 16 – The Water Jump

While Fences 7 and 14 are the smallest on the course, the Water Jump is the lowest obstacle at just 2’6” high. However, what makes this particularly tricky is the expanse of water on the landing side, creating by far the longest jump and a great spectacle.

The Water Jump is the only jump apart from the Chair that is only navigated once.

The home straight

There are a few interesting facts about the home straight in the Grand National, with one of the most unique being that it is not actually straight.

The home stretch, which at 494 yards is one of the longest of any steeplechases, actually has an acute elbow for horse and rider to navigate, right at the point of exhaustion. This stretch can make or break a race and no rider feels safe of victory until successfully first past the post.

This was evident in the legendary first Red Rum victory in 1973 when he came back from 15 lengths behind Crisp at the last fence to win by three-quarters of a length. In 2012, Neptune Collonges won a similarly tight race, ahead by a single nose at the finish line.

On the morning of the race, early birds can actually walk the course and see the iconic fences close up first hand. Any spectators wishing to do so must turn up at least two hours before the first race and be prepared to be disappointed if weather or ground conditions do not permit.

The fences at Aintree are part of what makes the Grand National such a thrilling and intense race, each posing a different challenge for horse and rider in their attempt of victory.

Find out here more information, advice and betting tips for Grand National 2018

The Grand National explained

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The Grand National is perhaps the most iconic horse race in the world and certainly one of the most popular among bettors. It is believed that around 600 million people watch the televised event each year, with another 150,000 spectators travelling to Aintree to witness the race meeting in person.

The inaugural Grand National took place in 1839, preceded by the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase races of 1836-1838. Run for the first four years as a weight-for-age race, in 1843 Sir Edward Topham transformed it into the handicap race it is today.

The race is legendary for the stories it creates and for its heroes, of which there have been many. But what is the Grand National and why is it so popular?

What is the Grand National?

The Grand National is part of the National Hunt steeplechase calendar held in early spring at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool. The race is 4 miles and 3 ½ furlongs long, making it one of the longest steeplechase races. Horses are required to run two laps of the course, jumping thirty fences before sprinting the final 494 yards to reach the winning post.

There are 40 contestants (although this number has fluctuated over the years) and the highest number of horses ever to finish the race stands at 23. Some of the jumps themselves have become famous over time, including the Chair and Becher’s Brook.

Get here more advice and betting tips for Grand National 2018

The Story of Red Rum

In the late sixties and early seventies, it looked like the Grand National might be in its last days. Disputes over the land, poor facilities and decreasing numbers of spectators all spelled the beginning of the end for the famous race: then along came Red Rum.

Born with a debilitating disease affecting the bones of his hoof, Red Rum was trained by a car salesman on Southport Beach where reputedly the waters proved therapeutic. Initially trained as a mile sprinter, the outsider Red Rum astounded crowds at the 1973 Grand National. Having lagged behind Crisp to the extent of fifteen lengths over the final fence, Red Rum pipped him at the post, winning by less than a length achieved just two strides from the winning post.

In 1974 Red Rum came back and retained his title, followed by two years of coming a close second. In 1977, however, the horse made history, becoming the first and only horse to win the National three times.

Red Rum is accredited by many as having saved the race by drawing in the previously waning crowds once more, and is perhaps the most famous racehorse of all time. Upon his death in 1995 at the grand old age of 30, Red Rum was buried by the winning post at Aintree as tribute to his achievements there.

Over 170 years after it was first run, the Grand National continues to be one of the most popular horse races in the racing calendar, with people around the world turning to the 40 horses and riders, anxious to see who will achieve this hugely coveted victory.