The Scottish Grand National is a handicap National Hunt steeplechase run at Ayr in Scotland. While not as famous as the Grand National at Aintree, there is nevertheless a large amount of prestige in winning the Scottish version.

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History of the Scottish Grand National

The inaugural Scottish Grand National was run in 1858 at a course in Renfrewshire near Houston. Known at that point as the West of Scotland Grand National, horses and riders were required to navigate some 32 jumps over approximately three miles, with most of the jumps being stone walls.

Later objections from Houston’s Free Kirk caused the race to be moved to Irvine in 1867, where it was run at Bogside Racecourse for almost a century. During this time the length of the course was extended to just under four miles.

In 1880 the name was changed to the Scottish Grand National, with the first race under that name being won by a horse named Peacock. With the 1965 closure of Bogside Racecourse, the Scottish Grand National moved to its present location in Ayr, where it also increased in distance again to the current four miles and 110 yards. Today horses jump 27 fences over this left-handed track.

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Famous winners

Red Rum, the only horse to have won the Grand National three times, is also the only horse ever to win both the Grand National and the Scottish Grand National in the same year – a feat he accomplished in 1974.

There have been several other horses who have won both races (although none in the same year): Music Hall, Little Polveir and Earth Summit.

Three horses have managed to win the Scottish Grand National three times, although this has not happened for more than half a century. Couvrefeu II, Southern Hero and Queen’s Taste have all tasted victory on three occasions.

The all-time leading jockey from the Scottish Grand National is Charlie Cunningham, winning four times in 1881, 1885, 1887 and 1889 on Bellman, Wild Meadow, Oracdian and Deloraine, respectively. In terms of the race in its current format at Ayr, jockey Mark Dwyer heads the list with three wins: two on Androma in 1984 and 1985, and one on Moorcroft Boy in 1996.

The Scottish Grand National may not be quite as famous or as gruelling as it’s English counterpart, but the excitement levels still run high and winning is a big deal. Prize money for the winning team reached £119,595 in 2015, up from the £100 awarded to the winners in 1867.

Although lesser-known than its English counterpart, the Scottish Grand National is just as thrilling and intense, showcasing some of the best talent in horse racing, and promising a dramatic race for participants and spectators alike.