The four mile, three-and-a-half-furlong Grand National race is often billed as the ultimate test of horse and rider due to the difficulty of the course.
There are sixteen fences in total, fourteen of which get jumped twice, with the Chair and the Water Jump being missed on the second circuit as the horses veer off to the home straight.
Many of the fences are almost as infamous in their own right as the race itself and each has its own history. Here, we will take a look at some of the most iconic ones that make this race so intense and dramatic.
The Chair (Fence 15)
The Chair is the tallest fence at Aintree, standing at 5’3”, although the tricky part is that the take-off side is 6 inches lower than the landing side, resulting in feeling like the ground is heading up to meet the horses.
Since the first ever Grand National in 1839 there have been three equine fatalities here. This fence is most infamous, however, for causing the only human casualty in the long history of the Grand National. In 1862 jockey Joseph Wynne was badly injured after falling at The Chair, dying just hours later.
Valentine’s Brook (Fence 9 and 25)
Valentine’s Brook was so named after an incident in the 1840 Grand National, where the runner Valentine is reputed to have managed to jump what was then called the Second Brook hind legs first.
With no video cameras it is impossible to prove this, but nevertheless the fence has been named for that horse ever since.
Canal Turn (Fence 8 and 24)
The Canal Turn is one of the trickiest fences on the course at Aintree due to the fact that horses and riders must make a 90 degree turn almost immediately upon landing.
There have been seven fatal falls at Canal Turn over the years and the fence is renowned as a game-changer, with many instances in which the expected outcome of the race has been dramatically altered.
Foinavon (Fence 7 and 23)
One of the smallest fences on the course at just 4’6”, this fence was re-named Foinavon in 1984 in honour of the 100/1 outsider who won the Grand National in a shock result in 1967. A loose horse darted along the fence causing every single other horse to stop or fall: except Foinavon, that is, who was so far behind the pack he had time to readjust and jump first time, gaining a lead of thirty lengths that was enough to take him first over the finish line.
Becher’s Brook (Fence 6 and 22)
This fence is notoriously difficult due to the vast difference in height on take-off and landing: the five-foot fence actually has a drop of between six and 10 inches lower.
It was named after the first ever Grand National in 1839, when jockey Captain Martin Becher came unseated and famously sheltered right in the brook for safety. Many amendments have been made to this fence over recent years after pressure from animal rights groups, with fourteen recorded equine fatalities in total.
The many fences at the Grand National are what make the race so challenging, and these five are some of the most well-known of all.