Hosting one of the biggest jump races in the world, Aintree Racecourse will open its
doors on Thursday 2 nd April for three days of top-class racing. The highlight of the
meeting is undoubtedly the Grand National, which is watched by hundreds of millions
around the world and last year, boasted a handsome purse of £1 million.
The Aintree course is very unpredictable and each year, there are likely to be several
non-finishers. It’s also very rare the favourite goes on to win, such is the nature of the race. Tiger Roll won back-to-back races in the last two Nationals, last year as the favourite and the previous year at odds of 10/1. He’s the favourite again if you’re
interested in Grand National betting with Paddy Power.
The Grand National is run over four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs, with the
entered horses jumping 30 fences over two laps. Of the 16 fences that make up the course, there are five that have become famous in their own right and, interestingly,
four of them are grouped together in the course’s toughest stage. Read on as we
give you all you need to know about these legendary jumps.
6 & 22: Becher’s Brook
Becher’s Brook is the National’s most-feared fence, because the landing side is six-
to-ten inches lower than the take-off side, often catching runners by surprise.
Jockeys have even referred to it as ‘jumping off the edge of the world’. The fence got
its name from Captain Martin Becher, who was a jockey in the inaugural race of 1839. At the age of 40, he had considered retirement, but instead rode Conrad. He
fell at the first brook before remounting and later falling on the second lap. This time, he remained unseated and hid in the brook to avoid injury from the other horses
jumping the fence. According to folklore, Becher later remarked: “Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky.”
7 & 23: Foinavon
At four foot six inches, this fence is one of the smallest on the course and was
renamed in 1984 after Foinavon, the winner of the 1967 race. The 100/1 longshot
avoided a mass pile-up at this fence on the second lap, when Popham Down veered
to the right and slammed into Rutherfords and at least five other horses hit the
ground. A number of jockeys got back on the saddle, while some of the horses
prevented others jumping the fence. Some even ran in the complete wrong direction,
causing chaos. Foinavon and jockey John Buckingham were lagging so far behind,
they missed the melee and went on to win the race by 15 lengths.
8 & 24: The Canal Turn
The Canal Turn is famous for its sharp right-angle turn that horses must take as
soon as they have negotiated the fence. Such is the severity of the corner, it’s not
uncommon for jockeys to be unseated or horses to fall at this fence. In fact, over the
years, there have been many a pile-up and most recently, in 2015, the fence was
bypassed as vets treated a horse who had fallen on the first lap. The Canal Turn got
its name as before World War I, it was not unusual for horses to jump and continue
straight, thus ending up in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
9 & 25: Valentine’s Brook
Valentine’s Brook is another of the fences to take its name from a previous horse in
Grand National folklore and it has also been known as the ‘Second Brook’. Valentine
raced in the second official running of 1840 and owner John Power debuted on the
saddle. Rumour has it that Power wagered that the duo would be ahead at the wall –
and they were. But after going at such a great speed, the horse came to a standstill
and took on the fence hind legs first, much to the bemusement of spectators. After
corkscrewing the hurdle, Power and Valentine came third of four finishers, in what
was the smallest field in National history, with 13 starters.
15: The Chair
At five foot two inches, The Chair is the biggest jump of the Grand National (learn more in this Grand National Race guide), which is
why it was previously known as the ‘Monument Jump’. It is only jumped on the first
lap of the course, preceding the Water Jump. Positioned in front of the grandstand,
it’s one of the most popular jumps among spectators – made more exciting by the
six-foot ditch which needs to be cleared on take-off side. The Chair gets its name
from the chair which was alongside the fence in the earliest years of the race. A
judge would sit in the chair and would declare any non-finishers. These rules
became redundant in the 1850s but the site of the chair still stands today.