A Guide to the UK Grand National

"Horse racing" (CC BY 2.0) by Paolo Camera

Within the UK, the Aintree Grand National is considered to be the biggest steeplechase event of the horse racing year. For those who do not tune in to the meeting, it may come as a surprise to learn that it’s also a global phenomenon.

The best jump horses in the world assemble in Liverpool each year, but why is the Grand National such a big deal?

A Global Success

Stats show that around 10 million people in the UK watch the National on television or online. On a global scale, those numbers increase to an incredible 500 million. It’s an important event for associated industries too with significant revenue being produced.

Those looking to bet on Grand National markets will find that options are in place many months ahead of the event. For the record, 2023’s declaration shows that Corach Rambler will start as the favorite at odds of +600, while the 2022 winner, Noble Yeats, follows on at +800.

It’s a success all-round, and the National has been a part of British horse racing for nearly 200 years.

Rich History

Red Rum” (CC BY 2.0) by The Boy from Bar

The first official edition of the Grand National was run back in 1839. Prior to that date, there had been similar races, but they were held on a nearby course in Maghull. The iconic Aintree location came into play and, while debate continues, it’s generally recognized that 1839 marked the birth of the National as we know it.

The nature of the event, a long distance race with multiple fences, soon meant that the Grand National gained notoriety around the horse racing fraternity. That interest increased exponentially with the arrival of live TV broadcasting from around the 1950s onwards.

Since that point, there have been some unforgettable editions, with many horses and jockeys writing themselves into sporting history.

One of the earliest big upsets in the race came in 1967 when rank underdog Foinavon came home in first place. The outsider benefitted when a stray horse suddenly veered across the field, disturbing the leading runners.

Ten years later, the great Red Rum completed a unique hat trick of wins when he completed his third Grand National victory. No other horse has matched this feat before or since.

The Toughest Test

A horse and jockey need multiple qualities in order to claim success in the Grand National. Firstly, the race is a true test of jumping skills with 30 fences lying between the start and the finishing post.

Many of those obstacles are part of the National’s history in their own right, with the water jump and Becher’s Brook among the most memorable.

Speed is needed to an extent, but this is a long race and it’s more about stamina and endurance. Horses will complete two laps of the Aintree track in a race which will usually last for around ten minutes.

2023 will produce another host of great Grand National stories. It’s a fiendishly difficult race to predict, but we can be certain of more drama and a place in horse racing history for the eventual winner.

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