The Grand National
The Grand National, known as the world’s most famous steeplechase, is probably the most valuable National Hunt horse race in the world. National Hunt horse racing is different to flat racing because the horses are required to jump over thirty obstacles called fences or hurdles and no horse racing event in the UK draws in as many spectators and punters as The Grand National. The fences or hurdles used in these types of event have given European racing a considerable advantage over American horse racing as during the race the endurance of the horse and the skill and stamina of the rider are really put to the ultimate test.
Over the years, owing to the considerable number of injuries to both horses and riders, most of which have been severe, some even fatal, The Grand National has become the UK’s most criticised and controversial horse racing calendar fixture. Another characteristic of The Grand National is that you don’t have to know anything about horse racing to enjoy this race day and indeed lots of people who don’t usually bet will have a ‘flutter’, just that once in the year, and cheer their chosen horse on as they watch the race on the TV. Also, lots of work places will get a syndicate together to join in the fun. With the Grand National, you only have to be a fan for the day and since the new millennium, the race has been watched by over 600-million viewers a year.
It is generally accepted that the first race took place at Aintree Racecourse, Merseyside (the ‘home’ of the Grand National) in 1839 and was won by a horse called ‘Lottery’. Another one of the most famous horses to ever run in The Grand National was Red Rum, who won the race three times in 1973, 1975 and 1977, also being placed second twice in 1975 and 1976.
Since the 1980s, the number of viewers watching the Grand National has increased year on year, especially with the advent of Cable and Satellite television, making it possible for most people worldwide to watch it at home, or in the pub, in order to join in the thrills and spills of the day. Horse racing books are still as popular as always and even easier now to find with the use of the internet, as are the vast array of horse racing collectables and horse racing memorabilia.