Originally known as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the horse race famous throughout the world as the Grand National has been a sporting institution since 1839. A horse called Lottery won that inaugural race, and one Captain Becher fell at a fence that has been known as Becher’s Brook ever since. In those early years, the horses had to jump a stone wall, cross a stretch of ploughed land and finish over two hurdles. These days, the Grand National is still held at the Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, and while there are no stone walls and ploughed stretches to negotiate, it’s still recognised as one of the most challenging courses in the racing calendar.
The Grand National has enjoyed some historic days. In the 70s, Red Rum became the first (and so far only) horse to win the gruelling race three times. Every year’s Grand National is a grand day out in its own right, and this year’s event on 9th April is no exception. An impressive 600 million people are due to watch the race on TV, but nothing beats the thrill of actually being there. A wide range of tickets and hospitality packages are available for the race itself and for the wider three-day festival. This starts with the Grand Opening Day on Thursday 7th April, with curtain-raising racing action as well as live music and entertainment.
The next day, Friday 8th April, is the world-famous Ladies’ Day, which is a riot of colour, fashion and the search for the weekend’s most stylish festival-goer. The big event itself will be held on Saturday 9th April. There are 40 horses racing, and while the odds are apt to fluctuate during the run-in to the race, it’s certainly worth familiarising yourself with the Grand National runners, especially if you are intending to have a flutter. Silviniaco Conti, Many Clouds and The Last Samurai are amongst the favourites. Many Clouds, ridden by jockey Leighton Aspell and trained by Oliver Sherwood, won last year’s event at odds of 25/1.
You do not have to attend in person if you want to bet on the Grand National. You can do it at a remote, via your local bookies, or online if you prefer. Many enthusiasts and casual racing fans alike find that putting a few quid on a horse or two only adds to the excitement, whether they are there in person or simply watching at home on TV.
The race itself is run on the National Course at Aintree and takes in two laps for a total distance of 4 miles. This makes it the longest National Hunt race on the British racing circuit. There are also 16 fences, with the first 14 being jumped twice for a total of 30 jumps. With a prize fund of more than £1 million in 2015, it is the most valuable jump race in Europe and is always one of the most expensive sporting events of the year.