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John Smith’s Grand National 2011 at Aintree

Coming up this Saturday 9th April is possibly the most famous steeplechase in the world, the Grand National. Even people that have no knowledge of horse racing or interest in it at any other time of year, find themselves getting into the spirit of the race and having a flutter.

Every year, Aintree race course plays host to this prestigious and world renowned event. 40 horses take part, there are 30 fence jumps and the course is four and a half miles long.

Aintree is located close to the M57 and M58 and is easily accessible by road and public transport is frequent. The nearest airport is Liverpool John Lennon airport.

A lot of the appeal in this steeplechase is that due to the length of the course and the difficulty in the jumps, it is often the case that the bookie’s favourite is not always the winner. There have been many occasions where a rank outsider has romped home to win the gruelling race, in fact in the last 100 years only 11 horses that were favourites have won.  This makes it a popular choice for having a flutter on as if you were to back an outsider at 500-1 with a couple of pounds, if it was to be first past the winning post, you could see a very tidy profit! It has often been said that the Grand National is “anybody’s race” which is very much part of the appeal.

Some of the fences along the course are well known throughout the world, with many of them being almost quite terrifying in height and build. Possibly the most famous fence in the whole of the racing world is Becher’s Brook, which took it’s name from Captain Martin Becher who fell from his horse Conrad in the very first Aintree Grand National in 1839. This fence is jumped twice during the race, as the 2nd and 22nd fence.

The Chair is another well-known fence and is the biggest on the course as it stands 5ft 2in in height, is 3ft deep and there is a 6ft ditch beforehand. Truly an extremely daunting and difficult obstacle to jump! This fence derived its name from a chair which was located near to the fence, where a judge used to sit.

Aintree Grand National

Although every measure is taken to ensure the race runs smoothly, on some occasions over the years this has not always been the case. One of the more memorable of these was in 1993, when a series of incidents at the start of the race resulted in the starting tape failing to rise correctly. The judges declared a false start but a lack of communication between course officials meant that 30 of the jockeys did not realise it was a false start and continued on with the race.  Officials tried to stop the race by waving red flags at the end of the first circuit but some of the jockeys ignored them as they thought they were protesters and so carried on. To those watching the television coverage it did appear as quite a debacle! In the end 7 horses actually completed the whole race, although any results were deemed void.

In 1997, the Grand National had to be cancelled due to receiving two coded bomb warnings, allegedly from the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The race did eventually go ahead on the following Monday.

One of the most famous winners of the race was Red Rum trained by Donald McCain, who was first horse past the post in 1973, 1974 and 1977.

Another memorable win was Bob Champion on Aldaniti in 1981, a very emotional and inspiring journey considering Bob had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before and at the time had been given eight months to live. This story of determination and dedication inspired a film to be made about it, called Champions where John Hurt played the part of Bob Champion and Aldiniti played himself.

Posted: 4/5/2011 2:32:11 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

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