About the Grand National
Since the inaugural running in 1839, when Lottery etched his name on the roll of honour, victory in the Grand National has been the pinnacle of ambition for owners, trainers and jockeys worldwide.
Hollywood actors, moguls, pop stars, comedians, coiffeurs, celebrities of all hues, sporting heroes, politicians, aristocrats, business people of every variety, Kings, Queens and Princes have all tried for success; just a fortunate few have succeeded.
It is the most famous chase in the world and one of the biggest tests for racehorse and rider around two circuits of the Grand National course - with 30 fences to be jumped as four and a half miles is covered. There are numerous famous landmarks which are an integral part of Grand National folklore; Becher’s Brook, the Canal Turn, Valentine’s and the Chair are fences known around the globe.
Familiar phrases of commentators such as “crossing the Melling Road” are built into people’s subconscious, while there is the ‘elbow’, with the winning post in sight, where many a potential victor has felt the last reserves of stamina ebb away and with it, immortality.
And there is nothing quite like that sensation of heart-clutching, wriggling expectation as the 40-strong field for the Grand National is persuaded into a fair line, ready to tackle the long run to the first fence.
Whether at Aintree or at home watching the peerless television coverage, a general hush falls until the starter calls the runners into line. The tape is released and then a roar - the most anticipated race of the year has begun.
The sense of excitement begins at such a great height, tumbles and hurtles onwards throughout nearly 10 minutes of breathtaking action and often afterwards. Betting slips, carefully clutched, are not to be celebrated until the result has been officially announced.
Many are the reversals of fortune in the 465 yards between the last fence and the winning post, with replays avidly studied to determine what happened where to each of the runners and riders. Devon Loch’s inexplicable collapse in the 1956 Grand National, a mere 50 yards from victory, serves as a constant reminder that the race is often won and lost in the final run from the ‘elbow’. Once-a-year punters come out in force on Grand National day, studying the list of runners to locate their selection from the office/shop sweepstake, or placing their wager on a horse with a name they like or one linked to a topical event - Party Politics was a popular choice when he won the great race in 1992, with the nation on the brink of a general election.
Not only is the great race compellingly demanding - the feeling of even completing is one cherished by all involved - but it is also financially rewarding.
Millions and millions of people in Britain bet on the Grand National each year, making the race easily the biggest single turnover event, and the most anticipated.
Whether in one of Britain’s 9,000 off-course betting shops, over the telephone, through the internet or interactively, regular punters and the annually curious will be out in force. Bookmakers estimate that around £500 million is wagered in Britain on the day, with the Grand National accounting for the bulk of that.