Once again the sporting world will stop in its tracks as the 2017 Grand National is run. 600 million people will tune in to watch live, and £150 million will be placed in bets, as 40 horses and their jockeys line up to tackle the most famous horse race in the world.
The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. First run officially in 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles 3½ furlongs with horses jumping 30 fences over two circuits of the course. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund in excess of £1 million, and this year will be ran on April 8th.
The course over which the race is run – Aintree's National Course – is uniquely challenging, featuring much larger fences than those found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these fences, including Becher's Brook, The Chair, Valentine’s and the Canal Turn, have become famous in their own right. These, combined with the distance of the event, create what has been called "the ultimate test of horse and rider".
History has been written about the legendary runners and riders who have triumphed in the Grand National, each of them demonstrating that thrilling combination of human endeavour and equine fortitude.
From the legendary triple-winning success of Red Rum, to our present day winner of Rule The World, and others in between like Aldaniti, L’Escargot, and Foinavon some names will never be forgotten. This goes for horses like Devon Lock too who famously never quite won it.
Famous trainers like Ginger McCain and Jenny Pitman have also become household names, as well as successful jockeys such as Bob Champion, Richard Dunwoody, Ruby Walsh, and Tony McCoy.
Even if you’re not a betting person the Grand National will still make a lot of people have a flutter in the hope of landing a few quid. In fact £150 million is expected to bet on the Grand National race itself. Form is studied by some, others choose names on the strength of a familiar phrase.
In a slight touch of irony the first winner of the classic event was a horse called Lottery, and it has almost been just that ever since to predict a winner. In fact in the last 55 years only 8 times has the favourite going into the race actually won it. This time around the bookies early favourite is the French horse Vieux Lion Rouge.
One horse that won’t be running is last years winner Rule The World which surprisingly retired just a month after winning the race as a novice – the first time a novice had won the big one in over 50 years.
But don’t be mistaken this isn’t just a one off race.
The curtain will rise on Grand Opening Day, when the racing action will be followed by sensational live music and entertainment.
Day two of the festival is when Aintree sees the ladies take the stage. As well as the breathtaking action on the racecourse, Ladies Day (Fabulous Friday) will include the search for the most stylish racegoer.
And then, the final day, and the day of the Grand National itself consists of 7 races, with the big one being the sixth race of the meeting (it was the final race of the event last year).
For further information on this event please see the official websites here and here.