Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Grand National

Today, in Aintree, in northwest England, the world's most difficult steeplechase will be run. After there were two deaths last year, the 7km course has been modified a bit.  You may recall that the race was highlighted in the classic movie National Velvet starring the late Elizabeth Taylor.

(Mirror News Photo)

The race starts at 4:15 pm GMT and has been held at Aintree every year since 1839 with the exception of 1916-1918 when it was held at Gatwick Racecourse during WWI and it was not held from 1941 to 1945 due to the War.  In 1993 the race was called a void due to a false start.

(Mirror News Photo)

The famous Becher’s Brook jump (pictured above) takes its name from Captain Martin Becher who fell there at the first Grand National and sheltered in the small brook running alongside the fence.

The triangular course has 16 fences topped with Spruce.  All the fences except for the Chair and the Water Jump are jumped twice.  The race is the most valuable National Hunt event in the UK with this year's prize money of 975,000 pounds. 

In the 173-year history of the race, 13 female horses have won but only two grey horses have won the race.  The first female jockey to ride in the race was Charlotte Brew in 1977.  The first female jockey to finish the race was Geraldine Rees in 1982.  Last year, Nina Carberry became the first woman to ride in the race three times.  This year,  both Carberry and jockey Kate Walsh will ride.

The most successful horse in the history of the Grand National is Red Rum, who won the steeplechase in 1973, 1974 and 1977. He also came second in 1975 and 1976.

The most successful jockey was George Stevens who won the race five times; Freetrader in 1856, Emblem in 1863, Emblematic in 1864 and The Colonel in 1869 and 1870. 

There are an amazing 40 horses entered in today's race.  Let's see who makes it to the finish!

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