Wednesday 18 March 2015

Grand National - A Matter of Course

There are many horse racing events which capture the heart and imagination of fans but all come second place to the Grand National. On the 11th April (4:15 Aintree) the world and his wife will cheer their fancy in the greatest steeplechase. Take a look at this years runners and odds for the Grand National

Few races have such a history that even the fences which the horses jump tell a story. The Grand National is run over a distance of 4 miles 3 1/2 furlongs. The horses run two circuits and jump 30 fences.  

There are 16 fences all topped with a least 14'' of spruce from the Lake District, which cushions the obstacles. All sixteen fences are jumped on the first circuit. However, on the second circuit the Chair and the Water jump are bypassed leading into the finishing straight. 

A number of fences have been given names such as Becher's Brook, Foinavon & The Canal Turn. 

But how did they get their names?

Fence 1 and 17 (4 ft 6'') Often met at great speed. In 1951 12 horses fell at this fence. In 2011 the drop on the landing side was reduced for safety.

Fence 2 and 18 (4 ft 7'') This fence used to be called The Fan after a mare who refused to jump this obstacle for three races in succession. However this fell out of use when the fences were relocated in 1888.

Fence 3 and 19 - Open Ditch (4 ft 10'', fronted by 6 ft ditch)

Fence 4 and 20 (4 ft 10'') 

Fence 5 and 21 (5 ft) precedes the most famous fence on the course

Fence 6 and 22  - Becher's Brook (5 ft, with landing side 6-10'' lower) 

This fence takes its name from Captain Martin Becher who fell in the first race and took shelter in the small brook on the landing side while the other horses jumped over his head. Becher was quoted as saying: ''The water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whiskey.''

Fence 7 and 23 - Foinavon   (4 ft 6'')

Named in 1984 after 1967 winner Foinavon who won at odds of 100/1 after avoiding a dramatic accident when most of the field fell or refused to jump.

Fence 8 and 24 - Canal Turn (5 ft) 

A 90- degree left turn upon jumping. Amazingly before the First World War many loose horses continued after the jump landing in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. 

Fence 9 and 25  - Valentine's Brook (5 ft with 5 ft 6'' brook)

Named after a horse Valentine in 1840 who was reputed to have jumped the fence hind legs first. 

Fence 10 and 26 (5 ft)

Fence 11 and 27 - Open Ditch (5 ft, with 6 ft ditch on takeoff side) 

Fence 12 and 28 - Ditch (5 ft with 5 ft 6'' ditch on landing side)

Fence 13 and 29 - (4 ft 7'') 

Fence 14 and 30 - (4 ft 6'')

Fence 15 - The Chair (5 ft 2'', preceded by a 6 ft wide ditch)  

The only fence to have claimed a human life. In 1862 Joe Wynne fell and died from his injuries. This accident brought about the ditch being placed before the fence in an attempt to slow the horses down. This fence was originally known as the Monument jump but renamed The Chair in the 1930s. A judge used to sit at this fence to recorded the finishing order of horses but the practice was done with in 1850 although a monument still remains where the chair stood.  

Fence 16 - Water Jump (2 ft 6'')

Originally this was a stone wall in the early years of the race. The water jump was one of the most popular features until television coverage saw the Chair become the major obstacle of interest. 

The run in is one of the longest in the United Kingdom  at 494 yards.