• Donnington Grove

Grand National

The most famous horse race in the world

In February 1839, Lottery became the first winner of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the race that would become known as the Grand National. Horses had to jump a stone wall, cross a stretch of ploughed land and finish over two hurdles.

Mr Edward William Topham, a respected handicapper, was responsible for turning the Grand National into a handicap in 1843 after it had been a weight-for-age race for the first four years. The Topham family owned substantial tracts of land around Aintree and in 1949 they bought the course outright from Lord Sefton, from whom the land had previously been leased since the racecourse’s opening in 1829.

The Grand National is run over the National Course at Aintree and consists of two laps of 16 fences, the first 14 of which are jumped twice. Horses completing the race cover a distance of 4 miles 514 yards (6.907 km), the
longest of any National Hunt race in Britain.

The Grand National was designed as a cross-country steeplechase when it was first officially run in 1839. The runners started at a lane on the edge of the racecourse and raced away from the course out over open countryside towards the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The gates, hedges and ditches that they met along the way were flagged to provide them with the obstacles to be jumped along the way with posts and rails erected at the two points where the runners jumped a brook. The runners returned towards the racecourse by running along the edge of the canal before re-entering the course at the opposite end. The majority of the race therefore took place not on the actual Aintree Racecourse but instead in the adjoining countryside.

During the Second World War Although the Grand National was run as normal in 1940 and most other major horse races around the world were able to be held throughout the war. The commandeering of Aintree Racecourse for defence use in 1941 meant no Grand National could be held from 1941 to 1945.

Red Rum

It was over 40 years ago now that Red Rum (pictured) recorded the first of the three victories in the Grand National that earned him pride of place in the record books forever. He still remains the only horse to have won the Grand National three times.

Fences

There are 16 fences on the topped with spruce from the Lake District. The cores of 12 fences were rebuilt in 2012 and they are now made of a flexible plastic material which is more forgiving compared to the traditional wooden core fences.

Becher’s Brook

Takes its name from Captain Martin Becher who fell there in the first Grand National and took shelter in the small brook running along the landing side of the fence while the remainder of the field thundered over.

The Chair

The fence was the location where a distance judge sat in the earliest days of the race. On the second circuit he would record the finishing order from his position and declare any horse that had not passed him before
the previous runner passed the finishing post as “distanced”, meaning a non-finisher. The practise was done away with in the 1850s but the monument where the chair stood is still there.

An estimated 500 to 600 million people watch the Grand National in over 140 countries.