An estimated 600 million people around the globe will tune in to watch the Grand National unfold in epic fashion on Saturday afternoon. This remarkable race has captured the imagination of people with zero interest in the sport for 364 days of the year and it remains one of the highlights of the British calendar. Here are some fun facts ahead of the big race:
The prize purse for the 2018 Grand National stands at a cool £1 million, making it the richest race in Europe this year. The prize money and the prestige always help to attract a talented field packed full of the leading long-distance steeplechasers in the business. They battle it out over 4 miles and 514 yards and they must jump 30 gruelling fences during two laps of the course. In Britain alone, the race is expected to bring in a record £350 million in bets, and much more will be wagered across the world, making it one of the biggest gambling events of the year.
The race is held at Aintree in Merseyside, a racecourse named after an ancient Viking settlement where every tree was felled apart from one, giving the name “Ain Tree”. The race first took place in 1839 and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. Nowadays around 70,000 spectators pack into the famous ground to watch the action unfold on this unique and special track. The fence is made from wooden frames and covered with spruce branches sourced from forests in the nearby Lake District. These are not just any fences, they are fearsome obstacles with intimidating names like The Chair, Canal Turn, Water Jump and Becher’s Brook. A jockey died trying to navigate The Chair in the 19th century, while Becher’s Brook is so called because Captain Martin Becher took shelter in the brook to avoid injury after falling from his mount in the inaugural Grand National. Nowadays casualties are kept to a minimum, but many horses fail to finish this gruelling race. Back in 1928, 42 horses contested the race and only two completed it. Last year, 19 out of 40 finished the race.
Girls Who Run The World
In 2018, three female jockeys will contest the race for the first time in 30 years, and one could become the first woman to ever win it. Charlotte Brew was the first female jockey to compete in 1977, but her horse pulled up at the fourth from last fence. Katie Walsh is the most successful female jockey in the race’s history as she finished third on Seabass in 2012. This time she rides Baie Des Iles, while Bryony Frost lines up Milansbar and Rachael Blackmore will be on board Alpha Des Obeaux. Check out the Sporting Index spread betting lines here and you will see that all three are given a good chance of winning it.
Competing With A Frisky Mister
There are plenty of leading lights from the National Hunt scene geared to battle it out for this year’s renewal, including Tiger Roll, Blaklion, Total Recall and Anibale Fly. But they will need to put in a magnificent performance if they are to break the course record set all the way back in 1990 by Mr Frisk, who went round in just 8 minutes and 47.8 seconds. That is 18 seconds quicker than last year’s winner, One For Arthur, and the record has never looked in much danger. The slowest winner was Lottery, who won the first ever Grand National back in 1839, with a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.
Mimicking Mon Mome
This year no fewer than eight horses are lumbered with odds of 100/1: Walk In The Mill, Virgilio, Double Ross, Delusionofgrandeur, Maggio, Beeves and Tenor Nivernais. Before you write them off due to the long odds, it is worth noting that we have seen some huge outsiders land this race over the years. In 1928, Tiperary Tim was 100/1 when he won it, and the following year Gregalach defied odds of 100/1 to emerge victorious. Caughoo in 1947 and Foinavon in 1967 were both priced at 100/1, and it is not just a trend confined to yesteryear. In 2009, Mon Mome won at 100/1, and in 2013 Auroras Encore won at odds of 66/1, one of four horses over the years to win at that price. There have also been four 50/1 winners, so it can pay to look down the field.