Animal Aid

THE GRAND NATIONAL

Posted 1 April 2001

This article appeared in The Guardian, 6 April 2001. Entitled 'Guide to the best of the Grand National on the net', it included a link to these pages!

  1. Tomorrow, a maximum field of 40 horses and riders will gather at the starting line for the world's most famous steeplechase, The Grand National. The race, which marks the end of a three-day jamboree at Liverpool's Aintree race course, will be watched by a massive TV audience of over 600m.

  2. It's been possible to bet online for some time, but this year there's a special offer available for Guardian punters, and you can also watch the race on the web for the first time.

  3. Betting, as always, will reach fever pitch, and there's plenty of information to help you pick your favoured nag.

  4. After the misery of losing the Cheltenham Festival to the foot and mouth crisis, the sport of kings was given a big boost on Tuesday with the news that Irish trainers will travel to Liverpool for the race.

  5. It's a brutal affair. Nearly two and a quarter miles long, with 16 fences, the horses have to complete almost two circuits, followed by a 494-yard finish. It's proved the downfall of many in the past. In 1999, the highly rated Eudip joined the list of fatalities when he fell at Becher's Brook.

  6. Indeed, the race has long been controversial, with the notorious fences causing the deaths of many horses down the years. Animal welfare groups like Animal Aid continue to call for the end to the race.

  7. But, this year, the fences have been adjusted to make things a little less dangerous.

  8. The first official races at Aintree were in 1829, but, in 1839, Lottery became the winner of the first true Grand National, although it was hardly grand in those days. The horses had only to jump a stone wall (now the water jump), cross a stretch of plough land and finish over two hurdles.

  9. In 1949, Lord Sefton sold the course to the Topham family, who appointed Mirabel Topham to manage it. The redoubtable Mrs Topham built a new track within the established course and opened it in 1953, the same year as the motor circuit that still encircles the track.

  10. Past winners include L'Escargot, Party Politics and, most famously of all, Red Rum, but Bobbyjo, who won in 1999, won't be challenging for a second win in three years after sustaining an injury.

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