The Grand National has been a sporting institution since 1839 and this year the world’s greatest steeplechase is on Saturday the 14th April at Aintree Racecourse. The horse race captures the imagination of millions and consistently produces thrilling finishes and heart-warming stories as horse and rider try to conquer the mighty Aintree fences.
Here are a few facts that you might find interesting:
• The Grand National was run at Aintree for the first time on Tuesday,February 26 1839 and a horse named Lottery took the honours.
• The first five Grand National's included one jump that was a stone wall. It was situated where the water jump now stands.
• Becher's Brook earned its name when a top jockey, Captain Martin Becher, took shelter in the brook after being unseated. "Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky" he reflected.
• The Chair is the tallest fence at 5ft 3ins, and the broadest. The fence got its name as it was once alongside the seat used by the distance judge.
• The fences at Aintree are made up of spruce from the Lake District. The cost of the building work is tens of thousands of pounds and takes a month to complete.
• Only two grey horses have ever won the Grand National - The Lamb won twice in 1868 and 1871, while Nicolaus Silver is the only grey this century to win, in 1961.
• The maximum number of runners permissable in the Grand National today is 40.
• Horses have to successfully jump a total of 30 fences. Each of the 16 individual fences are jumped twice, apart from The Chair and The Water Jump. The race comprises two circuits of the course.
• After the final fence, the horses face a 494 yard sprint for the winning post!
• The 1929 National featured the most starters in the race when 66 horses lined up.
• No horse can match Red Rum's Grand National record. Winner of the race in 1973 and 1974, he was second the next two years before his historic third victory in 1977. He died in 1995 and is buried by the winning post at Aintree.
• Bruce Hobbs, aged 17, was the youngest winning jockey on Battleship in 1938.
• Since 1968 horses starting at 16/1 or under have won 27 times.
• Nine-year-olds have the best record, having won 34 times since 1900.
• In 1993 there was no Grand National Winner - The starter failed to recall the field after a false start. Half the field carried on, not realising that there had been a second false start. The race could not be re-run and the 'winning' horse, Esha Ness, ridden by John White, could not claim the prize.
• In 1981, there was hardly a dry eye in the house as Bob Champion rode Aldaniti to an emotional victory, following his recovery from cancer and the horse’s recovery from a broken leg – their story was made into a film called “Champions”.
• “Foinavon’s fence” was named after one of the luckiest winners of any race ever - A loose horse caused the rest of the field to fall or stop and only Foinavon was far enough behind to avoid the pile-up and establish enough of a lead that no one could catch him.
So, who’s your favourite for this year?
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