You may all have an opinion of which is the world's greatest race. The Ididerod, the Tour de France, The Bostom Marathon, Formula 1, Nascar, The Oxford and Cambridge boat race on the River Thames, The Melbourne Cup.... but my vote goes to THE GRAND NATIONAL, at Aintree each April. and has been run since 1836.
On Saturday 40 horses and jockeys thundered around Aintree, Liverpool with only 11 finishing. Over 650 million were watching and listening world-wide and over a 100,000 at the course. This year it took 7 starts to get the show on the road. With so many horses it was impossible to utilise starting gates-they wouldn't have fitted, so it was 2.30 pm before the 2.15 race set off on two laps and 4 1/2 miles over the fences in a race that had over £250 million worth of bets placed on it. The bookies were happy since a 33-1 outsider was the winner-SILVER BIRCH, trained by rookie Gordon Elliott and ridden by Robbie Power. The horse, a 10 year old gelding-ouch!!, had been sold a year ago at the Doncaster sales for 22,000 guineas- (£22,000.00) to help fund an expensive divorce settlement, and had now won $400,000.00 for the new owner, Brian Walsh. Yet another Irish trained and ridden 'National winner.
Its a great sight-and sound, to watch 40 horses thundering around the ancient course on National Hunt's big day. 'Jumpers' are considearbly older than thoroughbred horses on flat courses, and maybe age prevented them all from finishing-as 29 failed to do so this year. The Chair, Becher's Brook, Valentines, these are a few of the famous fences and water jumps. The fences range from 4' 6" to 5'0" in height. 8 horses fell, 12 pulled up, 6 unseated their riders and 3 refused to jump at a fence. Of the 3 favourites: Point Barrow fell at the first fence. Monkerhostin refused at the 7th and Joe's Edge was pulled up at the 20th of the 30 obstacles,(14 are jumped twice and 2 jumped only once). and Silver Birch won by 3/4 of a length.
The most famous Grand national horse was RED RUM, who won 3 times in 1973, 1974 and 1977 while coming in 2nd in the intervening years of 1975 and 1976. In 1956 the Queen Mother's horse DEVON LOCH, ridden by Dick Francis, now a prolific novelist, was way ahead with 50 yards to the finish when it jumped an imaginary fence and threw its jockey. National Velvet, a movie staring a young Elizabeth Taylor, was her first major role, and was based on the race.