Grand National: Top 25 Fun Facts & Figures
Grand National Hospitality – Aintree
Aintree Racecourse, Aintree, Liverpool
Grand National Date : Thursday 11th – Saturday 13th April 2024
Think you know everything about one of the most anticipated races of the sporting calendar? Test your Grand National knowledge by taking a read of the top 25 facts we’ve put together for this illustrious race.
1. First Official Steeplechase Running
According to official documentation, the 1839 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase was the first race held at Aintree Racecourse. Although the race now traditionally takes place in April, Aintree hosted the first running in February with a total field of 17 runners.
The race, which was later renamed the Grand National Handicap Steeplechase, was won by 5-1 favourite “Lottery” – fitting name, right? It was widely believed that Lottery could’ve become a dual winner if the weight burden wasn’t introduced in 1841.
Did you know that back then, horses were required to jump a stone wall, cross an expanse of ploughland and finish over two hurdles!?
2. Red Rum’s Legendary Triple
Red Rum is the most famous steeplechaser to date, amassing a record 3 Grand National victories and a further two second-place finishes.
Despite being flat-bred, Red Rum was fearsome over fences and was embraced by the public after beating Crisp by 20 lengths in the 1973 Grand National. It’s one of the most famous finishes to date, and his performance upgraded the prestige of the race.
He romped to victory again the following year, defeating Cheltenham Festival winner L’Escargot, while carrying a massive 12st in weight. Although L’Escargot dethroned Red Rum in 1975, he reached iconic status in 1977 when he pulled off the historic treble under Tommy Stack.
Crowds flocked to Aintree to see him race and thereafter when he appeared during various opening ceremonies, leading the parade right up until his death on October 18th, 1995.
The treasured horse is buried at the winning post at Aintree Racecourse.
3. Foinavon Shocks the Nation
In 1967, the unfancied 100-1 shot Foinavon, delivered a massive upset with an epic win at Aintree.
He defied all odds and romped to victory after avoiding the 28 horses that had fallen and piled up at the 23rd fence. For a while, it looked like none of the runners would survive but Foinavon emerged out of the chaos and took advantage of the lead he’d been gifted.
4. Slowest Winning Time
Many might recall Mr Frisk for having the fastest winning time. Got any ideas about the slowest?
The first-ever winner, Lottery, has the slowest winning time with 14 minutes and 53 seconds. Bear in mind, the race was significantly different as there were stone walls and ploughland involved.
5. Bob Champion’s Story of Courage
A victory that stole many hearts was that of Bob Champion, whom our guests have had the chance to rub shoulders with as part of our Silks Restaurant hospitality package at Aintree.
In 1979, Bob Champion was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. After several months of chemotherapy, he returned to racing and defied all odds to win the 1981 renewal on Aldaniti, who also recovered from a career-threatening leg injury.
Aldaniti came home by four lengths clear of favourite Spartan Missile. It’s one of the most emotional victories ever seen in horse racing and a movie has since been made to capture the inspiring story.
6. Sam Darling’s Fall
The 14th renewal of Aintree’s handicap steeplechase resulted in a very unlikely turn of events.
Sam Darling was knocked out after falling off his horse until the horse coming up behind kicked the jockey in the head and revived him.
7. Young and Oldest Winning Jockeys
The youngest jockey to win the Grand National was Bruce Hobbs, who won the renowned race in 1938 at the age of 17.
Almost 50 years later, Dick Saunders, who was 48 at the time, won the race aboard 7-1 favourite Grittar, making him the oldest jockey to ride a National winner.
8. “…you’ll only win if all the others fall!”
Amateur jockey William Dutton won the race in 1928 after the impossible happened at Aintree Racecourse.
Just before the steeplechase, a friend called out to him: “Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall!” and somehow, that’s exactly what happened!
Dutton and 100-1 shot Tipperary Tim won the race after all the other horses fell down or couldn’t finish. Only one horse managed to finish the race alongside Dutton.
The conditions on the day were unideal with misty weather and a heavy track making the course more slippery for the horses.
9. 30 Jumps, 16 Fences
There are a total of 16 fences on the national course, which are topped with spruce from the Lake District.
Horses must complete two circuits of the course and are required to make 30 jumps, omitting the last two fences on the final lap.
10. Horse Lingo
The unusual names of the horses are partly due to the strict regulations which dictate that no professional racehorse can have the same name.
They are often a combination of their Dam and Sire’s name as this helps buyers recognise their lineage. For example, Red Rum’s Sire was Quorum and his Dam, Magic Red.
11. Fastest Winning Time
The record for the fastest winning time can be traced back to 1990 when Mr Frisk finished the course in an impressive 8 minutes and 47.8 seconds.
No other horse has won the race in less than 9 minutes. The Huntsman recorded the second-fastest time in 1862 at 9 minutes and 30 seconds.
12. Bookmakers Haven
An estimated £300 million was spent on gambling and bets for the 2017 Grand National.
After a two year hiatus due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, gambling could be bigger than ever in 2022!
13. Aintree Residents
While traffic and noise might be a headache for residents living near Aintree Racecourse, the roads closest to the venue receive free tickets to the event!
Although the terms and conditions have changed over the years, meaning residents no longer receive free tickets for Grand National Day – it’s still a major perk.
14. Day Drinking
An average of 250,000 pints are consumed during the three day Grand National Festival.
15. Aintree History
The current course opened in 1839, which was a testing time for Aintree during the post-war era. Today, Aintree Racecourse is owned and managed by the Jockey Club, which owns 15 famous racecourses across Britain, including Cheltenham, Epsom Downs and Warwick.
Aintree was once a Viking settlement, which is where its name derives. The Danes cut down all but one tree in the area, and with “Ain” being Norse for one – Aintree e.g. One Tree.
A huge 3500 lamb rumps are consumed by racegoers during the festival.
17. One for the Books
The Grand National entered a new chapter of history in 2017 when the 170th race took place at Aintree Racecourse.
One For Arthur proved his class by giving Scotland its second Randox Health Grand National winner.
18. Girl Power
Former British author and racehorse trainer Jenny Pitman made history after becoming the first female trainer to win the showpiece race at Aintree.
The horse’s name was Corbiere, and it was later honoured with a suite dedicated in its name at the racecourse.
19. Female Success
Katie Walsh was the first female jockey to finish in the top three of the Grand National. She placed third in 2012 aboard Seabass, a massive feat for women in the sport.
Almost ten years later, Rachael Blackmore, who has tasted success at other renowned racecourses, including Cheltenham, became the first female jockey to win the illustrious race.
She rewrote the history books riding Minella Times, winning what is arguably the stiffest test of horse and jockey in the world.
20. Worldwide Viewership
Approximately 600 million people in more than 140 countries tune in to watch the Grand National on TV every year. Ten million of these viewers live in the UK.
21. Overcrowded Field
A mammoth 66 horses started the race in 1929 which caused a multitude of issues for both horse and jockey. After this race, the starting number was capped at 40 and continues to be restricted to that amount today.
22. National Hunt Legend
Sir Anthony Peter McCoy OBE, commonly referred to as AP McCoy or Tony McCoy is widely regarded as the greatest National Hunt jockey ever.
He reached legendary status in 2004 after amassing 74 winners in one year and was crowned Champion Jockey the following season as a result. He went on to receive that title a record 20 consecutive times and became the first jockey to ride more than 4,000 winners.
In 2010, he won the Grand National race while riding Don’t Push It, and made his last professional appearance at Aintree for the 2015 renewal of the race.
During his professional career, AP McCoy sustained some brutal injuries, including:
- Cracked eyesocket
- Broken cheekbones
- Broke all his teeth
- Broken and dislocated collarbone
- Two broken shoulder blades
- Fractured sternum
- Broken forearm and wrist
- Broken all his ribs
- Punctured lungs
- 20 facial stitches
- Dislocated thumb
- Fractured tibia, fibula and a broken ankle
It goes to show why jockeys have the respect and admiration of the sporting world.
23. Some Chasers Never Finish
Between 1984 and 2019, 60% of entrants have failed to complete the course, meaning approximately 16 of the 40 runners pass the final post each year.
24. Prize Money Returns to Pre-Pandemic Size
The total prize fund for the Grand National is £1 million! Over half of that goes to the winner, with first-place set to receive £561,300 in 2022.
Crowds of 70,000 are expected this year after Aintree suspended the Festival for two years during the pandemic.
25. But first… Tea
During a typical April in Liverpool, a mammoth 75,000 cups of tea and coffee are consumed at Aintree.
So, we’ve reached the end of our fun fact file! How many of those did you know?
With so much history and drama revolving around the Grand National, it is no surprise as to why this sporting event generates so much attention. No doubt, the 2022 renewal will be just as thrilling, as Aintree welcomes the return of sell-out crowds!
Make your trip to the Randox Health Grand National Festival more memorable with a VIP hospitality experience. With a private balcony providing unrivalled trackside views and a gourmet four-course lunch, there’s no better way to experience the atmosphere at Aintree Racecourse than with our Silks Restaurant hospitality package.
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