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The Grand National is watched by 600 million people worldwide, the Grand National is one of the most celebrated horse races in the world. Lottery became the first winner of The Grand National in 1839. The famous Aintree Racecourse is home to The Grand National, one of the world's greatest horse races. Whether it's top quality racing on the opening day at Aintree, the unmissable social occasion of Ladies Day on Friday, or the famous Grand National on Saturday, you will find tickets available for all enclosures, stands and hospitality within our website for Aintree races.
The Grand National at Aintree has been a British sporting institution since 1839, when a horse called Lottery won the first Grand National and Captain Becher parted company with his horse at a now famous brook.
In those days the horses had to jump a stone wall, cross a stretch of ploughed land and finish over two hurdles. The race was then known as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase.
Mr Edward William Topham, a respected handicapper, was responsible for turning the National into a handicap in 1843 after it had been a weight-for-age race for the first four years. The Topham family owned substantial tracts of land around Aintree and in 1949 they bought the course outright from Lord Sefton, from whom the land had previously been leased since the racecourse opening in 1829.
The Grand National has produced a colourful array of stories throughout its illustrious past. Here are our favourites, including video clips:
It was nearly 40 years ago now that Red Rum recorded the first of the three victories in the Grand National that earned him pride of place in the record books forever. He still remains the only horse to have won the Grand National three times and, as that statistic suggests, the great horse was a phenomenon.
Bred to be a sprinter, Red Rum went on to win the gruelling four-and-a-half mile chase in 1973, 1974 and 1977, as well as finishing second on his other two starts, to become the greatest Grand National performer ever. All of this was achieved after overcoming the debilitating bone disease pedalosteitis, which should have rendered him unraceable. However, fate stepped in: Red Rum was at probably the only yard in the country where the training took place on a beach. The sea water, into which trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain banished Red Rum after viewing the hobbling horse, worked an amazing transformation.
On March 31, 1973, he started 9/1 favourite for his first Grand National. However, by the time the runners had reached the Chair the giant Australian chaser, Crisp, who was shouldering top weight of 12st (a weight that is now forbidden in the National), had built up a massive lead and appeared unstoppable with four fences to go. But, conceding 23lb to Red Rum, his stamina started to wane and he slowly began to falter at the famous Elbow after being more than 15 lengths in front of his rival at the last. Red Rum wore Crisp down, getting up on the line to beat him by three-quarters of a length in a then record time of 9 min 1.9 sec, knocking nearly 20 seconds off Golden Miller's previous best under 12st 2lb in 1934 - this new record would stand for the next 16 years.
In 1976, Red Rum had given Eyecatcher 17lb and beat her by eight lengths; in 1977, he gave her 21lb and a 31-length beating, rating an improvement at the age of 12 of two stone. The treble, five years in the taking, had been achieved.
The celebrations in Southport which received the three-times Grand National winner home were long and rapturous. But the greatest Aintree horse of all time was not yet finished. Up until the morning of the 1978 Grand National, Red Rum was being trained for a sixth attempt at the great race.
He had run well all season, amassing two seconds and a fourth under mighty weights in his five races. But, after his customary pre-National work-out on the day before the big race, Red Rum pulled up lame. The problem proved to be a hairline fracture and the horse had to be retired.
Retired, that is, from the realm of racing. But Red Rum's career as a celebrity continued - a role to which he was as well-adapted as to tackling the Aintree fences. He thrived as the centre of attention, as anyone who saw the 1977 episode of Sports Personality of the Year Awards can testify. Hearing the voice of Tommy Stack, who was speaking from his hospital bed with a broken pelvis, Red Rum immediately pricked his ears, displaying the great intelligence and showmanship so evident in the horse throughout his life. The horse led the parade in many Grand Nationals.
Red Rum died on Wednesday, October 18, 1995 and was buried by the winning post on Aintree's Grand National course. His grave is marked by an engraved stone listing his Grand National record, and a life-size bronze commemorates this legendary horse, along with a race staged at the Grand National meeting, the Red Rum Chase, named in the great horse's memory.
There was hardly a dry eye among the crowd when Aldaniti won the Grand National in 1981. It was a victory for both courage and determination in the face of adversity.
In late 1979, Bob Champion, the successful jockey, was told that he had cancer and only months to live, while Aldaniti had almost been retired because of leg trouble. Against all the odds, the gallant partnership held on to beat Spartan Missile, ridden by John Thorne, a 54-year-old grandfather and amateur rider.
The winner's true-life story inspired the 1983 film Champions, starring John Hurt. Aldaniti died at the age of 27 in March, 1997. Bob Champion made a full recovery and, with the help of Aldaniti, has raised millions of pounds for cancer research.
Aldaniti's name was a jumble from the names of four grandchildren of his breeder, Tommy Barron: ALastair and DAvid Cook plus NIcola and TImothy Barron.
The Pitman family has a special association with the Grand National. In 1983, Jenny Pitman became the first woman to train a winner of the race when Corbiere beat Greasepaint. She followed up this victory in 1995 with Royal Athlete who succeeded at the long odds of 40/1, but experienced heartbreak when Esha Ness "won" the 1993 void race.
Mark, her son, must have gone through similar emotions when he was caught by Seagram when riding Garrison Savannah in 1991, also trained by his mother.
Years earlier, Richard Pitman, then-husband to Jenny and Mark's father, was caught even closer to the winning post by Red Rum, the Aintree specialist, when he partnered the gallant top weight Crisp in 1973.
Mrs Pitman was awarded an OBE in the 1998 New Year's Honours List and in the same year fought a successful battle against cancer. She has now retired from training but Mark Pitman is carrying on the family tradition.
The 1956 National is remembered more for the defeat of Devon Loch than for the victory of E.S.B. Owned by Her Majesty The Queen Mother, Devon Loch had the race won when he inexplicably gave a half-leap just 50 yards from the finish, sprawling and almost unseating Dick Francis, the unfortunate jockey, and leaving the crowd stunned. Afterwards, The Queen Mother famously said "That's racing".
Debate still rages as to why the incident happened - according to some reports, Devon Loch suffered a cramp in the hindquarters and this caused the collapse. However, other reports claim that a shadow thrown by the water jump (which horses only jump on the first circuit of the Aintree course) may have confused Devon Loch into thinking another jump was required and - confused as to whether he should jump or not - he half-jumped and collapsed. Reports that the horse had suffered a heart attack were dismissed, as Devon Loch recovered far too quickly for this to have been the case.
Whatever the truth, the incident so puzzled Francis that he became a thriller writer, inventing mysteries himself. Over the decades Francis has learned to be as philosophical. In compensation, his wife Mary once said that had he won the Grand National there would have been no bestselling autobiography and no thrillers.
"As I said in my autobiography, an ambulance came by and the driver said, ‘Jump in the back!’ I was never more pleased to get away from all the people who were rushing towards me. What happened? I’ve thought about it time and time again...I remember jumping the last fence and I could hear the crescendo of cheering building up in the stands. There were 500,000 people there that day. They were all cheering for the Queen Mother. She was there and the Queen was there and Princess Margaret was there.
"I never thought about it at the time but I heard them cheering and I just rode to the finish. I was winning easily. I didn’t have to pick up my stick or anything like that. I’ve looked at the newsreel time and again and as the horse approaches the water jump – which this time round he didn’t need to cross – you can see him prick up his ears and gallop past it. As it pricked up its ears – Christ! – his hindquarters refused to act and down he went on to his belly. How I didn’t fall off him I don’t know."
Devon Loch is a metaphor now used in modern day sports and otherwise to explain the sudden, last-minute failure of teams or a sportsman to complete an expected victory, e.g. "United can only hope Arsenal do a Devon Loch collapse."
Foinavon sensationally won the 1967 National in bizarre circumstances. At the smallest fence on the second circuit, the 23rd, the riderless Popham Down cut right across the course causing a pile-up that almost brought the entire field to a standstill. John Buckingham, Foinavon's jockey, was able to steer his mount wide of the melee and thus won on the 100/1 outsider. The Aintree executive named the fence in honour of the horse.
Fence 7 or 23 (depending on the circuit), at 4ft 6in, one of the smallest jumps on the course, is situated between the more daunting Becher's Brook and Canal Turn.
Foinavon has sometimes been likened to a slow plodding carthorse, but records show that his 1967 winning time was one of the fastest in this gruelling race. Equally, this so called no-hoper had taken part in some top class races before attempting the National and he had finished fourth in a King George and took part in a Gold Cup at Cheltenham, so perhaps his odds of 100/1 may have been a bit generous (although the Tote SP was 444/1). Nevertheless, his owner was so unenthusiastic about his chances that he was not even at Aintree for the race.
Buckingham said later that at the time he did not realize that they were the only pair to jump the fence at the first attempt but he just kept going. Although some 17 horses remounted and finished the race the distance Foinavon had "stolen" at the fence meant that he lead over the final seven fences to go on to collect his prize, 15 lengths clear of the fast-closing favourite, Honey End, and Red Alligator, which went on to win in 1968.
Foinavon did also run in the following years Grand National but fell or was brought down at the water jump.
Foinavon was at one time owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, whose colours were also carried by the much superior Arkle. Both were named after Scottish mountains.
The "Iron" Duke of Alburquerque
Beltrán Alfonso Osorio y Díez de Rivera, known as the the "Iron" Duke of Albuquerque (1918-1994), surely ranks as the worst jockey in horse-racing history. After receiving a film of the Grand National as a gift for his eighth birthday, the Duke became obsessed with it: "I said then that I would win that race one day," he later recalled. He nearly died trying.
This magnificently barking mad Spanish aristocrat and amateur jockey entered the National seven times with impressively consistent results. Generally he would start with the others, gallop briefly and then wake up in the Royal Liverpool Infirmary (where apparently he always booked a private room when he rode in the race). Each year, Peter O'Sullevan would gravely intone: "And the Duke of Albuquerque's gone".
On his first attempt in 1952, he fell from his horse at the sixth fence, nearly broke his neck and woke up later in hospital with a cracked vertebra. He tried to win again in 1963, and fell from his horse yet again, this time at the fourth fence. Undeterred, he returned in 1965 but again fell from his horse after it collapsed underneath him, breaking his leg.
His ineptitude was so apparent that in 1963 bookies even offered odds of 66/1 - against him even finishing the race atop his horse!
He returned in 1973 when his stirrup broke, although he clung on for eight fences before being sent into inevitable orbit.
In 1974, after having sixteen screws removed from a leg he had broken after falling in another race, he also fell while training for the Grand National and broke his collarbone. Nevertheless, he then competed in a plaster cast, this time actually managing to finish the race for the only time in his splendid career, but only in eighth (and last) place aboard Nereo: "I sat like sack of potatoes and gave the horse no help" he said after the race.
One anecdote from this race is that he barged into Ron Barry at second Canal Turn; Barry said "What the f*** are you doing?", to which he replied: "My dear chap I haven't a clue...I've never got this far before!"
In 1976, he sustained his most serious injuries after being trampled in a race by several other horses. He suffered seven broken ribs, several fractured vertebrae, a broken wrist and thigh, and a major concussion, and was in a coma for two days. After recovering he announced, at the age of 57, that he planned to race yet again. Race organisers wisely revoked his license "for his own safety".
Though the Iron Duke never won the Grand National, he certainly broke more bones than any other jockey in attempting to do so.
NOTABLE DATES IN GRAND NATIONAL HISTORY
1837: THE DUKE wins the first Great Liverpool Steeplechase at Maghull, some three miles from the present site of Aintree racecourse.
1839: Aintree becomes the new home for the event, with LOTTERY carrying off the prize and Captain Martin Becher christening the now-famous brook as he crawls in for safety after a fall.
1847: MATTHEW records the first Irish-trained victory on the day the race is officially named the Grand National.
1887: GAMECOCK wins the National at 20-1 and follows up by winning the Champion Chase over the big fences the very next day.
1897: MANIFESTO, the 6-1 favourite, records the first of his two wins in the race. He ran eight times up to the age of 16, also finishing third three times and fourth once.
1907: Jockey Alf Newey brings EREMON home in front, despite riding without stirrups from the second fence.
1927: Ted Leader rides SPRIG to a popular victory in the first National to be covered by a BBC radio commentary.
1934: The legendary GOLDEN MILLER becomes the only horse ever to win the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season, carrying 12st 2lb to victory in record time.
1947: CAUGHOO beats 56 opponents at a mist-shrouded Aintree and is then accused of only going round once.
1956: DEVON LOCH and jockey Dick Francis, looking certain to give the Queen Mother victory when clear on the run-in, suddenly sprawls flat on the ground yards from the winning post, allowing ESB to win.
1967: The year of the horrific pile-up at the 23rd. John Buckingham and complete outsider FOINAVON avoid the melee and gallop on to a 100-1 win.
1974: Grand National character the Duke of Alburquerque completes the course for the one and only time in numerous attempts on NEREO, despite breaking his collarbone only a week before the race.
1977: The incomparable RED RUM rewrites the record books with his historic third victory. 'Rummy' had five runs, with three wins and two seconds, from the age of eight to 12.
1979: RUBSTIC makes history by becoming the first Scottish-trained winner. His homecoming party was heralded by a piper leading him back to the hamlet of Denholm, Roxburghshire.
1981: ALDANITI, nursed back from career-threatening injury three times, wins a fairytale National ridden by Bob Champion, who fought, and beat, cancer.
1982: Dick Saunders, at the age of 48, becomes the oldest winning jockey on GRITTAR. Geraldine Rees becomes the first woman to complete the course, riding the leg-weary CHEERS.
1983: Years of doubt about the National's future are ended when the Jockey Club, helped by public donations, buys the course. CORBIERE's victory ensures Jenny Pitman goes into the history books as the first woman to train the winner.
1987: Jim Joel becomes the oldest winning owner at 92. He is on his way back from South Africa when MAORI VENTURE wins a thrilling race from The Tsarevich.
1993: The darkest day in the history of the National. There is chaos after a second false start as 30 out of the 39 jockeys began the race despite a false start being called, leading to a void result for the seven horses who finished. John White passes the post first on the Jenny Pitman-trained ESHA NESS, only to discover the race has been declared void.
2001: RED MARAUDER and Smarty are the only horses to put in clear rounds in a race run in atrocious conditions, though all horses return fine.
2003: MONTY'S PASS lands a massive gamble, with owner Mike Fuller netting close to £1million from ante-post bets. The horse is backed from 40-1 into 16-1 and romps home.
2004: Ginger McCain, veteran trainer of Red Rum, enjoys an emotional victory as 12-year-old AMBERLEIGH HOUSE lands the spoils, having been third in 2003.
2005: HEDGEHUNTER becomes the first horse since Corbiere in 1983 to carry more than 11st to victory in the great race, romping clear in great style under Ruby Walsh to slam Royal Auclair by 14 lengths.
2008: COMPLY OR DIE allows David Pipe to join his legendary father, Martin, in the record books as a National-winning trainer in just his second season. The race also carries record prize money of £800,000.
2009: MON MOME becomes the biggest-priced winner since Foinavon when powering home at 100-1 for trainer Venetia Williams and jockey Liam Treadwell.
2010: DON'T PUSH IT, trained by Jonjo O'Neill and owned by legendary gambler JP McManus, provides perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy with his first success at the 15th attempt.
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Aintree Grand National 2015 - Aintree racecourse has confirmed that aintree races will include local legends the Christians, X Factor contestant Jake Quickenden and stars from the commitments.
Aintree Grand National 2016 - The headline news yesterday was that the organisers of the Crabbies Grand National 2016 have decided to push back the start time to 5.15pm in a bid to attract a bigger TV audience.
Aintree Grand National 2016 news - 14th Jan 2016: The crabbie's grand national at Aintree races is now less than three months away and the Aintree racecourse box office has announced that tickets and hospitality are selling at a faster rate than the same time last year for all three days of the aintree grand national meeting. Grand opening day, Thursday 7th April 2016 is 37% ahead, Ladies day, Friday 8th April is 43% ahead and the grand national day, Saturday 9th April is 26% up on this time last year.
Aintree Grand National news - 9th April 2016: Aintree Grand National meeting 2017 has a new sponsor Randox Health. Aintree Grand National news - 22nd July 2016: Hospitality packages on sale for Aintree Grand national 2017.
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