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The Grand National

Surely the worlds’ most watched and famous of British National Hunt horse race ever. The Grand National, founded in 1839, although some say 1836, this race takes place in April every year at Aintree in Liverpool, over a distance of 7141 metres,(about 4.5 miles) with some 30 fences to be jumped, and is believed to be the ultimate test of rider and horse. It is the richest steeple chase event, carrying a purse of one million pounds.

The history of this race is chequered with unbelievables, from 100-1 winners on three different occasions to only one horse finishing the race when, in 1928 jockey William Dutton on his horse, Tipperary Tim came home after 41 of the 42 entries fell at various jumps. Some of the jumps in this race have become famous in their own right and have been given names such as ‘The Chair’, ‘Canal Turn’ and Becher’s Brook, apparently named after a Captain Martin Beecher who fell there in the first running of the race and took shelter in the small river,(brook), whilst the rest of the race contestants jumped over him. During the First World War, Aintree was taken over by the military, so the race was moved to Gatwick Race course for three years.

During the 1950s’ another first in the history of this race occurred when Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien trained the winning horses in three consecutive years, of 1953, 54 and 55. It took another twenty years and a horse of exceptional qualities to become a three time winner of this race. Red Rum won this gruelling contest in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and remains the only horse ever to have achieved this honour. Originally sold for just four hundred and twenty pounds and eventually landing up with trainer Ginger McCain he was found to be suffering from an inflammatory bone disorder which McCain treated by having the horse run in sea water.

Originally the land on which Aintreee stands was owned by the 2nd Earl of Sefton, and over the ages has changed hands to various owners, or organizations. Today it is managed  by  the British Jockey Club.

Today this horse racing spectacle is watched by over 600 million viewers in 140 countries.

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