Workplaces all around the UK take part in an event every year. They pick out of a hat a slip of paper and will probably lose money, no its not secret Santa, but the Grand National. The race which is running this weekend as part of the Aintree festival is arguably the biggest race in the global horsey calendar and this year will see 40 horses battle it out on the course for an eye-watering £1m prize fund.
First taking place in 1839, the grand national was started by a horse syndicate owner William Lynn, who ran a hotel on William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton’s land in Aintree. It has grown into the biggest race of the British Racing season, and with up to 600 million people watching globally in over 140 countries Lynn would not have envisaged it becoming the biggest race in the world. The race is big on every level. A National Hunt race, it is the longest of its kind as horse’s gallop over 7,141km. It is not only the distance that is big, but also the jumps. The Grand National is famed for its large jumps, and with 30 of them over the course of 2 laps there is always the possibility of not all the jockeys getting to the finishing line. Some jumps have become so famous that they have earnt their own nicknames. Beecher’s Brook, The Chair and Canal Turn are the toughest three among them. All of these attributes makes the Grand National also the toughest race on the planet, and it is often referred to as the ‘Ultimate test for horse and rider’.
With £500,000 going to the winning horse only the crème de la crème of horses and trainers are on show in Aintree. The most famous horse to ever run the course was Red Rum, who is the only horse to have ever won the race three times in 1973, 1974 and 1977. He is also the only horse that has won the race back to back.
Hats and dresses takes centre stage over even the horses!
Race days for the public have become an event in themselves. 154,000 people will go to Aintree racecourse this year. Unique among sports, there is a very strong following from women. 1 in 3 bettors at the Grand National are thought to be women and Ladies day is a special day which particularly celebrates the female racing fans. Hats and dresses takes centre stage over even the horses! The festival also draws a party atmosphere and 26,000 pints will be drunk at the races. This has led to controversy this year after some young footballers were caught at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, behaving disagreeably under the influence. The Grand National this year saw everyone on their best behaviour because of it.
Organisers have tried to work with these groups to improve the safety of the horses and the Vetting capabilities on site.
The race has not been without its controversy. Because of the difficult jumps it is seen as one of the most dangerous races in the world. 6 in every 1000 horses that race will be killed and animal rights activists are always attempting various ways to either change or abolish the race. Organisers have tried to work with these groups to improve the safety of the horses and the Vetting capabilities on site. It is unlikely however that a race of this magnitude with this many interested will ever end soon.