The Grand National
grandnational.org.uk is your complete guide to the Aintree Grand National and an indispensable aid to finding the winner of the most famous and prestigious horse race in the world.
It contains everything you need to know about this magical race which is one of the highlights of the entire sporting year. Indeed the four-and-a-half mile marathon event captures the imagination of millions around the world, thanks to its ability to consistently produce thrilling finishes and heart-warming stories, as horse and rider try to conquer the mighty Aintree fences.
The 2013 Grand National has been won by 66/1 shot Auroras Encore. Ridden by Ryan Mania - his first ride in the race - Auroras Encore (pictured above) finished strongly to win by 9 lengths from the Welsh-trained pair Cappa Bleu and Teaforthree, with Oscar Time fourth and Rare Bob fifth. Trainer Sue Smith is the the third woman to train a Grand National winner after Jenny Pitman (Corbiere and Royal Athlete) and Venetia Williams (Mon Mome).
"There are no words to describe it," Mania said afterwards. "I got a dream ride round, I couldn't believe my luck. I couldn't fault the horse. I had a choice of two but he was second on this course last year so I thought I better stay loyal to him. He loved every second of it. He was just class."
Second in the Scottish version of the race at Ayr last season, the 11-year-old had lost his form this season but bounced back to his best on better ground to take the world's most famous jumps race. One of our tips, Cappa Bleu, made relentless late progress into the winner's advantage in the final strides of the contest, but Auroras Encore had seized enough of a lead at the elbow to hold off all pursuers.
There were 17 finishers this year and no horses or jockeys were injured - indeed all 40 runners were still standing until after Becher's Brook on the first circuit.
Sue Smith's husband, the former showjumper Harvey Smith, said: "It's superb, absolutely spot-on. All the horses have come back in one piece. Everyone has worked hard to get it as a safe course and that has proved it today. This race will go on forever, look at the public - it goes out worldwide and you can't beat it."
The Grand National has made the likes of Red Rum, Aldaniti, Jenny Pitman and Ginger McCain household names. Indeed, given the race’s long history, it is no surprise that many amazing milestones have been reached and many remarkable stories have unfolded.
For example, no horse has run in the Grand National more times than Manifesto, who competed in eight renewals of the event between 1895 and 1904, winning the race twice, in 1897 and 1899, and finishing third on three other occasions.
Jenny Pitman was the first woman to train a Grand National winner, capturing the race for the first time with Corbiere in 1983. She succeeded again with Royal Athlete in 1995 and finished second with Garrison Savannah in 1991. In 2009, Venetia Williams became the second woman to saddle a National winner, with Mon Mome (11 years after she had actually ridden in the race).
Plenty of the race’s most fascinating stories revolve around its fearsome obstacles. Did you know that the least number of horses to complete the race is two, in 1928: Tipperary Tim and Billy Barton (who remounted)? Likewise, in 2001, when Red Marauder beat Smarty, only four of the forty horses completed, with two of these having to be remounted.
With history in mind, we are advocates of learning lessons from the past when trying to find the winners of the future. For example, did you know that only Red Rum has managed to carry more than 11st 5lbs to victory since 1957?
Just as noteworthy is the fact that no seven-year-old has won for more than 70 years and we have to go back to 1915 to find the last successful six-year-old. In fact, since 1992, only five of the six and seven-year-olds to take their chance have even completed the course (including Tharawaat last season). Experience, therefore, counts in the Grand National and 18 of the last 22 winners (including the last 8) were aged either 9, 10 or 11. In that period there has also been two eight-year-olds and two twelve-year-old winners, although the last teenager to win the race was 90 years ago (Sergeant Murphy in 1923) and none have made the frame since 1969 (Hello Bud was a gallant 7th last year at the grand old age of 14).
For those wanting to see this magnificent event live, we have all of the information you’ll need to make the most of your visit to Aintree, including information on getting to the racecourse, ticket details, and a summary of all of the enclosures and facilities, many of which have been significantly upgraded in recent seasons.
The Aintree Grand National was first run in 1839 and Bruce Hobbs, aged 17, was the youngest winning jockey in 1938, on Battleship - the smallest horse ever to win.
Dick Saunders, aged 48, was the oldest successful rider on Grittar in 1982, his first and only Grand National ride - after which he announced his immediate retirement.
As well as its fascinating past, Aintree’s unique course contributes to the mystique surrounding the event. The fence-building programme starts approximately three weeks before the Grand National meeting is run, with around 150 tonnes of spruce branches sourced and transported from forests in the Lake District. Each fence is made from a wooden frame and covered with the distinctive green spruce.
The Grand National course remains the ultimate test of horse and jockey. The race comprises two full circuits of a 2¼ mile (3,600 metres) racetrack, where challengers face some of the most testing fences in the world of jump racing including Becher’s Brook and The Chair, now two of the most well known landmarks in the country.
When it was first run at Aintree in 1839, the race featured a solid brick wall as one of the obstacles, although that was abandoned after five years.
2013 has seen some of the fences re-designed for safety reasons and to aid aminal welfare. While all 16 fences will look the same, the heart of four obstacles has been changed. The third and 11th fences, which are open ditches, have been built using natural birch as their cores, while the 13th and 14th (which are the last two fences second time round in the National) will have plastic birch. These have replaced the traditional rigid timber frames, which had foam padding along the leading edge, but were solid. The hope is that the alternative will be more forgiving.
Becher's Brook, the sixth fence on the first circuit, was named after Captain Martin Becher who was unseated from his mount, Conrad, and fell into the ditch when leading in the first ever Grand National in 1839. "Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky" he reflected and the obstacle bore his name from that day.
The Grand National is also one of the rare major sporting events in which amateurs still can, and do, take on professionals.
This applies to both trainers and jockeys and in the 165 runnings of the Grand National it has been won on no less than 41 occasions by a horse ridden by an amateur jockey, although it's been 23 years since Marcus Armytage won in record time on Mr Frisk in 1990.
This is hardly surprising as the sport has become ever more professional and the prize money, now almost £1 million, has risen so dramatically that few trainers or owners will entrust potential winners to jockeys still perceived in some quarters as to be inexperienced or part-timers.
However, part of the Grand National's enduring charm is not the amateurs who succeeded, but those riders from the Corinthian ranks whose fruitless, and often hopeless, attempts to conqueror the fearsome fences that have added so much colour to the event. They have included: the Duque de Alberquerque, Tim Durant, Aidan O’Connell and Brod Munro-Wilson - a mix of playboys and men who worked as deep sea divers for six months a year and spent the other six trying to win the National. We may not see their like again, but the amateur’s long love affair with the Grand National is not over yet, proven by 2011 runner-up Oscar Time - who was ridden by amateur jockey and millionaire businessman, Sam Waley-Cohen.