Grand National Course
Grand National CourseThe Worlds most famous horse race takes place around the flat 2 1/4 mile circuit which is known as The Mildmay course. The horses travel twice around making the total race distance 4 miles 856yds which is the longest trip in National hunt racing.
Grand National FencesThe Grand National runners don’t just require the stamina to run such a distance but also the jumping ability to conquer thirty of the toughest fences in the sport. The Grand National Odds are long on each of the horses that enters.
There are sixteen fences on the Aintree Grand National course, 14 of which are jumped twice.
The Early Stages of The Race
The first fence shouldn’t be too much of a test but with many jockeys wanting to get into the lead early on it is taken at some speed. Forty Grand National runners jumping at the same time can mean the end of the race for some further decreasing the Grand National Odds of any given horse winning. In 1952, 12 horses fell here.
The second is another standard fence at 4ft 6 inches high but the runners are still going too fast and fighting for position.
The third fence is the first open ditch and a big one at that with a six foot gap on the take off side. Its taken as the pace eases off slightly and the combination of ditch, height of the fence at 5ft 2 inches and adjustment of speed catches out many runners.
Fences four and five are standard fences and give the jockeys time to prepare their mounts for the tough first turn.
The First TurnBecher's Brook, fence 6 and 22, is arguably the most difficult of all the Aintree Grand National fences and has been the end for many Grand National runners. This fence is jumped as the horses are about to turn left handed, its slightly taller than the previous two fences at 4ft 10 inches but its the drop of six foot nine inches on the landing side which is the big problem. The fence is named after Captain Martin Becher who, in the first running of the Grand National, was leading on the first circuit until his mount Conrad unseated him and hurled him into the brook. Grand National Odds of winning are long even for the great riders.
There is little time to recover before meeting Foinaven, fence 7, which is taken on the bend. In 1967 there was a huge pile up here as a rider-less horse cut across the Grand National runners. Foinavon's jockey avoided the trouble and went on to win the race aboard the 100/1 outsider.
A short run to the Canal Turn before a sharp 90 degree bend to the left. Some jockeys take this one at an angle which may save them covering ground but with the fence standing at 5ft high, they risk ending the race here. Stay clear of loose runners who can cause havoc at the turn. After trouble at the Canal Turn in 1928, just two Grand National runners finished the race!
The Back StraightAfter the Turn there is no chance of a breather as the Grand National course yields up the Valentines, fence 9, is also five foot in height but this one has a drop on the landing side too! In 1840 Grand National runner, Valentine, made it look easy. He pulled up to a stationary position before he leap frogged the fence!
For those runners still standing, fences 10 and 11 shouldn’t be a problem as jockeys and runners catch a much needed breather. There’s a long run to fence 12, and then Grand National runners cross the Melling Road before taking 13 and 14.
End of The first CircuitThe Chair, fence 15, is the tallest and longest Grand National course fence, measuring 5ft 2 inches in height with a 6ft long ditch on the take off side. On top of that its only three feet wide, meaning that there is competition for much needed room. A clear run at a decent pace is needed to give a horse every chance of clearing this one. Fortunately for the Grand National runners, they only need to jump the chair once.
The Water Jump, fence 16 is the same width as the Chair and stands on the inside of the Aintree Grand National course near the winning post. At only two feet high its a relief after negotiating the Chair but with a ten foot pond the other side there could be some wet hooves. Jockeys and runners cant relax for too long as they are about to embark on the second circuit. This completes the first loop around the Grand National and embarks the runner on the reason for such difficult Grand National odds the second loop.