Sunday, April 5, 2009
UK BLOG - THE GRAND NATIONAL
THE GRAND NATIONAL – SOME INFORMATION FOR AMERICANS
Yesterday was one of the biggest sporting events of the year. I don’t mean the play offs of the basketball, or the ice hockey must wins. And I surely don’t mean to pre-season baseball hit about.
Yesterday was “The Grand National”
The what? I hear colonials asking, as of course there was no coverage on any American TV.
THE GRAND NATIONAL A BRIEF HISTORY
The Grand National Horse Race is often called the world's greatest steeplechase.
The race is one of the most famous steeplechases in the world. It is a unique test of horsemanship for the rider and also a test of a great significance for a horse.
The course is nearly two and a quarter miles in length and has 16 unique fences including the famous Bechers Brook. The fences have an added problem for horses, the famous drop fences where the landing side of the fence is lower than the take off side, this means the horse approaching the fence is unaware of the drop until in the air.
At The Chair Fence the reverse of this occurs. It is the biggest fence on the course and the landing side is higher than the take off.
In the National the horses have to complete almost two circuits of the course and jump 30 fences and then complete a long 494 yard run in which has been the downfall of many in the past.
There are two fences that are jumped only once and this is on the first circuit and they are the famous Chair and the water jump.
The first 'Official Grand National' was in 1839 though history does mention a race much the same as far back as 1820. The race has always been held at Aintree, near Liverpool except during the First World War, when it was held at a racecourse at Gatwick now the site of one of London's busiest Airports. It was however not run between 1941 and 1945 and the course at this time was used for military purposes.
The only other time the race has not taken place was in 1993 was again to be a landmark year as the race had to be declared void after a second false start was not heard by half of the jockeys who went on to complete a full circuit of the track. A number of jockeys actually did a second round and they did not know until the end of the four and a half miles that the race would be declared void for a false start. This may seem strange but around this time there were a lot of protests being held on the course and the jockeys ignored the officials trying to stop them as they thought wrongly that they were protesters. The horse that finished first that day was Esha Ness now known as the horse that won the National that never was.
The 150th running of the race in 1997 was another bizarre story when a bomb scare meant that the course had to be evacuated and the race postponed until the Monday.
The Grand National sees nearly the whole country putting small bets on there favorite horses, and with the same horses coming back year after year people can follow there favorite horse. The great “Red Rum” for instance won the race three times, and came second twice.
1967 saw the biggest price winner; Foinavon won the race after he was the only horse to jump a very small fence in the race. There was a great pile up at the fence and this horse ridden by John Buckingham when on to score at odds of 100/1. The fence was later named after the horse.
With forty horses to choose from people pick names that they like for instance in 1992 it was the year if the general election (where the UK votes for a prime minister) a horse called Party Politics won.
There is always plenty of excitement the event being watched by many, many countries (except of course America). Yesterday was no exception with the winner a horse called Mon Mome ran away with yesterday's race, turning what still looked a fiercely competitive renewal two fences from home into a procession. The no big issue except the horse started at odds of 100/1 matching that of Foinavon, this time though there was no luck. 100/1 means for every pound/dollar you bet on the horse you got a hundred back in winnings. There was some big celebration going on at various locations around the UK after that windfall yesterday.
Once again the Aintree Grand National -- was full excitement, drama, courage. The country cheered, some celebrated however here in the US you would not even know the race existed.
Barry Eva (Storyheart)
Author of Young Adult Romance/Fiction book “Across the Pond”