Grand National world's greatest steeplechase? FEATURE

Watched by more than nine million people across the globe, The Grand National is one of the highlights of the sporting calendar. BritEvents takes a look at this iconic race, widely recognised as the greatest steeplechase in the world.

Grand National   world's greatest steeplechase?

The Grand National has been a major part of the British sporting calendar since the first national in 1839 which was won by a horse named lottery.

Today the Grand National is widely recognised as the greatest steeplechase in the world. The race is an annual event and is held at Aintree racecourse which is located near Liverpool, England.

The race takes place on a Saturday afternoon at the start of April. The 2011 race was watched on television by over 9 million people and 70,000 people attended the race in person.

The National includes thirty fences and is run over four miles and 856 yards. It is the richest prize in the British horse racing calendar both in terms of prestige and prize money. In 2011 the total prize money totalled 950,000. The Grand National is truly a national event and attracts many occasional gamblers as well as the more seasoned horse racing fans.

For many people the Grand National is the only horse race they will watch in the year and the national interest is always very high. The media attention which is focused on the Grand Nation reflects this.

The Grand National has been run at Aintree every year since 1839 with a few exceptions. In World War I the race was moved to Gatwick Racecourse for the 1916 to 1918 events. During World War II it was not run at all. The race in 1993 was held but was declared void after most of the field false started. Bookmakers were forced to refund 75 million in bets and the race was not re-run.

The Grand National is an extra-ordinary race and over the years it has thrown up some extra-ordinary stories to match, including some amazing horses and jockeys. One of the most amazing races featured Tipperary Tim who won the 1928 Grand National at odds of 100/1. It was said before the race that the horses' only chance of winning was if it was the last horse in the race and this turned out to be true. Every other horse fell and Tipperary Tim won the race.

The Horse most closely associated with the Grand National is Red Rum. He was an iconic through-bred racehorse which won the race an amazing three times and finished second twice in 5 years.

To fully understand how great an achievement this was you need to understand that the National is a very difficult race for a horse to finish, never mind to win. To do it three times is simply amazing. Red Rum was an excellent jumper who only fell once in over 100 career races.

He was traded for modest sums of money for a horse with his pedigree in his early life. It wasn't until he was paired with legendary trainer Ginger McCain that his full potential was realised. After two days of training, Ginger noticed that Red Rum was lame and diagnosed pedal osteitis which was a bone disorder and was causing him pain. Ginger had heard of a treatment for carthorses and began rehabilitating Red Rum by running him in sea water. The treatment of the horse was successful and a sporting legend was born.

In 1977 Red rum won the race from 15 lengths behind in an amazing comeback victory, this was considered his greatest win. Red Rum was an underdog who achieved true greatness. His story caught the imagination of the British public. He died in 1995 aged 30 and was buried at the Aintree Winning post, today many years after his victories and even after his death he is still a household name and the most famous horse in England.

The National includes 16 fences. All but two of the fences are jumped twice. The fences are topped with spruce from the Lake District. It is the difficulty and number of these jumps which give the Grand National its reputation as the ultimate test of a horse's courage. This reputation has lead to controversy. Animal rights campaigners have long called for the race to be banned due to the number of horse fatalities which occur. 22 horses have died in the Grand Nation since 1984.

The organisers of the National have taken massive steps to reduce this in recent years as the organisers have worked in conjunction with animal rights groups to improve horse safety at the event. A large amount of investment has been made into state of the art veterinary facilities. Five mobile vets have been introduced and many of the most dangerous fences have been modified to make the event as safe as possible for the horses and safeguard the world's greatest steeplechase for the future.

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