This year’s thrilling Cheltenham Festival may well last long in the memory but, for me, the most exciting day in the National Hunt calendar is the Grand National – and there are lots of reasons for getting dressed-up and going rather than sitting at home and watching it in front of the TV.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to the meeting as bookie, on organised trips from the local pub, and I’ve took the wife – and all of those occasions were truly unforgettable.
Whilst Cheltenham has that expectation of the clash between the best of the English and Irish horses and that fantastic opening roar – the atmosphere before the Grand National is truly electric as the volume emanating from 50,000 fans gets louder and louder in the build up to the race. During the race the crowd jump every fence, cheering each cleared obstacle and wincing with each horse and jockey combination that tumbles to the ground.
The race dates back to 1839 when the aptly named Lottery won the inaugural running, and ever since the appreciative Liverpool crowd have understood what it means for trainers, owners and jockeys to win the world’s most famous race. True racing fans, and once-a-year watchers, also know many of the names of the famous fences such as The Chair, Valentine’s and Becher’s Brook at which many a dream have crashed out.
There are always lots of potential truly great sporting stories at the Grand National and, though not all can come to fruition, the scenes of Aldaniti and Bob Champion winning after the horse and had come back from injury, and the jockey from cancer, to claim the race – still bring a tear to the eye.
The ladies of Liverpool certainly know how to dress for the occasion and designer labels, vibrant colours and fancy hats are all big business for the local fashion designers. Guys, it’s also a great way to get some brownie points with the wife or girlfriend as they’ll love the occasion – and you might just be able to talk her into going to more race meetings in the future.
There are usually 40 runners in the Grand National itself, but the field can often be narrowed down due to form and stamina limitations – making it easier to short-list possible winners. However, there are also some great supporting races on the Grand National card such as the Doom Bar Maghull Novices Chase and the Silver Cross Stayers Hurdle.
Though the favourite often goes off at single-figure odds, there are loads of horses that have won or been placed at odds of 50/1 to 100/1, and you just don’t get chance to back horses with genuine chances of winning at those sort of odds very often.
If you still need some convincing to go, then this may be well be the last day the 20 time Champion Jockey races if his intended mount, and likely favourite, wins him his second Grand National – to the cry of Shutthefrontdoor!