The Grand National Festival is observed in April each year and this year, it takes place from April 11 to 14. This is a National Hunt horse race held at Aintree Racecourse. The race is a handicap steeplechase that occurs over a distance of about four miles, 514 yards, with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps.
The Grand National Festival is Europe’s most valuable jump race, with a £1 million prize fund in 2017. This race has grown in popularity even among those who do not watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year. The race takes place on a course with substantially larger fences than those found on traditional National Hunt courses. These barriers, when combined with the distance covered by the horses, represent the ultimate test for both horses and riders.
Those who can’t make it to Aintree Racecourse in the United Kingdom can watch the free-to-air live broadcast on terrestrial television. The race has also been broadcasted in full on radio since 1927. Currently, this is done by the B.B.C. and Talksport. This event has fans all over the globe. An estimated 500 to 600 million people follow the Grand National in more than 140 countries.
History of Grand National
The Grand National Festival was established by William Lynn, a syndicate head and proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel. He leased some land in Aintree from William Molyneux, the second Earl of Sefton. Lynn planned out the course and built a grandstand, while Lord Sefton laid the foundation stone on February 7, 1829.
The years 1838 and 1839 saw three significant events happen that transformed the race from a small local affair to a national event. One was the non-renewal after 1838 of the Great St. Albans Chase, which had clashed with the steeplechase at Aintree. This left a major gap in the chasing calendar.
In addition, the Manchester to Liverpool railway, which opened in 1830, was linked in 1839 by a line connecting Birmingham and London. For the first time, train transport to Liverpool was made possible from many other parts of the country.
Finally, a committee was formed to improve the race’s organization. All of these factors conspired to create a widely publicized race in 1839. It drew a wider range of high-quality horses and riders, as well as more press coverage and a larger crowd on race day.
Throughout the years, the Grand National Festival has remained one of the most important jump competitions for horses and riders around the world. Currently, it is the U.K’s longest race. Horse lovers and animal rights organizations have frequently protested that the Grand National is too risky for the horses participating. In the years 2011 and 2012, two horses died while competing in the Grand National Festival. Animal welfare organizations like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (R.S.P.C.A.) advocated that things change.
As a result, over the years, the courses and fences have been adjusted to make them safer for horses and jockeys. To help the horses stay relaxed at the start, the starting line has been moved further away from the main stand. The RSPCA has been involved in Grand National research, talks, and evaluations for the past 30 years, and has contributed to improving racing.
Grand National timeline
The first Grand National Festival Race takes place.
Because Aintree Racecourse is taken over by the War Office, an alternative race is held at Gatwick Racecourse for three years during WWI.
Since the racecourse has been taken over for defense purposes, no races are staged at Aintree.
Due to a threefold increase in admission charges, this is the smallest National Race in living memory.
Grand National FAQs
Who won the Grand National Festival in 2022?
Amateur Sam Waley-Cohen won the 2022 edition of the Grand National Festival.
What is the tallest fence at the Grand National Festival?
‘The Chair’ is the tallest fence on the course at five feet three inches.
Who is the Grand National's most successful jockey?
George Stevens won the Grand National Festival five times.
Grand National Activities
Attend the Grand National Festival
If you're in the U.K., head over to Liverpool for the live-action. Nothing beats the excitement of watching a race in person.
Read about the history
The Grand National Festival has quite an interesting history. This is the perfect day to catch up on the twists and turns over the years.
Ride a horse
One of the best ways to celebrate The Grand National Festival is by riding a horse. You'll have fun without the pressure of winning a race.
5 Facts About The Grand National Festival
A race with no winners
In 1993, there was a false start that some riders failed to notice and continued, resulting in the event being canceled.
Not too old to race
Dick Saunders was the oldest winning jockey in 1982, aged 48.
A record-breaking age
The oldest horse to win the Grand National Festival race was Peter Simple, who was 15 years old.
A win for women
In 2021, Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National Festival.
The youngest horse
Bruce Hobbs had just turned 17 three months before the Grand National Festival when he won the race in 1938.
Why We Love Grand National
Has a rich history
The Grand National Festival has been around for hundreds of years. Over that time, the race has undergone numerous changes. This makes it more than just a horse race.
Unites horse lovers
Horse lovers worldwide come together to celebrate the strength and speed of these remarkable creatures. This is one of the reasons that makes this race so special.
Watching horse racing is a sure way to get your adrenalin pumping. The Grand National Festival provides excitement for people of all ages.
Grand National dates