The Grand National 2010
Red Rum won the 1973 Grand National at Aintree, breaking Golden Miller’s course record that had stood since 1934, having been achieved by the Miller under a weight of 12st 2lb. That feat stamped Red Rum as a great, for no lesser reason than taking the longstanding record from a hitherto super chaser. Golden Miller was a superb chaser who won five Cheltenham Gold Cups in a row from 1932, 33, 34, 35 & 1936, adding the Grand National prize for a great double in 1934, a double which was never achieved before.
Almost a 100 years earlier, in 1836, the big race at Aintree had its origins as a race for gentlemen only and run with a field of four; It then progressed over the next 3 years to be the steeplechasing event of the year attracting big crowds which converged to watch and bigger entries with 17 horses going to the start in 1839. Lottery was the race favourite that year, when the runners included a horse called Conrad ridden by Captain Becher who won the race in 1836. The going varied from growing barley to rough ploughed fields with obstacles from light fencing to a five foot stone wall topped with turf which provided the onlookers standing nearby with ample excitement. There were plenty of thrills and spills over the course and numerous refusals. When Conrad with no appetite for a six foot wide brook with palings and a high hedge in front tumbled headlong in, our good Captain Becher took a toss as spectacular as it was wetting, and thus unknowingly giving his name to that fence and to posterity. Lottery, the favourite, duly obliged.
1839, the year Lottery won, was the last to carry the title of the contest as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase , which changed to a shortened version to become the Grand National, invented by a reporter writing up the 1839 results. The newly named Grand National’s first run in 1840 was a year plagued by a series of nasty mishaps at the stone wall, but an Irish horse called Valentine was one of the few that managed to remain on its feet. Valentine’s rider had boasted that he would be first at the obstacle, and the blistering pace he set was the chief cause of the disasters there, and though poetic justice determined that Valentine did not win the race, it did finish and had its name immortalised on Valentine’s Brook, one of the National’s most famous fences.
Over the next few years the fortunes of the National went up and down; The toll of horses sparked off adverse public reaction, and bribery and corruption brought all steeplechasing and the National in particular into disrepute; yet by 1843 , despite the sport being considered by many as the unsavoury poor relation of flat racing, the design of the course at Aintree was to remain little changed for a 100 years, the stands were finished, and the site was declared one of the best in the country.
When the Prince of Wales, having won the Derby with Persimmon in 1986, went on to win the National with his chaser Ambush four years later, the Prince received the tremendous acclamation of a fervently royalist crowd, and the race gained the royal accolade. From then on the National became to steeplechasing what the Derby is to flat racing. The names of the famous winners of the race over the years gathered as much fame as Derby winners but could not be perpetuated through progeny, since with few exceptions when a stallion won in 1855 and Lutteur111 in 1909, entire horses are not normally raced over fences .The race generally proved too tough for mares with very few exceptions over the years . Some amazing horses won over the years, like Master Roberts who won in 1924, was considered so hopelessly slow that he spent part of his earlier career as a plough horse. I was at Aintree in 1967 to see Foinavon, hopelessly behind in the race when Popham Down caused the field to topple at fence 23 leaving Foinavon to come through and win by 15 lengths at 200 to 1, and I believe over 400 to 1 on the Tote. A similar debacle took place in the 1951 race when Nickel Coin, a mare and one of only 3 horses left standing out of 36 starters won at 40 to 1.
Then we come to the 1993 Grand National for the race that never was; after one false start and a successful recall, almost the entire field failed to realise that a second false start had occurred, but the recall flag was not shown!
What about this year? 10th April 2010, they will go to the start again, and though much has been done to make the fences less forbidding, than they were say 50 years ago, there are still huge risks and hazards against any horse, no matter how competent and fit a jumper it be to complete the course let alone win or be placed. You will no doubt need lots of luck to find the winner, but please do not miss the fun of choosing your runner.
Unless I hear from my faithful tipster in time, I shall be going for Mon Mome who made the top spot last year at 100/1 (watch it here) and ran third in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup (watch it here). For that effort his odds have been slashed by Betfair from 34/1 to 13/1, a generous price for the fun of watching a safe jumper go round to win. My second choice would be The Package, offered by ToteSport at 16/1, and finally, my third choice would be Chief Dan George, currently being offered by Ladbrokes at 26/1. Good Hunting!