Did you know this about The Grand National?

Features | 7th April 2022

The Grand National is the world’s most famous horse race.
Millions of viewers from every corner of the globe tune in each year to watch the great race run over
two circuits of the iconic Aintree course.
Here’s a few fun facts about the National you might not know.

40 runners tackling 30 unique fences around 4 1/4 miles, luck plays a part

So, it’s rather appropriate the name of the winner of the inaugural race way back in 1839 was Lottery. There have been numerous surprise winners down the years but none more fortunate than 1967 hero Foinavon.

He was so far behind approaching the 23rd fence that he was able to pick his way through the biggest melee in the history of the race at the course’s smallest fence. As others refused and unseated, jockey Johnny Buckingham jumped Foinavon through the crowd and went on to win one of the most famous victories.

The record for the fastest Grand National win is held by 1990 hero Mr Frisk

Despite modifications to some of the fences, taking away the steep drops on the landing sides, and the shortening of the course, the winning time of 8mins 47.8secs still stands to this day. Mr Frisk’s National triumph is notable for several other reasons. He is the earliest winner trained by someone still operating. His trainer Kim Bailey, based in the Cotswolds, is likely to be represented by Two For Gold this year.

Mr Frisk was also the last National winner to be ridden by an amateur. His jockey, Marcus Armytage, combined riding with working as racing correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. He remains in that role to this day and will be at Aintree this week covering the action.

Some Aintree fences have become almost as iconic as the track itself

The Chair is the biggest obstacle on the course. It stands 5ft2ins (1.57m) high and has a 6ft (1.83m) ditch in front of it.
It takes its name from the chair that used to be situated high up next to the fence. The distance judge sat in it to note down the official distances between the finishers.

The Chair is one of only two fences – the water jump is the other – to be taken just once. The other 14 fences are jumped twice.
Becher’s Brook is arguably the most famous obstacle on the course. It is named after Captain Martin Becher. He fell at the fence in the first Grand National and lay in the brook that used to run along the back of the fence. 

Completely soaked, he dragged himself out of the brook after the rest of the field had jumped the fence and is reported to have declared “water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky”.


Spanish peer and amateur rider The Duke Of Alburquerque had a fierce Grand National obsession

Beltran Alfonso Osorio y Diez de Rivera, to use his real name, rode in the race seven times between 1952 and 1976. He estimated he broke 107 bones at Aintree, including his leg, wrist, seven ribs and multiple vertebras.

Known as the ‘Iron Duke of Aintree’, he was unhelpfully tall for a jockey. The Jockey Club stopped him from competing in 1977 declaring “the hospital would run out of screws and the Duke out of legs”.

Red Rum is the only horse to win three Grand Nationals 

But it was, ironically, the lack of facilities at his trainer’s yard that was the making of the Aintree legend. He started off racing on the Flat and had numerous trainers before ending up at Ginger McCain’s stables behind his second‐hand car lot in Southport, just 15 miles from Aintree. 

With no gallops to exercise his horse he used the beaches. The healing qualities of the sea water is credited with helping soothe the incurable bone disease Red Rum suffered from in his feet.

As well as his victories in 1973, 1974 and 1977, the greatest National hero also twice finished runner‐up in the big race.

Some of jump racing’s greatest jockeys failed to win the Grand National

Richard Johnson holds the record for the most rides – 21 – without winning the great race.

Terry Biddlecombe, Josh Gifford, Stan Mellor, Jonjo O’Neill, John Francome and Peter Scudamore are other champion jockeys never to have tasted Grand National victory. 

Michael Dickinson and David Nicholson are two champion trainers never to have won the big Aintree prize. Nicky Henderson is another. His best placing came with his very first runner in 1979 when Zongalero finished second behind Rubstic