Why Saturday’s Aintree Grand National Is Appointment Viewing
When 17 runner and riders lined up to contest the 1839 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, they could hardly have imagined what the future would hold; that race would go into the history books as the first ever Grand National, and now, some 179 years later, it remains one of the biggest events in sport the world over.
This year’s meeting will mark the 171st contest and will be shown live on TV3. Whether you’re gaga for the gee-gees or simply a casual observer, it is one of those occasions that you simply have to watch – and if you’re still not convinced, consider these reasons why your couch is the only place to be come 5:15 pm Saturday afternoon…
THE START CAN BE CHAOS!
In 1993, most of the horses set off even though there’d been a false start – the event was declared void, and it’s now referred to as “the race that never was”. In 2014, a number of false starts led to an all-out mutiny when jockeys refused to co-operate with the stewards trying to figure out what had happened. And even when things go right, the sight of 40 giant animals careering onto the course is something to behold!
THE FENCES ARE WILD TOO
Mention Becher’s Brook, The Chair or even Foinavon to racing enthusiasts and you’ll see their faces blanch; the obstacles on the Aintree course are amongst the toughest and most intimidating in the sport. Part of the race’s unpredictability comes from the fact that the challenges over more than four miles are so testing – but that’s also what makes the event so renowned the world over.
THE FORECAST IS SHOCKING
17 years ago, just four of the 40 starters crossed the line. That’s right – a full 36 horses found the going so tough they couldn’t make it to the finish! With buckets of rain falling earlier this week – and some more set to come down before the race on Saturday – it could well be another mudfest. That might well suit Baie Des Iles, who will be a horse well worth watching because…
KATIE CHASES HISTORY
Our own Katie Walsh is bidding to become the first female jockey to be first past the post – and Baie Des Iles is reckoned to be in with a decent shout. Two years ago she became the first woman to win the Irish version of the race, and with brother Ruby having won the race twice she’s likely to be getting some good advice in the lead-up to the event too! To add to it all, her horse is trained by her husband; victory would make them the first married couple to pull off such a feat.
THERE’S MORE RECORDS TO BE BROKEN
Whether it’s the 17-year-old James Bowen, who would become the youngest winning jockey were Shantou Flyer to cross the line first, or veteran trainer Trevor Hemmings who would claim a record fourth victory were his charge Warriors Tale to emerge triumphantly, there are all sorts of epic new marks that could be set. Some 171 races in, there’s still a whole lot of fresh ground to be broken!
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