The Grand National Steeplechasing and Hurdle RacingCategory: Customs + Festivals
Steeplechasing reaches its annual apogee in the Grand National, which was first run in 1839 over the Aintree course at Liverpool, and attracts world wide interest and enthusiasm, in which regard only the Derby at Epsom may be said to exceed it. The honour of winning it has been sought by sportsmen of many different nationalities, not only because of the lasting prestige that goes with a victory, but for the material reward. The course is of great danger and difficulty, being an irregular triangle in shape, which must be covered twice, making a total run of 4 miles 855 yards and calling for 30 jumps.
A number of these jumps, such as Becher’s and Valentine’s Brook, the water jump, etc., are of tremendous hazard, causing many s’tarters to come to grief during the course of the race. All told, during the 100 years and more of Grand National history, the number of contending horses that have either met their deaths or been permanently crippled is large; the human toll taken from the riders has also been considerable. This, however, seems merely to add to the fascination of the event, both to the participants and the public. Thirty or more horses often go to the post, of which sometimes but a scattering few ever finish, while on one occasion only a single horse completed both rounds without falling.
“As a rule the horse knows what is expected of him,” says a well-known breeder. This never seems to be the case with the one we put out money on.