From its humble beginnings in Liverpool in 1829 (when it was very much just a local affair,) the Crabbie’s Grand National has been a national obsession in England. Capturing the hearts and passions of devout horse-race enthusiasts (and its fair share of yearly bandwagoning armchair horse-race enthusiasts,) the race is considered by many to be “the ultimate test of horse and rider.”
The Grand National is steeped in history, and with such an event comes a great deal of memorable showings by both the horses and the jockeys. Some of the more obscure goings-on of the race though tend to get forgotten over time. So without further ado, here are 5 things you (probably) didn’t know about The Grand National.
1. 1928 was not a good year for finishers
Of the 42 horses that entered the competition that year, only two actually crossed the finish line. Because of wet, soggy conditions on the track, 41 of the horses fell at some point during the race, and only one managed to get back up. The only one that didn’t fall? Tipperary Tim ridden by jockey William Dutton. Allegedly one of Dutton’s friends called out to him before the start of the race, yelling: “Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall down!” With odds at 100 to 1, the friend’s good-natured ribbing turned out to be eerily accurate. 1928 remains to this day as the record-holder for fewest finishers in the race. If you’re looking for Grandnational 2016 dates – check on WilliamHill website for the most current information.
2. Fences have meaning
There are 30 fences along the course, and one of the more famous ones is Becher’s Brook — named after Captain Martin Becher sought shelter there from oncoming horses after falling off his horse Conrad in 1839. He famously quipped afterwards, “Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whiskey.”
3. Race-goers like to drink
The annual event is held at Aintree Race Course in Liverpool, where attendees have the option of imbibing at any one of the over 80 bars. It is estimated that the thirsty crowd consumes over 250,000 pints of beer, 38,000 shots, and more than 5000 cocktails over the duration of the race. And that’s not including any booze they manage to sneak in.
4. Even losers hold records
Poor sod Richard Johnson holds the unenviable record for most entries in the race without a win. He’s entered the Grand National a total of 16 times, but his best showing was only second place, a feat he achieved in 2002 riding a horse named What’s Up Boys.
5. The course is also a grave
Red Rum, perhaps the most famous horse to even grace the grounds after winning in 1973, 1974, and 1977 (and coming in second in 1975, and 1976) is buried at the winning post. His epitaph reads:
“Respect this place, this hallowed ground, a legend here, his rest has found, his feet would fly, our spirits soar, he earned our love for evermore.”
Now it’s your turn — what quirky facts do you know about the Grand National? Feel free to share any in the comments section below.