Aintree – A Guide to the Grand National CoursePublished March 27, 2017
The Grand National is the single most popular horse race in the calendar, and what makes it all the more enjoyable are the infinite number of Grand National free bets on offer. Punters flock down the betting shop and to their online accounts each and every year to have a flutter on the National.
There are many, many reasons why the Grand National is such an important fixture in the sporting calendar and right up there is the venue, Aintree Racecourse.
Set just outside Liverpool, Aintree has been the venue for the Grand National since the very first official race in 1839. The horses have to go round the Aintree course twice (totalling more than four miles) clearing 30 obstacles before the final dash to the winning post.
So, let’s have a look at what faces them.
Fences 1 & 17
The first obstacle is a relatively straight forward fence but it often claims victims first time around. Adrenaline is pumping in the caddies and if a horse is too keen going into the first it’s easy for them to make a mistake that ends their race.
Fences 2 & 18 – The Fan
Named after an early competitor who repeatedly refused to jump it, the second fence is just an inch taller than the first.
Fences 3 & 19
This is the first major test during the first circuit. The fence itself is 5ft high but it’s the open ditch on landing that slopes away another foot which really makes this so challenging. Any horse travelling to keenly runs the risk of falling. The jockeys must maintain laser like focus second time around.
Fences 4 & 20
If the horse you’ve backed falls at this fence you have the right to feel thoroughly annoyed. There’s not much to worry horse or jockey so one of them really has to make a mistake to not make it over comfortably.
Fences 5 & 21
Like the fence which precedes it, the fifth (and 21st fence) is as straightforward and sees few fallers.
Fences 6 & 22 – Becher’s Brook
Becher’s Brook is one of the most well known fences in horse racing let alone at Aintree. It’s named after Captain Martin Becher who won an early form of the race in 1836 and doesn’t look too much front on.
It’s a relatively short 4ft 10in to clear the fence but the difficulty comes with the landing. There’s an extra 10 inches or so drop the other side (depending on whether the horses go over the inside or outside of the fence) which often catches runners out.
Fences 7 & 23 – Foinavon
At 4ft 6in this really shouldn’t pose too much of an issue but coming hot on the heels of Becher’s Brook, jockeys and horses make far too many mistakes at the seventh than they should due to a momentary lapse in concentration.
Fences 8 & 24 – The Canal Turn
Much like Becher’s Brook, the Canal Turn is much more about what happens over the fence than the lead up to it. After getting over the 5ft fence, horses must turn 90 degrees to the left, a challenge which brings down even some of the better jumpers in the field.
Fences 9 & 25 – Valentine’s Brook
The ninth is another tough brook. Going over, the horses have to climb just 4ft 9in but they must get significantly more airtime than that to clear the 5ft 6in brook. Substandard jumps will be punished.
Fences 10 & 26
A simple five footer on the straight section of the course which all horses should clear with relative ease.
Fences 11 & 27
There’s a 6ft wide open ditch around this relatively short fence. The height causes no problem but the landing requires high levels of concentration.
Fences 12 & 28
Another five footer with a ditch on the landing side. A long stretch to the penultimate fence next up will really sap the strength second time around.
Fences 13 & 29
While this fence rarely causes too many problems there have been some legendary pile ups here so don’t take your eye off it.
Fences 14 & 30
The first time around, jockeys must give this respect and not simply worry about the two upcoming tests. Second time around, it’s all about getting over safely and then giving everything up to the line.
Fence 15 – The Chair
The first of two fences which the field only have to tackle once. It’s the tallest fence on the entire circuit which requires both a high and a long leap.
Fence 16 – The Water Jump
Again, the horses only have to jump this one once although it really doesn’t pose too many issues. The fence is only 2ft 6in but the horses must make sure to clear the water afterwards. Expect to see a photo of the winner clearing this in the morning papers.
The Closing Stretch
After clearing the 30th and final fence, there’s just 494 yards left in which to get the job done.