2016 Grand National at Aintree: A unique and compelling race

The 2016 Grand National at Aintree: A unique and compelling race at Aintree is unique: the race of dreams and creator of legends. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Grand National receives more attention around the world than any other horse race.

Since the inaugural running at Aintree Racecourse way back in 1839, when Lottery had his name etched on the roll of honour, victory in the Grand National has been the pinnacle of ambition for owners, trainers and jockeys.

Actors, aristocrats, business people, comedians, coiffeurs, celebrities, moguls, politicians, pop stars, sporting heroes, Kings, Queens and Princes have all tried for Grand National glory but only a fortunate few succeed.

It is the most famous chase and one of the biggest tests for racehorse and rider who have to complete two circuits of the iconic Grand National course – with 30 fences to be jumped as four miles, two furlongs and about 74 yards are covered.

Famous landmarks around the course are an integral part of the Grand National experience; with the fences such as Becher’s Brook, the Canal Turn, Valentine’s and the Chair so well known to the millions who watch the race each year.

Familiar phrases of commentators such as “crossing the Melling Road” are built into people’s subconscious, while there is the ‘elbow’, with the winning post in sight.

Many are the reversals of fortune on the long run from the last fence to the winning post, as the last reserves of stamina ebb away and the chance of immortality is lost.

Devon Loch’s inexplicable collapse in the 1956 Grand National, a mere 50 yards from a famous victory for his owner, The Queen Mother, serves as a constant reminder that the race is often won and lost in the final run from the ‘elbow’.

And there is nothing quite like the sensation of heart-clutching, wriggling expectation as the 40-strong field for the Crabbie’s Grand National is persuaded into a fair line, ahead of the dash to the first fence.

Whether at Aintree or at home watching the Channel 4 television coverage, a general hush falls while the starter calls the runners into line. The tape is released to a huge roar – the most anticipated race has begun.

The excitement begins at such a great height, tumbles and hurtles onwards throughout nine minutes of breathtaking action and often afterwards.

Betting slips or thoughts, carefully clutched or pondered on, are not to be fully celebrated until the result has been officially announced. Replays are avidly studied to determine what happened where to each of the runners and riders.

Once-a-year punters come out in force on Crabbie’s Grand National day, studying the list of runners to locate their selection from the office/shop sweepstake, or placing their wager on a horse with a name they like or one linked to a topical event – for instance, Party Politics was a popular choice when he won the great race in 1992, with the nation on the brink of a general election.

At 5.15pm on Saturday 9th April 2016, the scheduled off-time of the Crabbie’s Grand National, there will be few bookmakers willing to lay odds about what many in Britain, and plenty more throughout the world, will be doing for the next quarter of an hour.

Millions and millions of people in Britain bet on the Crabbie’s Grand National, making the race easily the biggest single turnover event each year, and the most anticipated.

Regular punters and the annually curious can take a financial interest in one of Britain’s 8,700 off course betting shops, over the telephone, through the Internet, on their smartphone or at Aintree Racecourse.

Bookmakers estimate that some £500 million is wagered in Britain on the day, with the Crabbie’s Grand National accounting for the bulk of that.

Not only is the great race compellingly demanding – the feeling of even completing is one cherished by those involved – but it is also very financially rewarding.

Prize money of £1 million is again on offer for those who compete in the 169th running of the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree in 2016, with the rewards stretching down to the 10th home for the fifth time. It is by far the highest amount of money that any chase outside Japan can boast.

There are over 150,000 racegoers at Aintree during the three days of the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival, while the British television audience numbers around nine million, with more than 600 million worldwide seeing the action.

The Crabbie’s Grand National is a national treasure, both enthralling and fascinating, and something to be cherished.

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