The Grand National Steeplechase

Aintree racecourse

The Grand National, the most valuable jump race in Europe, will be run this coming weekend in Liverpool, England.

The race was first run in 1839 and is 4 miles 3½ furlongs in distance. Except for the period from 1941 to 1945, during the Second World War, the race has taken place every year.

Horse Talk – furlong: One of the ways in which horse races are measured is in furlongs. 1 furlong = 1/8 mile or 200 metres

1. How many years has the Grand National been run?

2. What is the distance of the race in furlongs?

steeplechase jumpThe Grand National is run over the National Course at Aintree and consists of two laps of sixteen fences, the first fourteen of which are jumped twice.

3. All sixteen jumps are jumped the first time around. The second time around only the first fourteen jumps are jumped again. How many jumps altogether do the horses have to clear?

Not counting the water jump, the shortest fences on the course are 4 feet 6 inches. Becher’s Brook, the most famous fence on the course is 5 feet high, with the landing side 6in to 10in lower than the takeoff side.

Beecher's-Brook,-18904. How much higher is Becher’s Brook than the shortest fences on the course?

A horse named Red Rum is considered the greatest Grand National winner of all time. He raced back in the 1970’s.

Originally bought as a yearling in 1966, he passed through various training yards before being bought by Ginger McCain for owner Noel le Mare.

5. Red Rum was a yearling in 1966. In what year was he born?

Two days after the purchase, while trotting Red Rum on a beach, McCain noticed that he appeared lame. The horse was suffering from an inflammatory bone disorder. McCain had witnessed many lame carthorses reconditioned by being galloped in sea-water so he gave Red Rum the same treatment.

Red Rum at Castle Park

Red Rum with fans at Castle Park, Bristol, 1980.

It worked, he went on to win three Grand Nationals in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and was runner-up in 1975 and 1976.

6. How old was Red Rum when he won his first Grand National?

7. How old was he when he won his last Grand National?

The fastest winning time for the race was made by Mr. Frisk in 1990 with a time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds.

Red Rum’s fastest time was in 1973. He was clocked at 9 minutes 1.9 seconds.

8. How much faster was Mr. Frisk’s time than Red Rum’s?

As many as forty horses are allowed to run in the Grand National. The maximum number of horses allowed to compete in the Kentucky Derby is twenty.

9. How many more horses compete in the Grand National than race in the Kentucky Derby?

Who will win this year’s Grand National? Well someone thinks they know. A top mathematician has developed a formula to identify the winner in Saturday’s Grand National.

Golden Miller, steeplechase

Golden Miller, winner of the 1934 Grand National.

William Hartston spent days carefully studying the statistics from every single Grand National which has taken place since 1886. He then used a complex formula which included the bookies’ odds, age of the horse, the letters in the owner’s name, and the letters and number of words in the horses’ names.  His prediction? Monbeg Dude.

We will have to wait to find out if he is right. The race is Saturday.

Here are some of the highlights from the 2017 Grand National. As they approach the finish line you will see distance markers reading 1F and 1/2F.  Now you will know exactly how far they have to run to the finish line!

Would you like to learn more about Red Rum? Click here for a great video showing his amazing come from behind win in the 1973 Grand National.

Aintree Grand National 2013 by Stacey Cavanagh; CC BY 2.0
UK Steeplechase Race by Paul; CC BY 2.0
Beecher’s Brook, 1890; public domain
Red Rum at Castle Park, Bristol 1980 by Rick Weston; CC BY 2.0

Golden Miller (Ireland); public domain

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2 Responses to “The Grand National Steeplechase”

  1. HLM
    April 8, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    Pineau De Re won the Grand National this year. William is going to have to come up with a different formula!

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