ABC of Grand National Facts

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AMATEURS Unlike the Derby, the Grand National often sees amateur riders taking on - and beating - the professionals. The big race was most recently won by a member of the unpaid ranks when journalist Marcus Armytage scored on Mr Frisk in 1990. Fellow amateur Chris Bonner was third on Over The Deel in 1995 and fourth on Sir Peter Lely in 1996.

BECHER'S BROOK The 1839 National gave us the legendary Becher's Brook, jumped as the sixth and 22nd fence in the great race. Captain Martin Becher fell from his horse Conrad into the brook and crawled in to escape the rest of the field jumping on him. He is reported to have said he never "knew water tasted so foul without whisky in it". There have been many fallers at this notorious fence since then and in 1990 Becher's Brook was straightened and the ditch partially filled in to make it safer.

CHAIR At 5ft 2ins high, the Chair, the 15th fence in the race, is the biggest obstacle on the course. It is so called because of its position alongside the "seat" erected for the "distance" judge.

DOUGLAS Former British Lions rugby union international John Douglas won the Grand National in 1979. His 10-year-old Rubstic scored at 25-1 to give Scotland its one and only success in the race.

EASTERN EUROPE Runners from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the USSR have all contested the Grand National but none completed the course. Most recently, the Czech Quirinus, saddled with automatic top weight, unseated his rider at the Chair in 1994.

FAVOURITESRough Quest was the first winning favourite in 14 years when he scored at 7-1 in 1996 and market leader Earth Summit struck just two years later at the same odds. Golden Miller started the shortest-priced favourite ever in 1935 at 2-1 but failed to complete the course.

GREYSOnly two grey horses have ever won the Grand National in its 150-year history - The Lamb (1868 and 1871) and Nicolaus Silver (1961).

HOLIDAYHoliday camp owner Fred Pontin won the National in 1971. His nine-year-old Specify got up close home to score by a neck in a thrilling finish.

IRISHLast year, Bobbyjo became the first Irish-trained horse to win the National since L'Escargot beat Red Rum in 1975.

JOCKEYSCarl Llewellyn is the only jockey still riding to have won the Grand National twice, on Party Politics (1992) and Earth Summit (1998).

KILMOREKilmore, in 1962, was the second Grand National winner as a jockey for Fred Winter, who went on to land the race as a trainer with Jay Trump in 1965 and Anglo in 1966.

LADY RIDERSCharlotte Brew became the first woman to ride in the Grand National in 1977. Her mount Barony Fort refused at the fourth-last fence. Geraldine Rees was the first to complete the course, on Cheers in 1982. Rosemary Henderson, a 51-year-old grandmother, finished fifth on Fiddlers Pike in 1994.

MOVIESAldaniti's emotional 1981 success inspired the movie 'Champions'. John Hurt portrayed Bob Champion, who fought back from cancer to land the National on a horse who overcame career-threatening injury himself.

NICKELNickel Coin was the last mare to win the Grand National in 1951. Closest to scoring for the fairer sex in recent years have been Dubacilla and Ebony Jane, fourth in 1995 and 1994 respectively, and Auntie Dot, third in 1991.

OUTSIDERSFour horses have won the race at odds of 100-1 - Tipperary Tim (1928), Gregalach (1929), Caughoo (1947) and Foinavon (1967).

PRIZE MONEYThe 2000 Martell Grand National will carry record prize money of £500,000. There are prizes on offer to each of the first six horses home.

QUEEN MOTHERThe Queen Mother looked certain to gain a popular success in 1956 when Devon Loch was clear on the run-in. But he suddenly sprawled flat on the ground yards from the winning post and E.S.B. galloped past to steal the prize.

RED RUMNo horse can match Red Rum's Grand National record. Winner of the race in 1973 and 1974, he was second the next two years before his historic third victory in 1977. After his retirement on the eve of the National in 1978, he regularly led the parade of runners before the start. He died in 1995 and is buried by the winning post at Aintree.

STARRComedian Freddie Starr missed seeing his colours carried to National victory by Miinnehoma in 1994 as superstition kept him away from the track.

TELEVISIONMore than 400million people are expected to watch the great race on television worldwide. As well as the BBC coverage in the UK, the National will be shown live through much of Europe, with coverage also screened in the Middle East, Asia, South Africa and Latin America.

USAEx-American chasers Jay Trump and Ben Nevis came across to Britain to land the National in 1965 and 1980 respectively. Uncle Merlin might well have emulated them but for unseating Hywel Davies at Bechers second time round in 1990.

VOLUPTUARY Voluptuary, bred by Queen Victoria, had never jumped a fence before winning the National in 1884. He ended his career clearing a water jump night after night in the Grand National scene of the play 'Prodigal Daughter'.

WEDDINGS Aintree racecourse is now licensed for wedding ceremonies. Couples can tie the knot in the Valentine suite of the Queen Mother stand before moving on to the Becher suite for a wedding breakfast, with the whole site available for memorable photographs.

X-RATEDMick Fitzgerald was overcome by his victory on Rough Quest in 1996, quipping"I've never enjoyed 12 minutes as much before. Sex is an anti-climax after that!"

YOUNGESTBruce Hobbs was the youngest jockey to win the National, scoring on Battleship in 1938 at the age of 17. Oldest successful rider was 48-year-old Dick Saunders on Grittar in 1982. Tim Durant was the oldest jockey to complete the course, partnering Highlandie in 1968 at the age of 68.

ZONGALEROWhen Zongalero finished a length-and-a-half second to Rubstic in the 1979 National he completed an unhappy hat-trick. He had also been runner-up in the Mackeson Gold Cup and Massey-Ferguson Gold Cup and ended the season without a win to his name.

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