Racing: National to set a fierce pace: Firm grounds for concern over the runners and riders chasing their dreams at Aintree today

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The Independent Online
THE 147th Grand National will be run at Aintree this afternoon but the race may produce a more significant statistic - the course record, writes Richard Edmondson.

Unusually dry weather at the Liverpool course in recent weeks means the 30-fence marathon will be run at a pace potentially damaging to man and beast.

'They always go fast over the first few fences in the National, even when it is soft ground, in order to get a decent position, so tomorrow should be interesting to say the least,' Carl Llewellyn, who goes for a second successive victory in the race on Party Politics, said yesterday.

Five course records were broken in yesterday's seven races, and Mr Frisk's 1990 National fastest mark of 8mins 47.8sec is not likely to survive.

One horse, Now Your Talkin, was killed at the meeting yesterday, after breaking a leg in a novice hurdle. Paradoxically, the recent amendments to Aintree's fences, undertaken to appease the RSPCA, have introduced an element of increased danger in the stronger pace of the National.

There was a protest by a 30-strong animal rights group at the course yesterday, and if the worst fears of Steve Smith Eccles, the senior figure in the jockeys' weighing room prove correct, there may be further ammunition for their argument.

'Forty runners, fast ground and a fast pace will mean it's tough out there,' he said. 'There will certainly be fallers.'

National preview, pages 48 and 49

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