Grand National 2014: What makes Aintree race unique?

A look at the history of the race

The Grand National is a steeplechase run at Aintree racecourse which is just outside the city boundaries of Liverpool and five miles north of the centre of the town. The track is urban in that it is in the middle of a residential area and close to motorways that link the area with the rest of the country. The location is also well served by a mainline station and airport.

The term steeplechase derives from Ireland where horses were raced from steeple to steeple in the 18th century. This type of race originated from the racing of thoroughbreds from church to church. Indeed the forerunner to the National was run in Ireland before the Liverpool Steeplechase was staged in 1836 at Maghull. The race was first called the National and run at Aintree in 1939 when the winner was called Lottery.

Despite the modifications to the fences and general measures to make the race safer luck can still be a massive element in the outcome of the race. Some would still say finding the winner is a lottery and in winning the race last year Aurora Encore at 66/1 may have proved this point. However, that horse had finished second in the Scottish National and the ground was in his favour so the result may not have been totally unexpected to some.

The Grand National is a handicap in which each horse is allocated a weight based on it’s form and proven ability on the track. In theory every horse is given an equal chance and if the handicapper has got things totally right the race would end in a multiple dead heat involving every horse.

The weight range is 10 stone to 11 stone 10 pounds with the horse at the bottom of the handicap carrying 10 stone. In some instances a horse’s true relative form equates to a weight of less than the minimum and that horse is said to be running out of the handicap. The weight of the classiest horse frames the weights for the rest of the field.

The Grand National is unique in terms of the distance, the number of fences jumped and the nature of the obstacles. The distance was reduced by almost one half furlong for last year’s renewal but it is still the longest National Hunt race of the year. The fences are spruce in nature rather park in design that are seen on the second course at Aintree and other British courses. The run-in of the National is the longest for any jumps race in Britain.

Due to the unique nature of the course the race creates Grand National specialists who can run up to one stone better than the form shown in conventional races. The handicap takes into account the Aintree factor when assessing the race and proven ability over the unique fences will earn a horse more weight than in a regular handicap.

In recent years Ballabriggs, Seabass, State Of Play and Hedgehunter have run above themselves in the National over more than one year. It’s difficult to understand how aware horses are of their surroundings but the theory is well founded and substantiated almost annually. The epitome of the Aintree factor was Red Rum, arguable the most famous race horse ever and the winner of three Nationals in addition to two second place finishes when only weight prevented further wins.

To read Ian's latest sports betting news, visit www.ianhudsonsport.co.uk/betting-news

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own