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

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam