The Grand National is one of the most prestigious events in the racing calendar, and the course is unique in its own right. With 30 fences to jump, the course presents both jockeys and horses alike with the ultimate test. The race comprises of two laps around the two-and-a-quarter mile race track; however not all of the fences are jumped twice (hence the 30) and in this guide, we will reveal some of the obstacles the horses (and their riders) have to face.
With some 40 runners, the start of the Grand National is incredibly important. Jockeys want a good sight of the first fence and as preparations often take close to half an hour, nerves and tension are stretched.
It’s one of the best-known fences at the National and a little-known fact, Becher’s Brook is named after Captain Martin Becher. The jockey famously fell from his horse Conrad in the inaugural 1839 race and took refuge in the brook, away from the following pack. It’s the sixth and twenty-second fence in the race, and is often referred to as ‘the end of the world’, due to the steep drop and left-hand turn on the landing. It isn’t that bad though, there’s only 10-inches between take-off and landing.
Named after the famous horse that won the Grand National at odds of 100/1 after avoiding a mass pile-up in the 1967 race, the Foinavon is a four-foot-six fence. It’s the seventh and twenty-third fence at the National and although it provides the smallest jump of the course, it’s tricky to navigate after racers have jumped Becher’s Brook.
The Canal Turn
The Canal Turn is fences eight and twenty-four and historically it’s where the race can be won or lost. It gets its name from the fact that there’s a canal when the horses land, forcing them to make a sharp left turn, almost 90-degrees. The fence itself is made of hawthorns, covered in Norway spruce, so understandably, horses have refused to jump it. This combined with the sharp turn means there’s the likelihood of a melee; while if the jockey decides to cut the corner, there’s a chance they could be unseated.
Another famous fence, situated at nine and twenty-five, Valentine’s Brooke is named after Valentine, who was reputed to have jumped the fence hind legs first in 1840. Despite a drop, it isn’t as dangerous as Becher’s Brook but is the first of four five-foot fences in a row.
Standing at five-foot-three, The Chair is the tallest fence and is positioned in front of the Grandstand. Not only have horses got to navigate its height, but also must clear a six-foot ditch on the take-off side. The Chair got its name from the earlier days of the Grand National, when a judge would sit and record the final finishes of each horse – because it’s the fifteenth fence and only one of two fences that are navigated once.
The Water Jump
The Water Jump is the only other fence to be jumped once and is therefore, the sixteenth on the circuit. This fence is the shortest, standing at two-foot-nine, but signals the end of the first circuit – again, perfectly positioned in front of the Grandstand.
On the second circuit, the runners must bear right, thus avoiding The Chair and Water Jump. Horses must have stamina as they come to the end of the Grand National, with a 474-yard run-in from the final fence to the finish line. The run-in has previously proved difficult for a number of horses, so it’s best not to count your potential winnings, until the horse actually passes the posts.
Tiger Roll is the favourite once again to master the obstacles and you can get your Grand National 2019 odds, here: https://www.paddypower.com/horse-racing?tab=grand-national.