Forty runners and riders will line up for the 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree this afternoon (Saturday 11 April).
The tapes go up at 4.15pm and millions of pounds will have been staked. But how much do you know about the world’s most-famous steeplechase?
H&H gives you the lowdown on the facts and figures behind the course, betting and history.
You need a horse with good stamina to stay the distance of the race.
“The Grand National is a gruelling race so you need a horse that really tries,” says H&H columnist Richard Johnson, who rides Balthazar King on Saturday.
“He also has to be willing, clever and able to think on his feet. Even though the fences have been altered you’d be a fool to think they are dandy brushes.”
The angle of the left turn needed at Canal Turn. Situated where the racecourse meets the Leeds-Liverpool canal, the obstacle often catches competitors out.
A total of 30 fences are jumped in the race — everything twice bar The Chair and the Water Jump.
“You need a horse that jumps and stays,” says H&H blogger Nick Scholfield, who rides Spring Heeled in this year’s race. “You also need some luck.”
There’s been some alterations of the fences over the years to improve safety in the race. The Chair — the biggest fence on the course — stands at 5ft2. There’s also a 6ft ditch in front of it. Jockeys must be pleased they only jump it once…
A field of 40 line up for the race, which will start at 4.15pm on Saturday (11 April).
“With 39 other horses you also need some luck and a clear run,” says Richard Johnson.
Nick Scholfield adds: “You also can’t just think about your own horse, you need to be aware of everything around you. The start is important, you need to jump off well and you don’t want to be behind a bad jumper.”
Current favourite in the race is Shutthefrontdoor — trained by Jonjo O’Neill.
The eight-year-old gelding is AP McCoy’s chosen mount in what will be the 19-time champion jockey’s final Grand National. The last favourite to win the race was in 2010 — Don’t Push It, ridden by none other than AP….
The odds of Foinavon who won in 1967 after avoiding a pile up at the 23rd fence, and Mon Mome who won for Venetia Williams in 2009, making her only the second woman to train a winner. Last year’s winner Pineau De Re won at 25-1, while in 2013 66-1 shot Auroras Encore took the top prize.
This year’s top weighted horse is Lord Windermere. The nine-year-old gelding won last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and is one of two runners for Jim Culloty, who won the race as a jockey in 2002 aboard Bindaree. Jim also saddles Spring Heeled, and the pair are Jim’s first runners in the race. In the past 20 years no winner has carried more than 11st6lb.
The most common winning age is nine. The best recent record is by 11-year-olds, accounting for nine of the past 30 winners — including the past three winners, Pineau De Re (2014), Auroras Encore (2013) and Neptune Collonges (2012). This year’s 11-year-olds include 2014 runner up Balthazar King, Across The Bay, Chance Du Roy and Wyck Hill.
2015 is the 176th anniversary of the famous race. Back in 1839 the inaugural Grand National was won by the aptly named Lottery.
The prize-fund reached seven figures for the first time last year, thanks to new sponsors alcoholic ginger beer company Crabbie’s, and remains the same for 2015.
Mr Frisk and H&H’s racing correspondent Marcus Armytage nipped round in the fastest time yet, in 1990.
The only horse to have won three times is Red Rum, who took the title in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Only one previous winner lines up in this year’s race — last year’s victor Pineau De Re.
Charlotte Brew was the first woman to ride in the race in 1977 and since then 14 others have followed in her footsteps. Five have completed the course. Katie Walsh came the closest to winning, finishing third on Seabass in 2012 and this year Nina Carberry is the sole female representative. She rides the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant. Nina’s best placing so far in the race was seventh in 2010 with Character Building. Her father Tommy (Escargot, 1975) and brother Paul (Bobbyjo, 1999) have both won — can she become the first lady jockey to ride the winner of the Grand National?
Around 9m people are expected to watch the race on TV in the UK. An estimated 500-600m watch worldwide. All the action will be shown live on Channel 4.
The youngest jockey to win the big race was Bruce Hobbs, on Battleship in 1938 and the oldest was Dick Saunders in 1982. This year’s youngest rider is 17-year-old conditional Sean Bowen, who will partner the Paul Nicholls-trained Mon Parrain.
The shortest winning distance was Neptune Collonges narrow victory of a nose over Sunnyhillboy in 2012.
Don’t miss H&H’s Grand National report issue — out Thursday 16 April 2015