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    Grand National and Co
Grand National and Co
Horse racing at Haydock Park. Source: www.thejockeyclub.co.uk

Grand National and Co

The Grand National Steeplechase is the most renowned, prestigious, and challenging of the UK's National Hunt races. Held annually in Aintree, Merseyside, approximately 9 km from Liverpool, it takes place on the first or second Saturday of April. Covering a distance of 4 miles and 516 meters (6,907 km), it is the longest of all National races. The course features 30 fences, each about 1.5 meters high, across two laps.

There is a total of 16 unique fences on the circuit, with 14 of them jumping twice and the remaining two negotiated just once on the way to the finishing post. The hurdles include water jumps, undulating terrain, and sharp turns, and are widely regarded as the most demanding in the steeplechase world. Coupled with its extreme length, the Grand National is recognised as the ultimate test in horse racing; not all competitors finish the gruelling course, and some withdraw along the way. This may explain why the minimum age for horses to compete is seven years and older. Younger horses tend to excel in shorter sprint races, while the Grand National favours mature, seasoned horses with ample racing experience.

For horses and their trainers aiming to gauge their eligibility for the race, there are trial events available, such as local equivalents to the Grand National held across various parts of the UK. Participation in these trials assesses the horse's potential, readiness, and ability to handle what is considered the most difficult and challenging race in the world of steeplechase.

Grand National. Source: https://www.grand-national-guide.co.uk/
Grand National. Source: https://www.grand-national-guide.co.uk/

Grand National Trail

The Grand National Trail is an annual handicap race held in February at the Jockey Club's Haydock Park Racecourse in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside. The course spans a distance of 5,721 meters and features 22 obstacles. Horses must be at least 5 years old to compete.

Established in 1947, the race had its distance increased from 4,828 meters to its current length in 1991. It is sponsored by the bookmaker William Hill.

True to its name, the Grand National Trail serves as a preparatory race for horses aiming to compete in the Grand National, often referred to as a dress rehearsal.

The race has seen some notable winners over the years. In 1975, the legendary Red Rum, the only three-time winner of the Grand National, claimed victory in the Grand National Trail. In 1993, Party Politics, having won the Grand National the previous year, achieved the double by winning the Grand National Trail. In 1992, the stallion Cold Earth triumphed in the race, and in the same year, he also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Master Oats achieved a notable treble in the mid-1990s, winning the Grand National Trail in 1994, the Welsh National, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1995.

The Grand National Trail remains a significant race in the National Hunt calendar, providing a crucial lead-up for horses aspiring to compete in the iconic Grand National.

Uttoxeter Racecourse. Source: https://www.tripadvisor.com/
Uttoxeter Racecourse. Source: https://www.tripadvisor.com/

Midlands Grand National

The Midlands Grand National is Britain's second-longest race after the Grand National, covering a distance of 6,847 meters. Held annually in March at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire, the race features 25 obstacles on a predominantly oval track with bends, spanning approximately a mile in diameter. The racecourse was opened in 1907, located just over a mile from the city centre of Uttoxeter.

Uttoxeter Racecourse is a modern sports complex that has been modernised and offers a wide range of amenities to the public. Despite its modern facilities, the organisers strive to maintain the unique "village" atmosphere of the races, which is highly valued by horse enthusiasts.

The racecourse hosts 25 National Hunt races each year, with the Midlands Grand National being the most prestigious and drawing crowds of thousands.

Over the years, the Midlands Grand National has seen some memorable victories. In 1975, the horse Rag Trade, owned by the renowned hairdresser Raymond Bessone, won the Midlands National and went on to qualify for the Grand National. The following year, Rag Trade won both the Welsh Grand National and the Grand National, denying Red Rum his fourth victory (though Red Rum won again the next year).

In 1986, despite heavy snowfall, the horse The Thinker triumphed in the Midlands National. The following year, The Thinker went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In 2010, Synchronised won the Midlands Grand National as one of only three out of 17 horses to finish the race. That same year, Synchronised also claimed victory in the Welsh National, and in 2012, he went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Midlands Grand National remains a significant event in the National Hunt calendar, attracting top horses and jockeys as they prepare for major races like the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Welsh National Hunt Cup. Source: https://www.chepstow-racecourse.co.uk/
Welsh National Hunt Cup. Source: https://www.chepstow-racecourse.co.uk/

Coral Welsh Grand National

The Coral Welsh Grand National is a prestigious handicap race held annually at the end of December at Chepstow Racecourse in Chepstow, Wales. The race covers a distance of 6,154 meters and features 23 fences for participants to jump.

Originally established in 1895 at Ely Racecourse in Cardiff, the Welsh National has been hosted at Chepstow Racecourse since 1949. Notable among its early winners was the famous British crime writer Dick Francis, who won the race in 1949 aboard Fighting Line, and again in 1956 with Crudwell.

The Welsh Grand National attracts high-calibre riders and is considered a precursor to other major races such as the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The race is sponsored by the bookmaker Coral, whose support has helped elevate it to one of the premier events in National Hunt racing.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, jockey David Nicholson achieved a remarkable hat-trick of victories in the Welsh National in the seasons of 1959, 1960, and 1961, later becoming a successful thoroughbred trainer.

Burrough Hill Lad, winner of the Welsh National in 1983, went on to claim victory in the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup the same year.

In 2002, Bindaree, an Irish gelding, won the Grand National, and the following year in 2003, he triumphed in the Welsh National. Silver Birch, winner of the Welsh National in 2004, went on to win the Grand National in 2007.

Native River, winner of the Welsh Grand National in 2016, achieved the double in 2018 by capturing the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Coral Welsh Grand National continues to be a celebrated fixture in the National Hunt calendar, showcasing top-class racing talent and providing an exciting challenge for both horses and jockeys alike. 

Horse racing in Ayr. Source: https://www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk/
Horse racing in Ayr. Source: https://www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk/

Scottish Grand National in Ayr

The Scottish Grand National, Scotland's equivalent of the Grand National, is held annually in April during the two-day Grand National Festival at Ayr. The handicap race is open to horses at least 5 years old and covers a distance of 6,397 meters, with competitors needing to clear 27 hurdles.

With a history dating back to 1858, the Scottish Grand National originally featured 32 stone barriers near Houston. Over the years, the race has changed venues and is now hosted at Ayr Racecourse in Scotland. The race is proudly sponsored by bookmaker Coral, hence it is also known as the Coral Scottish Grand National. It ranks as the fourth largest race in the UK in terms of betting turnover, attracting a television audience of over 1 million viewers.

Several winners of the Scottish Grand National have achieved the prestigious double by also winning the English Grand National at Aintree. Music Hall was the first to accomplish this feat in 1922. Little Polveir won the Scottish Grand National in 1987 and went on to claim victory in the English Grand National in 1989. Earth Summit achieved success in the Scottish Grand National in 1994, followed by wins in the Welsh Grand National in 1997 and the English Grand National in 1998.

However, no horse has yet matched the legendary Red Rum's achievement of winning both Grand Nationals in the same season, which he accomplished in 1974.

The Coral Scottish Grand National remains a highly anticipated event in the racing calendar, renowned for its thrilling competition and the chance to witness top-class horses and jockeys in action.

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