The Home Nations Grand Nationals
Although the original Grand National was run at Aintree, such a hit was it that many other countries were quick to adopt the idea – and started to run their own versions of the famous race… including the three other home nations – Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Here, we look at the four popular races:
The English Grand National
I would like to say that this is the original Grand National… but it isn’t. It is, arguably, the greatest steeplechase race in the world, seen as the most challenging, the most exciting, dramatic and colourful sporting event ever and many nations have followed suit and created their own Grand National races.
However, this race was a copy of the original 4-mile Great St Albans Steeplechase. It was originally run at Aintree back in 1839 as just a sideshow, the landlord of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool, just to keep his punters entertained before the main event – the greyhound Waterloo Cup.
The most famous fence is named after the leading rider of the original race, Captain Martin Belcher and it is now the biggest race and betting event in the world of horseracing, followed by people from around the globe.
The Irish Grand National
This race is a huge betting event, where favourites often do well, unlike the English counterpart. So if you place your bet on the Irish Grand National with Boylesports and go for a favourite, stats suggest you have a pretty solid chance of doing well.
The Irish Grand National is a three-mile and five furlong race run on Easter Monday at Fairyhouse Course, which, depending on when Easter falls, can be on the same week as the Aintree race.
There are four horses in history which have won both Aintree and Ireland’s races – Ascetic’s Silver in 1904 and 1906, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason in 1985 and 1988, Bobbyjo in 1998 and 1999 and Numbersixvalverde in 2005 and 2006.
However, two of the race’s greatest winners, Arkle and Desert Orchid, never ran the Aintree race.
Historically, the race has been won three times by female riders – in 1984 when Ann Ferris rode Bentom Boy, in 2011 when Nina Carberry won with Organisedconfusion and then in 2015 when Katie Walsh rode to glory on Thunder and Roses.
Only one horse has won the race three times, which was the Tom Dreaper trained horse, Brown Lad, who won in 1975, 1976 and 1978.
The Scottish Grand National
The biggest race in Scotland was established back in 1858 and is run in Ayr in April over a course of 4 miles with 27 fences. It usually takes place around 2 weeks after the Aintree race and some use it as a consolation race, whilst some simply use it as a guide for next season’s race.
It began back in Houston, Renfrewshire and was originally run over stone walls. However, in 1880 it moved to Bogside after a complaint from the local Free Church. It wasn’t until 1965 that it moved to Ayr. The only horse to have won the Scottish, Welsh and Aintree Grand National is Earth Summit.
Because it is held so close to Aintree, it is a difficult task to win both races in the same year. The last horse to attempt it was Auroras Encore, but the only horse to ever have achieved it was Red Rum, in 1974.
The Welsh Grand National
The most recent of the local Grand National is the Welsh Grand National which has been held at Chepstow since 1949, with Dick Francis riding the first winner.
The race is held over 3 miles and 5 furlongs and there are 22 regulation obstacles. This race is a little later in the calendar year, usually run the day after Boxing Day and, as such, is usually run on heavy ground by stamina-laden horses. The most recent winner, Mountainous, is only the third horse along with Bonanza Boy and Liminali to have won the race twice.
This is considered a good trial for the Gold Cup and the Grand National, with Burrough Hill Lad, Cool Ground, Master Oats and Synchronised all winners that went on to Win the Gold Cup. Meanwhile, Rag Trade, Earth Summit, SIlver Birch and Bindaree have all won the Welsh and English Grand National.