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It’s almost time for the most famous race in the British racing calendar. That’s right, it’s the Grand National, a race like no other, a race that draws an almighty crowd and media attention from far and wide.
At Aintree Racecourse, the Grand National is run over an arduous and stamina-sapping trip that goes beyond four miles. For those not too familiar with horse racing, such a distance is far from typical. There is no test in this sport quite like the Grand National. For a horse and jockey to make it home in front, a stellar combination of courage, jumping, and stamina is required.
How long is the Grand National?
The race involves the runners and riders making their way around two full laps of the Aintree Grand National circuit, which stretches out to just over two miles. As touched on above, from start to finish, this race is over four miles long. To be precise, the Grand National is run over a gruelling four miles and two furlongs.
Typically, the race lasts around 10 minutes. The fastest ever time recorded for the Grand National was set by 1990 winner Mr Frisk, who rather miraculously completed the race in 8 minutes and 47.8 seconds. The slowest time ever recorded was set all the way back in 1839, when Lottery won the race in 14 minutes and 53 seconds.
Number of Jumps & Fences
If the distance of this one-of-a-kind contest wasn’t enough, there are some quite colossal obstacles along the way, while the number of jumps taken goes far beyond that of any regular race. In total, those horses that complete the race will have jumped 30 times, which for irregular horse racing fans or those not in the know, is an awful lot. Unsurprisingly, the Grand National is the longest jumping race in the United Kingdom.
The subject of much debate in recent years, the Grand National fences are a large part of what makes this historical race so unique. For starters, there are 16 fences that will be jumped, 14 of which will be jumped twice. Many of the fences are larger than usual, which often raises safety concerns. Many of these concerns have been addressed in recent times, with the fences been dropped or altered in a way that promotes animal welfare.
Ahead of this year’s renewal of this famous old race, some of the fences have again been re-designed to tackle some of the safety issues concerned. This is of course a positive, as is anything that can be done to aid the welfare of all the runners and riders involved.
From an aesthetic point of view, there will be little change, but the way many of the obstacles has been altered. Fences 3 and 11, both of which are what’s known as open ditches, have been updated to contain natural birch at their core. Fences 13 and 14 have also been made more horse friendly. Where they previously stood thanks to rigid and tough timber frames, they’re now comprised of plastic birch. This is particularly ideal as these two fences will be the final two fences on the last lap of the race, which is of course when tiredness and poor jumping can set in.
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