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Grand National Festival History

The Grand National at Aintree Racecourse was first run as far back as 1839 when it was won by ‘Lottery’ with a race completion time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds. ‘Lottery’ was the 5/1 race favourite and was ridden by jockey Jem Mason and trained by George Dockeray.

Back then, horses were required to jump a stone wall, run uneven grounds and jump over two hurdles for a chance of being crowned victor of The Grand Liverpool Steeplechase.

Grand National Racecourse History

Aintree Racecourse was founded by William Lynn, who leased the ground from The 2nd Earl Of Sefton, William Molyneux. In 1829 the course was laid out and the grandstand was built ahead of the first edition of The Grand National.

Historically, The Grand National Steeplechase was run over a slightly longer distance of 4 miles and 856 yards, however, this distance was reduced fairly recently in 2012 when the course length was reduced by 110 yards to move the starting line away from the crowds.

The Grand National involved two laps of Aintree Racecourse, which features a total of 16 iconic birch-clad fences including The Chair, The Canal Turn and Becher’s Brook, the natural water jump. This combination of distance and obstacles gives The Grand National its title of “the ultimate test of horse and rider”.

Grand National History

There is much debate over when the first Grand National took place, with evidence supporting arguments for and against the race having been run prior to 1839, however the 1839 edition of the race is the first that has any true reference to the word ‘National’.

There were certainly other races run prior to 1839 in the area although there’s a good chance that they took place at Maghull and not Aintree and cannot be considered an accurate representation of what The Grand National technically is.

Over time, the potential runnings prior to 1839 were disregarded and the 1839 edition of the race was given the official title as the first Grand National.

Grand National Records

The Grand National has been around for a very long time, which means there are many records and milestones that are, and have been, set and broken over the years.

Let’s take a look at the most successful horses, jockeys and racehorse trainers to date that have together built the history of The Grand National Festival.

Most Successful Horses

Here are the horses with the highest number of achievements in each of The Grand National Festival’s featured races:

The Betway Aintree Hurdle

The most successful horse in The Betway Aintree Hurdle which is held on Day One of The Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse every year is ‘Morley Street’, who won this race four times in a row between 1990 and 1993.

The Marsh Steeple Chase

In The Marsh Steeple Chase (Registered as The Melling Chase) which serves as the featured race of Day Two during The Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse every April, there are five horses that have won this race twice:

  • Viking Flagship (1995, 1996)
  • Direct Route (1999, 2000)
  • Native Upmanship (2002, 2003)
  • Moscow Flyer (2004, 2005)
  • Voy Por Ustedes (2008, 2009)

The Grand National Steeple Chase

The leading horse in The Grand National Steeple Chase which takes place on Grand National Day at The Grand National Festival every April remains the famous Red Rum, who won this race three times in 1973, 1974 and 1977.

Most Successful Jockeys

Here are the jockeys with the highest number of achievements in each of The Grand National Festival’s featured races:

The Betway Aintree Hurdle

The jockey with the most accolades in The Betway Aintree Hurdle which is run on Liverpool NHS Day at Aintree Racecourse for The Grand National every year is Ruby Walsh, who won with the following horses on the following years:

  • Ilnamar (2002)
  • Sacundai (2003)
  • Asian Maze (2006)
  • Zarkandar (2013)
  • Annie Power (2016)

The Marsh Steeple Chase

Barry Geraghty currently reigns as the jockey with the highest number of victories in The Marsh Steeple Chase on Ladies Day of The Grand National Festival. Barry won this race four times with three different horses:

  • Moscow Flyer (2004, 2005)
  • Finian’s Rainbow (2012)
  • Sprinter Sacre (2013)

The Grand National Steeple Chase

The leading jockey in The Grand National Steeple Chase which takes place on Day Three of The Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse every year is George Stevens who has guided four horses to a total of five wins in this race:

  • Freetrader (1856)
  • Emblem (1863)
  • Emblematic (1864)
  • The Colonel (1869, 1870)

Most Successful Trainers

Here are the racehorse trainers with the highest number of achievements in each of The Grand National Festival’s featured races:

The Betway Aintree Hurdle

The most successful racehorse trainer in the history of The Betway Aintree Hurdle, which is run on Liverpool NHS Day at The Grand National Festival every April is Toby Balding, who trained two different horses to a total of five wins in this race:

  • Beech Road (1989)
  • Morley Street (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)

The Marsh Steeple Chase

There are currently two trainers that are tied for the most wins in The Marsh Steeple Chase that takes place on Day Two of The Grand National Festival every Spring. 

Both Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls currently have three wins each, which could very easily change this April as Paul Nicholls has three entries for this race while Nicky Henderson has none.

  • Nicky Henderson – Remittance Man (1992), Finian’s Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013)
  • Paul Nicholls – Fadalko (2001), Master Minded (2011), Politologue (2018)

The Grand National Steeple Chase

There are currently three trainers that are tied for the most wins in The Grand National Steeplechase which serves as the main event of The Grand National Festival every April at Aintree Racecourse. George Dockeray, Fred Rimell and Ginger McCain have all trained the winning horse of this race four times:

  • George Dockeray – Lottery (1839), Jerry (1840), Gaylad (1842), Miss Mowbray (1852)
  • Fred Rimell – E.S.B (1956), Nicolaus Silver (1961), Gay Trip (1970), Rag Trade (1976)

Ginger McCain – Red Rum (1973, 1974, 1977), Amberleigh House (2004)

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