Since its inception in 1839, the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool has become the finest National Hunt race of the year. Usually held in the second week of April, the Grand National has become the proverbial cash cow of horse racing. Next year’s event will be held on April 9, 2016.
Regardless of its prestige, the Grand National isn’t without its critics. Year-on-year we see horses having to be put down because of fatal injuries on the course. So much so that many national newspapers have lobbied against the annual race because so many horses have lost their lives in the name of sport.
Without doubt there are a lot of pressing issues to address but the handicap steeplechase, which lasts for over 7 km, has over 30 fences and has two laps of the Aintree course for the horses and jockeys to endure, has become the biggest date on horse racing fanatic’s calendars. The sheer investment in the Grand National has broken unchartered ground over the last decade.
This year, the Grand National announced that its prize fund had reached the lofty heights of £1 million, which made it the “most valuable jump race in Europe.” It’s only surpassed by a slew of lucrative Middle Eastern races in prize fund terms – races like the Dubai World Cup laud a staggering $10 million prize winning pool.
Part of the reason why the Grand National is able to offer such a significant prize pool is due to clinching its biggest sponsorship deal to date. In 2013, the race agreed a three-year sponsorship deal with the alcoholic ginger beer company, Crabbies. It was just another milestone that the Grand National had achieved and one that brought the race meet a lot of press worldwide.
Breaking new ground seems to be something that the Grand National takes in its stride. Also in 2013, it was reported that betting reached an all time high, with many reports suggesting bookmakers had taken over £150 million for the Grand National race alone. Which, if you consider that between 400-500 million people watch the race every year, you can see why it has reached such crazy heights.
The lead up, year-on-year, especially here in the UK, is something to marvel at, and after last year’s Many Clouds triumph, 2016 is set to be even more competitive. It’ll no doubt continue to break records, generate more money and make stars out of the next generation of jockeys. For comprehensive previews and the lead up to the Grand National make sure to keep up to date with esteemed trainer, Paul Nicholls and his regular horse racing columns. It’s also worth tracking the form of horses that are likely to feature in the 2016 race. Follow the regular columns by Tony Calvin and Kevin Blake for further reading.
Paul Delaney: Paul has been a horse racing fan since he was a young boy. A regular attendee at the Grand National, Paul loves previewing the event. Away from horse racing, he enjoys spending time with his family and playing golf on Sundays.