While some of us (me included!) love nothing more than flicking onto Racing TV and opening up a copy of the Racing Post, for others it draws a ‘meh’. That’s of course true of just about every sport though. As the old adage goes ‘horses for courses’. How very apt here. Personally I can’t stand cricket, but anyway I digress! Unlike with most sports though, there is one race in the racing calendar that holds almost universal appeal, across ages, sexes, and nations even. I am of course talking about the one and only, Grand National. It brings to mind a certain type of memory. Office sweepstakes. Picking a horse because it’s got the same name as your Nan’s budgie. Deciding which Grand National tips to follow. That savant like family member that picks the National winner every other year. Mystic Meg, eat your heart out.
It’s no surprise that this National Hunt jewel in the crown is something that the nation takes to, as it has longevity firmly in its favour. First held on 26th February 1839, when it had the somewhat less catchy name of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the Grand National has been held every year since. Well, almost. Continuing through wars and IRA bomb threats alike (even though the threats did cause a delay), the race has only been cancelled, or rather declared void, once. This occurred in 1997 when there were two false starts, with the flag not being raised on the second occasion causing many of the jockeys to set off without realising. With hundreds of millions watching and 75 million pounds bet on the race, it was a disaster (and a very expensive mistake) that’s best forgotten and thankfully, has not ever been repeated since.
So with that unfortunate blip consigned to history, let’s now turn our eye to the rather futuristic sounding 2020 Grand National. While there’ll unfortunately be no Back to the Future style hover boards on display, there will however be a competitive and enthralling spectacle. Held on the 4th April, it will be edge of your seat stuff as the general public get to see if 5-1 favourite Tiger Roll has enough in the tank to repeat his achievements of 2018 and 2019 by becoming the first horse to ever win three Grand Nationals in a row (getting one over on Red Rum, who currently shares the two back to back wins record with Tiger Roll). Capable rivals are hot on his heels though. While Native River has been ruled out through injury, the likes of Burrows Saint, Kimberlite Candy and Walk in the Mill all hover at around the 9-1 – 16-1 range, with one or two bookmakers offering better prices if you ‘shop around’.
It won’t be long now before Tipsters all start throwing their hat into the ring and so it will be interesting to see what general consensus forms as the race nears. Does Tiger Roll already have it in the bag, or are people reading too much into past form as well as the fairytale ‘three in a row’ ending? Time will tell. Almost ten million people are expected to tune in, just as they did last year, and it’s free to air on ITV, as well as Racing UK and streamed via several bookmaker websites. Be there or be square!