The Grand National is almost upon us and the racing world will have their eyes firmly set on the action at Aintree. The meet is considered the most prestigious in the sport, with heritage and grandeur surrounding the entire event.
Almost of all of the great and the good of the National Hunt campaign will be present and competing in the race. A win at the National is like no other on the circuit, placing the horse, jockey, trainer and owner in racing immortality. Total Recall is considered the leading contender in the Grand National odds, aiming to end Willie Mullins’ 12-year drought by entering the Aintree winners’ enclosure.
Racing in the United Kingdom and Ireland boasts the prestige that few races can match. Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Dubai World Cup offer riches and grandeur. However, the history of the National trumps both races. Across in the States, the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic have a semblance of all three factors, although neither is regarded across the world with the same notoriety as the National.
The Triple Crown in the States overshadows the American Grand National, which acts as a prelude to the Breeders’ Cup later in the season. The prize money alone suggests that it is down the pecking order in grandeur, with the purse totalling only $300,000, compared to the $6m available for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The British National offers £1m purse for the entire race, with the victor notching over £560,000 as well as a place in the history of the sport, with the prestige more important than the prize money.
The race at Aintree is longer than its US counterpart, putting its competitors through a rigorous series of 32 fences over the course of the four miles and 514 yards of the meet. The American steeplechase is a mile-and-half shorter and features only 14 fences. The Far Hills course does not provide the challenge faced over the pond, while the difficulty is only reduced by the number of horses in action.
In the British National, there are 40 competitors. As a result, there can be some surprise winners of the event, which adds to the magic and allure, none more so than 100-1 outsider Mon Mome in 2009. In the last Grand National Hurdle Stakes, won by Mr Hot Stuff, there were only seven competitors for the dark bay gelding to defeat, although the race did go down to the wire as he defeated Modem and All The Way Jose by a short head.
Although there are leading jockeys in action, Danny Mullins claimed the victory last season on Mr Hot Stuff, the quality of competitors is not present in those races. If horses trained by Mullins, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Colin Tizzard and Paul Nicholls were competing, the meet would have a sense of greater prestige and would capture the attention of racing enthusiasts from the United Kingdom and Ireland. The States’ attitude to hurdles racing may need adjusting as they’re missing out on a valuable market, as the National has proven to boast, capturing the eyes of the world in the second week in April.